80 CE — The first Games of Flavian Ampitheatre are held

The Flavian Ampitheatre – better known today as the Colosseum in Rome – was constructed between 72 and 80 CE. It is called Flavian because that was the name of the Imperial House that built it, Emperor Vespasian and his sons and successors Titus and Domitan being the three Emperors most associated with the building.

In addition to the gladiatorial contests, chariot races and executions that it is remembered for, the Colosseum was also the site of animal hunts, mock naval and land engagements (often re-enactments of famous battles) and theatrical presentations. It could seat 50,000 people at peak capacity, and continued to be used as a site for entertainments after the fall of Rome.

It was later used variously as a quarry, a fortress, housing, workshops and religious shrines. Today, it is an archaeological and tourist site, one of Rome’s premier attractions from the Imperial Roman era.

Colosseum in Rome, Italy - April 2007.jpg
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In The Colosseum — Tom Waits

1911 — Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Tent begins at the Ardlethan Show

Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Tent is perhaps the best known – and most notorious – of the various travelling outback boxing shows that once went from town to town in Australia. It put on displays of bare-knuckle boxing as well as occasional bouts where locals could try their luck against the professional boxers.

It was a brutal sport, and often exploitative – but it was also one of the few ways a black man could make a living, albeit a dangerous one that might leave you maimed. The outback boxing circuit flourished for a few decades, but it largely faded away by the time of World War Two.

June 4, 1913 — Emily Davison runs in front of a horse at the Epsom Derby

No one really knows what Emily Davison had in mind when she ran in front of the racehorse Amner that day. She had already established herself as a determined and clever protester – seriously, take a look at some her prior stunts – and it can’t be ruled out that this was intended as another one.

She was carrying a suffragette banner, so some sort of protest was probably intended. She was also carrying a return train ticket and a ticket for dance being held by the Suffragettes later that day, so it’s unlikely that she intended to die. Most likely, she expected the horse to stop.

For whatever reason, the horse did not. Davison was trampled and died four days later of a fractured skull. Whether it was her intent or not, she became a martyr to the Suffragette movement.

September 23, 1952 – Rocky Marciano becomes world Heavyweight Champion

Rocky Marciano had been a professional boxer for only a little over four years when he defeated Jersey Joe Walcott in Philadelphia. The 29 year old boxer defeated Walcott in a round 13 knockout, after a slow start that saw him behind on points for most of the bout.

Marciano would hold the World Heavyweight Champion title for three and a half years, successfully defending it six times before he retired from professional boxing on April 27, 1956. (Floyd Patterson would be the next holder of the title.)

September 25, 1962 — Sonny Liston defeats Floyd Patterson

Charles L. ‘Sonny’ Liston pushed hard to get his shot at the title. He was a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who occasionally went a little too far – as in 1956, when he was charged with assault and served six months before being paroled. He was a strong fighter who won a large number of his fights by knockout. When Floyd Patterson finally let him in, after months of refusing on the grounds of Liston’s supposed Mob ties, he didn’t waste the opportunity.

Liston knocked Patterson out in the first round, winning the title of World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. On July 22 of the following year, he did it again in the rematch.

But his triumph was short-lived. Cassius Clay beat him in their first bout in 1964, and again in 1965 (although by that time, Clay had renamed himself Muhammed Ali). Liston continued to fight, and won most of his bouts. He retired from professional boxing in 1970, and later died in early 1971, in suspicious circumstances.

February 25, 1964 — Cassius Clay defeats Sonny Liston

Generally acknowledged as one of the greatest – if not, as he so often proclaimed, “the greatest” – Cassius Clay, or Muhammad Ali as he is better known, first fought Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964 in Miami Beach, Florida. Clay was an up and comer who had won Olympic gold for boxing in 1960, and had recently defeated the British Heavyweight champion, Henry Cooper. Liston was the reigning World Heavyweight champion, who had knocked out Floyd Patterson in the first round of their title bout.

Coming into the bout, Liston and Clay were each immensely unpopular – Clay was seen as boastful and Liston was a convicted criminal – but most agreed that the champion would hold onto his title. 43 out of 46 sportswriters predicted that Liston would win with a knockout. In the event, Clay defeated Liston in the sixth round, although the match was not awarded until Liston refused to leave his corner at the bell beginning the seventh. Clay was declared the winner by a technical knockout.

The following year, in the rematch, Clay – now calling himself the more familiar Muhammad Ali – knocked out Liston in the first round of their rematch. Ali would go on to be the most successful heavyweight boxer of the modern era, but Liston would never again reach so high.

Ali the greatest 1976.jpg
By El Gráfico team of photographers – El Gráfico, Public Domain, Link

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Black Superman — Johnny Wakelin

October 14, 1966 — Rubin Carter is falsely accused by Alfred Bello

Alfred Bello, and his partner-in-crime, Arthur Dexter Bradley, were small-timers. Knocking over factories was their style, and the last thing they wanted to was to get involved in anything more serious.

But on June 17, 1966, they saw two men leaving the Lafayette Bar and Grill in New Jersey – two light-skinned black men, one carrying a pistol, the other a shotgun. They gave statements to the police, and tried not to incriminate themselves.

If that had been as far as it went, it might have been okay. But on October 14 of that year, Bello fingered Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter as one of the shooters. His testimony was essential to the guilty verdict that sent Carter to prison for murder.

In 1974, Bello recanted, claiming that the police had pressured him into making the statement. In 1975, he changed his story yet again, leading to the 1976 over-turning of the convictions of Carter and his alleged accomplice, John Artis. The pair were tried anew and convicted again. Their convictions were over-turned permanently in 1986.

Hurricane45.jpg
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Hurricane — Bob Dylan

September 21, 1970 — “Monday Night Football” premieres

Although there had been occasional special matches played on a Monday night before 1970, it was not until that season of NFL play that they became a regular feature of the game. The first Monday Night Football game was played between the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns, at Cleveland Stadium.

The Browns defeated the Jets 31-21, and all the action was relayed to the lounge rooms of America by the commentary team of Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson and Don Meredith. The experiment was a roaring success – even movie and bowling alley attendances dropped on Monday nights as Americans stayed home to watch the games. Monday Night Football has been a regular feature of the game ever since, about to enter its 44th season.

Howard cosell 1975.JPG
By ABC Television
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TV Party — Black Flag

September 26, 1970 — Alex Jesaulenko marks over Graeme Jenkin in the 1970 VFL Grand Final

By half time, it looked like it was all over for Carlton. Another good year for them, but on the day, Collingwood had them outmatched. Minutes before the end of the second quarter, Jesaulenko marked over Jenkin (in what would become one of the game’s most iconic images), but it availed the Blues little. When the second quarter siren sounded, Carlton trailed by 44 points, an all-but insurmountable lead.

The half-time oration by Ron Barassi, with its legendary injunction to handball, has also become legend. Carlton changed their style of play in the game’s second half, to a faster, looser style of play that depended more on handballing than kicking to move the ball forward. Carlton kicked 8 goals to Collingwood’s 3 in the third quarter, and even though they entered the final term trailing by about three goals, the momentum had decisively shifted in their direction. They won the game by only 10 points, but a narrow win is still a win.

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December 30, 1970 – Sonny Liston dies in suspicious circumstances

Sonny Liston was found dead by his wife on January 5, 1971, but the date that appeared on his death certificate is December 30, 1970. This date is based on a police estimate, but since the police also ruled that his death was due to a heroin overdose and Liston’s autopsy showed no evidence of such an event, the date may also be suspect.

In addition, several things one would expect to find at the site of a heroin injection, such a tourniquet or similar to tie off with and a spoon to cook in, were absent from the scene of Liston’s death. Nor did Liston have any history of heroin use – and it’s hard to believe that he could have kept such a thing a secret, given his well-known love of drinking and partying to excess.

It is widely believed that his death was a result of a criminal hit, ordered by unknown underworld figures, and that the police investigation and its findings were a coverup.

February 6, 1971 – Alan Shepard plays golf on the Moon

The commander of the Apollo 14 mission, Alan Shepard holds several unique distinctions. He is the only member of the Mercury 7 astronauts to have walked on the Moon and also the oldest person to have walked there (in terms of age at the time he did it). His mission was the first to broadcast colour video from the surface of the Moon and made the most accurate landing of all the Apollo missions. And, of course, he is the first man to have hit golf balls (two of them) on the Moon.

Shepard came home to the hero’s welcome that astronauts traditionally received, and was promoted from Captain to Rear-Admiral after the successful completion of his mission. He retired from the US Navy and NASA, becoming a successful businessman, and eventually died from leukemia in 1998, 21 years to the day from Armstrong’s first moon walk.

His golf balls are presumably still somewhere on the lunar surface.

February 1, 1981 – Trevor Chappell bowls underarm in an international match

It is one of the most scandalous incidents ever to have disturbed the televised narcolepsy that is Professional Cricket: on this day in 1981, Australian captain Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor to bowl underarm to New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie.

It was a one day match at the MCG in Melbourne, the third of five in a series, and so far the series was tied 1-all. And on the last bowl of the day, McKechnie, if he hit a six, could tie the game. The infamous underarm bowl was intended to prevent this from happening. It was legal under the rules of the game, but it was widely seen as unsporting behaviour, not living up to the spirit of fair play.

The rules of One Day International Cricket were changed after the end of the 80-81 season to prevent a recurence of the event, and the bad reputation it gave them has dogged the Chappell brothers (more Trevor than Greg) ever since.

December 26, 1981 – Boom Boom Mancini defeats Manuel Abedoy

I guess it must have seemed appropriate: a day of boxing on Boxing Day. In 1981, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Manuel Abedoy had a bout at Ballys Park Place Hotel Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Mancini won handily via a technical knock out, and although this was not a title bout, it paved the way for Mancini’s attempt on the Lightweight Boxing title the following year.

September 29, 1984 — Essendon defeats Hawthorn in the VFL Grand Final

Favoured going into the game, Essendon played hard all day, but nonetheless trailed Hawthorn going into the game’s final quarter. But in that last quarter, they turned it all around, kicking 11 goals and 6 points (a record score for the last quarter of any VFL/AFL Grand Final), and more than doubling their score for the rest of the match.

They romped home at the game’s conclusion, defeating Hawthorn by four goals and winning Essendon’s 13th Premiership. It was particularly satisfying victory for Essendon’s fans – in the previous year’s Grand Final, the same two teams had fought, but the result had been very different, with Hawthorn winning by 83 points on that occasion.

July 19, 1991 – Mike Tyson rapes Desiree Washington

Mike Tyson’s career as a boxer was experiencing a brief setback in 1991. Injuries sustained during training had led him to pull out of a planned title challenge against Evander Holyfield, the Heavyweight Champion. We can’t know for sure what was in Tyson’s mind when he called Desiree Washington a little after 1:30 in the morning on July 19, and organised to come pick her up.

They were driven back to his hotel by Tyson’s chauffeur, and accounts vary as to what happened next. Washington claimed that Tyson raped her, Tyson claimed that they had consensual sex. The weight of evidence – and Tyson’s unlikable demeanour in the courtroom – led the jury to convict Tyson of the rape, and he served three years (of a six year sentence) in prison for the crime.

December 27, 1996 — Glenn McGrath bowls 5 for 50

The Australian test cricket team’s chances were looking good at the end of day two of the 1996 Boxing Day Test. The West Indian team was 9 for 233, which put them ahead of Australia’s first innings total of 219 – but not far, and with only one wicket in hand, everyone knew that they wouldn’t last long into the third day.

Glenn McGrath was a big part of that. Over the first two days of the test, he’d bowled 5 for 50, conceding the lowest average runs per over of any Australian bowler, at 1.66. Althougher this low rate was equalled by Gillepsie, he bowled only 3 overs – McGrath bowled 30.) And he’d managed 11 maiden overs in that time.

Sure enough, the last West Indian wicket of the first innings fell early on the third day of the test – followed by every single Australian wicket. The West Indians were back at bat that afternoon, and handily defeated the Australians with two days to spare.

Glenn McGrath 01 crop 2.jpg
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The Parable of Glenn McGrath’s Haircut — This Is Serious Mum