Henry Wharton

Henry Wharton was described by ‘The Ring’ as a ‘perennial contender’ in a golden era of super middleweight boxing, dominated by the likes of Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Steve Collins, in the Nineties. Born in Leeds in 1967, Wharton was, at various points in his career, British, European and Commonwealth super middleweight champion. Between 1989 and 1998, he fought 31 professional bouts and retired with a record of 27-3-1, including 20 wins by knockout. All three defeats, all on points, came in world title fights, twice for the World Boxing Council (WBC) super middleweight title and once for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) super middleweight title.

Wharton first attempted to win the WBC title against Nigel Benn at Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London in February, 1994. The ‘Dark Destroyer’ dominated the contest and, although ending up on the canvas at the end of the fifth round, was pushed down by a blow to the back of his head, rather than knocked down; he went on to win by unanimous decision.

The following December, after two further wins, by knockout, Wharton tried again, against undefeated WBO super middleweight champion Chris ‘Simply The Best’ Eubank at the G-Mex Centre in Manchester. Wharton made Eubank work hard in what was his fifteenth title defence but, resdiscovering his best form, the champion comfortably outpointed the Yorkshire man, winning by unanimous decision.

Wharton confirmed his ‘nearly man’ status on his third and final attempt at winning a world title, against WBC super middleweight champion Robin Reid at Nynex Arena, Manchester in May, 1997.

Once again, Wharton went the full, 12-round distance, but fought the last four rounds with a suspected broken nose. Mexican judge Ray Solis controversially scored the fight 114-114, but the other judges scored it 118-111, 117-113 in favour of Reid, handing him a deserved majority decision.

Kieron Dyer

In October, 2021, former England international Kieron Dyer revealed that he had been diagnosed with a liver condition known as primary sclerosing cholangitis and required a liver transplant. While not wishing to kick the man while he’s down, it would be fair to say that, as far as his playing career was concerned, Dyer is probably best remembered for a bizarre, off-the-ball incident involving Newcastle United team-mate Lee Bowyer at St. James’ Park in April, 2005.

Already trailing 3-0, and down to ten men, against Aston Villa, Newcastle’s dreadful afternoon took a turn for the worse when Dyer apparently told Bowyer, ‘The reason I don’t pass to you is because you’re sh*t, basically’. Bowyer responded by setting about his team-mate, who responded in kind, and both players were dismissed, leaving Newcastle with just eight men for the remainder of the match.

Born in Ipswich in December, 1978, Dyer made a name for himself at his hometown club, Ipswich Town, before joining Newcastle United, for a fee of £6 million, in 1999. Under manager Bobby Robson, who took over at St. James’ Park in September that year, he was instrumental in Newcastle United finishing in the top five in the Premier League in three seasons running between 2001/02 and 2003/04. Thereafter, Dyer suffered a variety of long-term injuries, which restricted him to fewer than 50 league appearances, for West Ham United, Ipswich Town, Queens Park Rangers and Middlesbrough, in the last six years of his career. All told, Dyer made 33 appearances for the England national team. He made the 2002 World Cup squad, but made just three appearances, all as subsitute, and played just seven minutes at Euro 2004.

Michelle Wie

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii in October, 1989, Michelle Wie West was the most celebrated golfer since Tiger Woods and, early in her career, looked likely to become a dominant force in the women’s game. In 2002, as a twelve-year-old amateur, she qualified for the Takefuji Classic at the Waikoloa Beach Resort in Waikoloa, Hawaii, making her, at the time, the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA event. The following season, Wie made the cut in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship and made the cut in the U.S. Women’s Open, making her the youngest player to do so on all three occasions.

Wie turned professional, to no little fanfare, a week before her sixteenth birthday in October, 2005, and reportedly received endorsements worth $10 million a year. Too young to join the LPGA Tour, she relied on sponsors’ exemptions and, controversially, continued to do so after she turned eighteen in October, 2007, rather than entering LPGA Q-School. However, Wie did enter LPGA Q-School in 2008, finishing seventh and thereby becoming eligible to play on the LPGA Tour, full-time, in 2009.

 

As professional, Wie won her first tournament, the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico in November, 2009, but thereafter her career did not take off in the way that might have been expected. The following August, she won the Canadian Women’s Open, in Winnipeg, Manitoba by three strokes, but did not win again until the Lotte Championship, in Kapolei, Hawaii, in April, 2014. Two months later, Wie won her first and, so far, only major championship, the U.S. Women’s Open, in Pinehurst, North Carolina by two strokes from Stacy Lewis. After a lengthy hiatus, she won her fifth LPGA event, the HSBC Women’s World Championship, in Sentosa, Singapore, in March, 2018.

Nigel Mansell

Of course, Nigel Mansell won the Formula One Drivers’ Championship in 1992. Indeed, that season he won a then record nine races, including the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, to become the most successful British driver in Formula One history. Thirty years later, Mansell remains second-best, statistically, behind only Lewis Hamilton. However, in his earlier years, Mansell earned a reputation as a talented, hard charging, but luckless, driver, prone to taking one risk too many.

During his fourth and final year with Team Lotus, in 1984, Mansell led the Monaco Grand Prix, held in heavy rain, only to spin off during the fifteenth lap, damaging his car and causing his retirement from the race. At that point, team boss Peter Warr said, ‘He’ll never win a Grand Prix as long as I have a hole in my arse’. Unsurprisingly, Mansell left Lotus for Williams in 1985 and defied expectation by winning the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch in October that year.

In 1986, Mansell emerged as a bona fide contender for the Drivers’ Championship, winning five times and needing to finish no worse than third in the final race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide, to clinch the title. However, with 19 of the 82 laps remaining, Mansell suffered a spectacular blowout when on course for third place, forcing his retirement and handing the title, narrowly, to Alain Prost.

In 1987, Mansell won six times, but ultimately lost out to team-mate Nelson Piquet in the Drivers’ Championship after a series of mishaps. A lost wheel nut in the latter stages of the Hungarian Grand Prix forced his retirement and, later in the season, a serious accident in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka exacerbated an old back injury, ruling Mansell out of that race and the final Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide.