Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo — Lightweight 2005

On the greatest fights in boxing, this bout — Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo, May 7, 2005 would rank as one of the best. The ebb and flow in this match is unbelievable — this is a true thriller, an absolute whodunit, and a tale of bravery.

This is, to put it bluntly, why we watch this sport.

Watch. Don’t cheat and find out beforehand what happened. Let the game unfold.

The St Valentine’s Day Massacre: Robinson vs La Motta VI, Feb 14, 1951

There was a question asked in one of the quiz forums I am part on on facebook.

So I thought I will share an youtube video of the St Valentine’s Day Massacre, the last and bloodiest (but definitely not the best **) of all their 6-match rivalry.

Here too is a writeup from the internet.

Hardly a true rivalry — some of the fights were amazing (even in grainy black-and-white), but a 5-1 record says that it wasn’t really all it was touted up to be — Ali-Frazier this was not. La Motta (as you know from the movie et al) was all about bravery, and all respect to him. But Sugar Ray was truly one of the greatest of all time. Probably THE greatest of all time.

** That would be their fifth.

The Purest of Emotions…

You know the greatness of the scene? It is pure…. and that’s what football does to you, it gets your purest, rawest emotions out.

Did Arshavin’s moment , day-before-yesterday*, come close? It came close, yes. But it was not the same thing.

We, the long-suffering Arsenal fans need another Anfield 1989 moment…

Maybe this is the time…

* For future reference.

The comeback…

This is a post I will write out of memory, this was a very long while back…. Mid-80’s, in the ’87-’88 range if my memory serves me right. There might be a few factual inaccuracies … I was a tiny-tot then, and just getting initiated into sports, though Boris Becker had already won Wimbledon and gatecrashed into the conscience, and Diego Maradona even more so by winning the ’86 World Cup almost single-handedly… I had just started following cricket, though Azhar’s three hundreds on debut had made him an instant favourite (rather, Baba’s favourite, and therefore mine) even before that …. but I haven’t had an Indian team play a great match yet.. I was way too small during the ’83 world cup. I needed a match…

And then that match happened…

Indian hockey was at the stage that West Indian cricket was in the early ’90’s, slowly but inevitably moving into a stage of helpless irrelevance. But there were still a few players who could really play… Zafar Iqbal, MP Somayya, Joaquim Carvalho, Mohinder Pal Singh, Pargat Singh, Thoiba Singh … and Shahid. Mohammed Shahid of the silken dribbling and immaculate skills, my favourite Indian player in those days, all sports included….

And this match was against West Germany (the Berlin wall was still intact), who were, I think, the reigning world champions those days. west Germany had their own talisman in the big, tough Karsten Fischer… Fischer was one of the first penalty-corner taking superstars of hockey. A few years hence, he shaved off his hair, the tonsured look enhancing his toughness and making him the ultimate baddie in sport for me….

I remember, in the first half, Germany dominated, and pummelled goals into our net. We scored one back, but they had built a sizable lead…

it was much of the same in the second half. Fischer scored a few… and with ten minutes or so remaining in the clock, we were trailing 5-1.

What followed was in my opinion the greatest fightback in Indian sports history, equalled (but not emulated) only by the Laxman-Dravid orchestrated heroics at the Eden Gardens…

We got one back through MP Singh who was our penalty corner specialist…. but well, neither Baba (who was watching the game with me) nor I celebrated much… this was surely a chase too far….

And then Shahid did what only Shahid could. He dribbled through the defence and scored a peach of a goal….. now most of you who were too young to see Shahid in action might not be able to appreciate what he was capable of… Assume Dhanraj Pillay at his best, and increase that by 20%. That was Shahid.

and that goal rejuvenated the team completely… you could literally see the team believe that there is a chance now….

Pargat scored the fourth off a rasping hit.

…. and there were only about three minutes remaining…..

But there was time for a last attack….. Can they? Can they?

And yes, they could. There was a fifth goal… and if I remember correct, it was MP Somayya off a Zafar Iqbal pass (well, it might have been the vice versa)… and we were off our seats, Baba and myself….

West Germany (5) – India (5) !!!

If there ever was a draw which felt better than a victory, this was it….

The most dominant tennis performances ever

Now this will be difficult. Say for example in the women’s tournamemt, with Steffi and Seles, and then Venus and Serena at times just toying with the oppponents in the earlier rounds…. similarly Agassi, Pete or Federer more recently…. but that is not a true measure, methinks, since one can never find out if the player was really that good, mostly because the players on the other end could not put up a formidable challenge, mostly because they lacked the basic werewithal to do so….. And this does not exclude the grand slam finals, with the 1988 French Open 6-0 6-0 rout of Zvereva by Graf failing to get a mention because considering Zvereva’s ability as a singles player, and Graf’s form at that point, it owuld have been a no-match come whatever may. Similarly Henin’s recent wins against a choked Ivanovic etc.

So here’s the list I have:

3. Becker beating Edberg in the 1989 Wimbledon finals (6–0, 7–6, 6–4). The greatest in their era, at their best. Becker at his best could blow over almost everyone in Grass. And he did. The second greatest performance ever on Grass, second only to….

2. Sampras beating Agassi in the 1999 Wimbledon finals (6–3, 6–4, 7–5). Agassi, playing at his best, did not have a chance. This was, in my opinion, Pete at his best. And the best ever performance by a male player in any surface against any opposition. Question, what would I think would happen if Becker of the 1989 finals played Sampras of the 1999 finals? Becker is my favourite player of all time, but, well, Sampras would have prevailed, I am sure, in 3 hard-fought sets….

1. Mary Pierce beating Graf in the 1992 French Open Semi-Finals (6-2, 6-2). Graf is the best woman player the world has ever seen, but in this match, she was blown off the court by Pierce, in one of very few instances when she played at her best. Very similar to Becker in the sense that her best was rare, her best was rarer still to be seen than Boris. But this was one match when she strung it all together. As would be expected, she lost the finals to the doughty Spanish counter-puncher Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

(Honourable mention: The first set and a half of Agassi vs. Becker, semi-Finals of Wimbledon 1995 (6-1, 4-1). The match ended with Agassi just losing it soon after, and Becker winning in four sets)