Today in sport history – 17 March

Fabrice Muamba of Bolton Wanderers waves to the crowd prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur at the Reebok Stadium on May 2, 2012 in Bolton, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

The Proteas suffer an ironic defeat in Port Elizabeth and Fabrice Muamba comes back from the brink.

As sport grinds to a halt all over the world due to the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve decided to have a daily look back at those “simpler” times, when there was triumph, drama and disappointment on various fields and arenas.

This is today in sport history…


Boxers Tommy Burns and Jem Roche slug it out in the ring. (Photo by Reinhold Thiele/Thiele/Getty Images)

Canada’s Tommy Burns manages an incredible 88-second knockout victory over Irishman Jem Roche, which, until 1982, stood as the quickest heavyweight title bout in history. Burns, who was only 1.7m tall, packed a tremendous punch and, after beating Englishman Jack Palmer a few days earlier, wanted to end his UK trip with another fight.

Richard Croker, an Irish-American politician known for his mafia ties, organised the bout with Roche in Dublin with a lucrative purse of £2 500 on offer. As it turned out, it was pretty easy money for Burns.


World Cup Final Australia v Sri Lanka Lahore 1996 Aravinda de Silva reaches 100 66640-14A (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Patrick Eagar via Getty Images)

Unheralded Sri Lanka are crowned winners of the ICC World Cup for the first time, beating Australia by seven wickets in Lahore’s brand-new Gaddafi Stadium. Aravinda de Silva, one of the islanders’ greatest players ever, illustrated his pedigree vividly, scoring a magnificent, unbeaten 107.

He also took 3/42 with his occasional off-spinners and shared the clinching partnership with his burly skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, who later became a politician and is currently Sri Lanka’s minister of transport and civil aviation. Sri Lanka surprised the world with their unorthodox approach, making a point of scoring as many runs as possible in the first 15 overs, when fielding restrictions applied.

Conventional wisdom at the time said teams should first consolidate and then explode at the end of an innings. In many ways, Sri Lanka were pioneers.


14-18 Mar 1997: Ian Healy (right) of Australia celebrates as Australia win the second test match against South Africa at Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Mandatory Credit: Mike Hewitt /Allsport

30 years earlier, Tiger Lance clinched South Africa’s first Test series win over Australia at St George’s Park with a six. The irony wasn’t lost on some discerning fans when visiting wicketkeeper Ian Healy hooked Proteas skipper Hansie Cronje for six to clinch a two-wicket win in the second Test of a three-match series … at the same ground.

Healy’s blow meant the Proteas, who were only re-admitted to international cricket just over five years earlier, lost their first Test series on home soil since 1965. While the legendary gloveman was hailed, it was Mark Waugh who was the hero, with a superb 116 in a tricky chase of 270.


Millions of football fans look on in horror as Fabrice Muamba collapsed in heap during Bolton’s FA Cup tie with Tottenham. After an agonising period of treatment on the pitch at White Hart Lane, a consulting cardiologist – who was at the game as a spectator – advised that the Congolese-born midfielder needed specialist treatment immediately.

Muamba was rushed to hospital and received constant defibrillation on the way. There was much shock when it was later revealed that he was in cardiac arrest for 78 minutes! But he recovered fully and announced a premature retirement about five months later.


Rory McIlroy wins a cool $2.25 million after defeating Jim Furyk by one stroke in the Players Championship. That represented the biggest singe event prize money in golf at the time. Yet here’s the freaky thing: that figure was eclipsed THREE times in the preceding months.

South Africa’s very own Nedbank Golf Challenge briefly held the record when Tommy Fleetwood scooped up $2.5 million for taming the Gary Player Country Club course,  before Spain’s Jon Rahm bagged a massive $3 million at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship  in Dubai.

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