This Day in History (13-Nov-1982) – Ray Mancini defeats Duk Koo Kim causing Kim’s death on November 17 which led to significant changes in the Boxing

After compiling a 29–4 amateur record, Soth Korean Duk Koo Kim turned professional in 1978. In February 1982, he won the Orient and Pacific Boxing Federation lightweight title and became the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) #1 contender. Kim carried a 17–1–1 (won-lost-draw) professional record and had won 8 bouts by KO. He went to Las Vegas as the world’s (WBA) number 1 challenger to world lightweight champion Ray “Boom Boom”Mancini.

The press reporter visiting Kim noted that Kim had written on the bathroom mirror, in blood, Live or Die. The fight lasted 14 rounds out of the scheduled 15 rounds. The bout was extremely brutal, especially for Kim, who had begun to wear down in the latter rounds after absorbing tremendous punishment from the champion. Kim surprised the boxing world by going toe to toe with Ray Mancini for 12 rounds. In the 13th round Mancini hit Kim 39 times without Kim being able to hit back. But Kim did not give up. In his culture stepping back was shameful. In the 14th round Mancini knocked Kim down. Second time Mancini hit Kim with a crushing right hand that caused him to fly toward the ropes and hit his head on the canvas.  Kim was able to pull himself back up but the referee stopped the fight and declared Mancini the winner. Kim was taken to the hospital. He was in a coma for 4 days and then died.

Out of the hundreds of recorded ring fatalities, Kim’s death was one of the saddest. Kim’s opponent, Ray Mancini, would never again be the same caliber fighter, and it was widely reported that he blamed himself for Kim’s death. Kim’s mother committed suicide three months after her son’s death by drinking a bottle of pesticide. The bout’s referee, Richard Green, consumed by guilt, also committed suicide shortly after the fight.

Boxing was never the same either, with the World Boxing Council (WBC) quickly deciding 15-round fights were too dangerous and cutting the championship limit to 12. Several years later the WBA and International Boxing Federation (IBF) would follow suit and by the time the World Boxing Organization (WBO) was formed in 1988, 12 rounds were the norm.



This Day in History (29-Oct-1960) – Muhammad Ali’s (Cassius Clay) 1st professional fight, beats Tunney Hunsaker

Muhammad Ali is considered one of the greatest athletes in boxing history. In his first amateur bout in 1954, he won the fight by split decision. Ali went on to win the 1956 Golden Gloves tournament for novices in the light heavyweight class. Three years later, he won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, and the Amateur Athletic Union’s national title for the light-heavyweight division.

In 1960, at Rome Olympics, Ali defeated Zbigniew Pietrzkowski from Poland to win the gold medal for USA. He soon turned professional with the backing of the Louisville Sponsoring Group. During the 1960s Ali seemed unstoppable, winning all his bouts with majority of them being by knockouts. He took out British heavyweight champion Henry Cooper in 1963 and then knocked out Sonny Liston in 1964 to become the heavyweight champion of the world.

Ali was doing some spiritual searching and decided to join the black Muslim group, the Nation of Islam, in 1964. At first, he called himself “Cassius X,” eventually settling on the name Muhammad Ali. Two years later, Ali refused to acknowledge his military service in the name of religion. He later cleared his name after a lengthy court battle. However, the boxing association took away his title and suspended him from the sport for three and a half years.

Returning to the ring in 1970, Ali won his first bout after his forced hiatus. He knocked out Jerry Quarry in October in Atlanta. The following year, Ali took on Joe Frazier in what has been called the “Fight of the Century.” Frazier and Ali went for 15 rounds before Frazier briefly dropped Ali to the ground, before beating Ali by decision. Ali later beat Frazier in a 1974 rematch. Another legendary Ali fight took place in 1974. Billed as the “Rumble in the Jungle,”. Ali fought the reigning heavyweight champion George Foreman at Kinshasa, Zaire. Ali defeated Foreman and once again becoming the heavyweight champion of the world. Perhaps one of his toughest bouts took place in 1975 when he battled longtime rival Joe Frazier in the “Thrilla in Manila” fight. Held in Quezon City, Philippines, the match lasted for more than 14 rounds with each fighter giving it their all. Ali emerged victorious in the end. Since his retirement, Ali has devoted much of his time to philanthropy.



This Day in History (11-Oct-2008) – Blind driver breaks land-speed record

On this day in 2008, a man from Belgium named Luc Costermans sets a new world speed record for blind drivers: 192 mph. Costermans set the record in a borrowed Lamborghini Gallardo on a long, straight stretch of airstrip near Marseilles, France. He was accompanied by a carload of sophisticated navigational equipment as well as a human co-pilot, who gave directions from the Lamborghini’s passenger seat.

The record Costermans broke had been set exactly three years before by the British driver Mike Newman. On that day, Newman had coaxed his 507-horsepower BMW M5 to a top speed of 178.5 mph. For his part, Newman had smashed a 2-year-old record—144.7 mph—that he had set himself in a borrowed Jaguar, just three days after he learned to drive. Unlike Costermans, Newman did not race with a co-pilot or a navigator. Instead, he got his father-in-law to zoom around the track behind him, shouting directions over the radio.

Both of these blind record-setters were all-around daredevils who raced all sorts of vehicles. In 2001, for example, Newman became the fastest blind motorcycle driver in the world (his record speed was 89 mph) just four days after learning to ride; five years later, Costermans flew a small airplane all around France. (He was joined by an instructor and a navigator.)  Another record-setter, an Englishman named Steve Cunningham, had set the land-speed record himself in 1999 (147 mph, while driving a £70,000 Chrysler Viper) at the same time that he held the sea-speed record for a blind sailor. In 2004, guided by sophisticated talking navigational software, Cunningham became the first blind pilot to circumnavigate the United Kingdom by air.

Luc Costermans lost his eyesight in 2004 as the result of an accident. But Luc never lost his passion for driving. With his association “Les non-voyants et leurs drôles de machines” (the blind and their weird machines) he regularly organises track events where the blind and visually impaired can drive a car themselves on a real track, accompanied by an experienced instructor who gives directions regarding the appropriate speed and steering.



This Day in History (10-Oct-1978) – Rohini Khadilkar became the first woman to win the national chess championship

Rohini Khadilkar was the youngest of the three Khadilkar sisters (Vasanti and Jayshree the other two). All of them dominated Indian Women’s chess championship for a decade. Khadilkar became National Women’s Chess in 1976 at the age of 13 and was the first to win that championship in three consecutive years. She has held the title on five occasions.

Khadilkar became the first female to compete in the Indian Men’s Championship when she participated in 1976. Her involvement in a male competition caused a furore that necessitated a successful appeal to the High Court and caused the World Chess Federation president, Max Euwe, to rule that women cannot be barred from national and international championships. She beat three state champions – Gaurang Mehta of Gujarat, Abdul Jabbar of Maharashtra and A. K. Ghosh of West Bengal – in the competition.

In 1981, Khadilkar also became the Asian Women’s Chess Championship when the competition was held at Hyderabad. She was unbeaten in that competition and scored 11.5 out of a possible 12 points, which also made her International Woman Master (IWM).  In the same year, she became an International Chess Masterand in November 1983 she again won the Asian Women’s title when the competition was held at Kualalumpur, Malaysia.

In 1977, Rohini won the Chhatrapati Award for outstanding performance in chess. Subsequently, she has been awarded India’s highest honour in sports, the Arjuna award. She has also been declared Maharashtra Kanya for her chess exploits.

In 1993, Rohini retired from chess and enrolled as a student at the Printing Technology Institute. She came first in her cohort, earning a Gold Medal. Presently, she is the assistant editor of a leading Marathi newspaper of Mumbai ‘Nava Kaal’, and editor of another Marathi newspaper ‘Sandhyakal’.



This Day in History (3-Oct-1992) – Geet Sethi wins the world professional billiards championship

Geet Siriram Sethi won the 1992 World Professional Billiards Championship on 3 October, achieving a world-record English billiards break of 1276 under the three-pot rule, giving India a new sporting hero. One of the greatest sporting talents India has ever produced, he won the title again four times — in 1993, 1995, 1998, and 2006. Sethi took to the sport when he turned 13 at Ahmedabad. At the Gujarat Sports Club, he met with Satish Menon, a very successful Billiards player of the time, and took vital tips and guidance from him.  Within two years he won the first of his five junior billiards titles. He did well in snooker too, though he has always been his most brilliant at billiards.  Sethi entered the National Billiards Circuit in 1979 when he was 18 years old, clinching both the Junior National Billiards Championship and Junior National Snooker Championship the same year. He first made an international mark in 1982 at the Indian National Billiards Championship, defeating Michael Ferreira. Sethi won the National Billiards Championship (which is an international event) again for four straight years, from 1985 to 1988. He won the title again in 1997 and 1998.

Sethi, who holds two world records in billiards, won the professional-level World Championships six times and the amateur-level thrice. In 1985, he defeated Bob Marshall to claim the IBSF World Amateur Billiards Championship. He reclaimed the title in 1987, and won another amateur title in 2001. During the 1989 National Snooker Championship, he officially became the first person to have achieved a maximum amateur break of 147. Finishing as runner-up in the World Professional Billiards Championship in 1996, he brought glory to India in the Bangkok Asian Games in 1998 by winning gold in the doubles event, in which he partnered with Ashok Shandilya. In the 2002 Busan Asian Games, he won two medals — a silver in the doubles and a bronze in the singles event. Again in the 2006 Doha Asian Games, he won a bronze in the doubles. He won the Irish Open Billiards Championship in 2007. Sethi was awarded the Padma Shri and the Arjuna Award in 1986, K.K. Birla Award in 1993 and India’s highest sporting award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, in 1992–93.



This Day in History (2-Oct-1991) – Steffi Graf becomes the youngest woman to win 500 professional tennis matches

A champion of the highest order, Steffi Graf turned the world of women’s tennis upside down through the 1980s and 1990s. A woman of quiet dignity who spoke loudly with her racquet, she became the only tennis player of either sex to capture every Major tournament at least four times. Before anyone had heard of her, back in the early Eighties, the German Tennis Federation carried out extensive sporting aptitude tests on more than 100 of its top eight-to-12-year-olds players. Not only did she come top in every single one, the then groundbreaking research also suggested that she had the capability to become an Olympic 1500 metres champion, something she backed up when training with the country’s top runners at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Graf began her professional tennis career aged 13, coached and managed by her father Peter Graf. She won her first WTA tournament in 1986 and went on to win her first Grand Slam title at the French Open in 1987. In 1988 she achieved a ‘Golden Slam’ winning all four Grand Slam titles and the Olympic Gold medal in Seoul. In total Graf won 22 Grand Slam singles titles more than any other woman in the open era. Her run of 186 weeks as the World No. 1 has not been beaten. She finished eight seasons as the No. 1 ranked woman in the world.  Graf is widely regarded as one of the best ever woman’s tennis players. Her mighty forehand was regarded by many as the best ever produced by a woman, and her foot speed was astonishing.

Her career was also haunted by the terrible events of May 1993 when a deranged fan, Gunther Parche, stabbed her then great rival Monica Seles in Hamburg, an act that surely changed the course of women’s tennis history. Prior to that Seles had ended Graf’s period of dominance. Seles had won seven of the previous eight Slams she had entered and, naturally enough, she was never quite the same afterwards, missing more than two years of competition altogether. That led to a second phase of dominance by Steffi, and she had won 10 more majors by the end of 1996.

Steffi married Tennis champion Andre Agassi in 2001


This Day in History (29-Sep-1959) – Arati Saha swims across the English Channel – the first Asian woman to achieve this feat

Arati Saha took to swimming at the age of 4 and was encouraged by her coach Sachin Nag to participate in competitive events. She won many state-level titles between 1945 and 1951 and also set a national record in 1949. Arati was keen to take on a larger challenge. Inspired by the example of Mihir Sen, the first Asian man to swim across the English Channel, she set out to accomplish this feat.

The English Channel, also simply called the Channel, separates England from Europe, specifically the coastal region of Northern France. Its width ranges from 33.1 km (20.6 miles) at the Strait of Dover, where most swimmers attempt the Channel crossing, to 240 km (150 miles) at its widest point. The English Channel connects the North Sea to the Atlantic and is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. Swimming across the English Channel is not free of danger, with sharks and stinging jellyfish being particular threats. Strong tides and sheer exhaustion caused during this endurance swim can also prove fatal. At least 8 swimmers have lost their lives while attempting a Channel crossing over the years.

Arati got trained in the arduous process of training, as an endurance feat of this nature requires both physical and mental preparation. Accompanied by a pilot team who helped her navigate through the English Channel, Arati Saha swam across the English Channel from Cape Gris Nez in France to Sandgate on the English coast near Dover on 29th September 1959, when she was just five days away from her 19th birthday. She swam for 16 hours and 20 minutes and covered a distance of 42 miles. After arriving at Sandgate she unfurled the Indian flag as a sign of victory.  The English Channel conquest was not just a victory for her, but also for the women of Asia. It was an eye-opener for the rest of the world, who till then believed that Indian women rarely ventured outside their kitchen gardens. India recognized her inspiring feat by awarding her the Padma Shri in 1960. Arati Saha was also recognized by the Indian Postal Department in 1999, which included her in a series of stamps on pioneering Indian women by issuing a 3 Rupee stamp with her image on it.