Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali  ‘I am the greatest!” or so proclaimed Muhammad Ali – at the time, still known by his birth name, Cassius Clay – in February, 1964, shortly before becoming world heavyweight champion for the first time. On February 25, 1964, in his first meeting with Sonny Liston in Miami, Florida, Clay scored a shock technical knockout when the ‘big, ugly bear’, as he repeatedly called his opponent, failed to answer the bell for the seventh round. The pair met again in Lewiston, Maine on May 25, 1965, by which time Clay had joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali; Ali won again, by first-round knockout.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942, Ali was blessed not only with unprecedented boxing skills, but also extraordinary self-belief, which led to him being dubbed ‘The Louisville Lip’ by the press. On April 28, 1967, as the Vietnam War escalated, Ali refused to be inducted into the US Army on religious grounds, was stripped of his heavyweight title and had his boxing licence revoked.

That decision was reversed by the US Supreme Court in 1971; Ali would go on to win two more world heavyweight titles, against George Foreman in the legendary ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo on October 30, 1974 and against Leon Spinks in New Orleans, Louisiana on September 15, 1978. Ali also fought Joe Frazier three times, culminating in the so-called ‘Thrilla in Manila’ – widely regarded as the best fight of all time – in the then capital of the Phillipines, Quezon City, on October 1, 1975; Ali won by technical knockout after 14 rounds.

Whether or not Ali was, in fact, the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, or merely one of the greatest, is open to debate. However, he remains the only three-time champion of the heavyweight division and few would argue that he was one of the most popular, influential and charismatic figures of the twentieth century.

Bobby Moore

Bobby Moore  Known in his heyday as the ‘golden boy of English football’, Bobby Moore will always be best remembered for the iconic photograph of him being held aloft by teammates Geoff Hurst and Ray Wilson, Jules Rimet trophy in hand, at the end of the World Cup final at Wembley Stadium on July 30, 1966. Indeed, manager Sir Alf Ramsey later said of Moore, ‘Without him England would never have won the World Cup.’

Born in Barking, Essex on April 12, 1941, Moore was outstanding centre-half, renowned for calmness, composure and intelligence on the pitch and humility, modesty and integrity off it. He made his senior debut for England in a friendly against Peru at Estadio Nacional del Perú, Lima on May 20, 1962 and impressed manager Walter Winterbottom sufficiently to play in every game of the 1962 World Cup in Chile, where England reached the quarter-finals.

The following year Sir Alf Ramsey replaced Walter Winterbottom as England manager and, on the first anniversary of his first senior cap, on May 20, 1963, Moore captained England for the first time in a friendly against Czechoslovakia at Tehelne Pole Stadion, Bratislava. All told, Moore made 108 appearances for England, including 90 as captain.

At club level, Moore made his professional debut for West Ham United at Upton Park on September 8, 1958, at the age of 17, against Manchester United. He was appointed captain for the first time on April 20, 1962, having just turned 21, and subsequently led his club to victory in the FA Cup in 1964 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965. All told, he made a then record 544 league appearances, and 642 in all, for West Ham United, nefore being sold to Fulham in 1974. Thereafter,

he spent short spells in America, with San Atonio Thunder and Seattle Sounders, and in Denmark, with Boldklubben Herning Fremad, before finally hanging up his boots in 1979.

Grand National 2024 – It’s almost here!

Grand National 2024 - It's almost here!  Office Sweepstakes are once again on all of our minds, because that’s right, it’s nearly time for the jewel in the crown of horse racing that is the Grand National. This national hunt spectacle is held annually (this year on Saturday 13th April) at Aintree near Liverpool and attracts the very best of the world of racing, from horse and jockey, to trainer and owner. The purse for the Grand National is £1 million+ with the winner taking away £561,000 in 2024.

Last years Grand national was won by Corach Rambler, who is back and looking to do the double at horse racing betting odds of just 4-1. That goes to show how confident bookmakers and punters alike are of his chances. I’m sure trainer Lucinda Russell’s is confident too considering the relative ease at which her horse romped home in the previous years National. Having also solidified a claim to being one of the best staying chasers around in this years Cheltenham Gold Cup, Russell has stated that the result and preparation is ‘exactly what we wanted’.

Bookmakers are worried, with one highlighting that since said performance “he has been absolutely hammered in the betting”. They’ll of course be hoping for a different result, but who else could be in the running?

One obvious contender is trainer Willie Mullins’ I am Maximus. At 7-1 and with a very impressive win in the Bobbyjo Chase at the tailed of February, it’s clearly a danger to the Corach Rambler fairytale ending. Those looking for slightly bigger odds might want to go with Mr Incredible at 14-1. While this talented chaser unseated jockey Brian Hayes in last years Grand National he’s had some very spirited displays (2nd in last seasons Classic Chase for instance). It’s another Mullins horse (he has nine in the 2024 Grand National!) too.

For those less inclined to bet on a favourite and more for a rank outsider, how about Delta Work at 25-1. He the Cross Country Chase at last years Cheltenham Festival and was also going well in the National until unseating his rider. Worth a shot at those odds surely.

Who will shine during the Cheltenham Festival 2024?

I just now caught this humourous video from Betway giving us a somewhat comical reminder that the Cheltenham Festival is just around the corner . It’s certainly a timely nudge if you ask me as the unmissable 12th – 15th March Festival is under a month away now and punters both serious and casual, are surely all looking forward to this feast of top class racing action and who will emerge victorious in these compelling matchups. Over four days and on both ITV Racing and Racing TV there’s little excuse not to tune in, and of course that can often be accompanied with having a flutter too. With so many races to choose from there is certainly no shortage of betting opportunities.

Every festival has its narrative, as the Cheltenham festival betting attests, and a horse or person to be etched into the history books. This years question just has to be the answer to the question of whether the Audrey Turley owned and W P Mullions trained Galopin Des Champs can win the Cheltenham Gold cup two years running? Having won as favourite in 2023, he’s once again in that position and in ‘doing the double’ would enter the history books alongside only 8 others to have won the prestigious event more than once, last being the Willie Mullins trained (yes, again!) Al Boum Photo in both 2019 and 2020.

Racing is all about making legends and so it would certainly be fitting if Mullins once again struck Gold in 2023 and 2024 likely resulting in both him and rider Paul Townend winning champion trainer and jockey respectively (again!). Time will tell how events unfold and I for one can’t wait to find out. Bring on that Cheltenham Roar.