Considered one of the greatest British boxers of all time, Joe Calzaghe was selected by the public for the prestigious BBC award in 2007. Following victory in two fights conducted on home soil, Calzaghe attracted the attention of the British public. On 7th April 2007, Calzaghe went up against Peter Manfredo Jr. before 35,000 fans in Cardiff, Wales. Following an onslaught which went without reply in the third round, the fight referee ordered a stop to the action. While some commentators questioned the decision, and others criticised the premature stoppage, the spectating public went into a frenzy. Following this spectacular victory, Calzaghe was pitted against undefeated WBA champion Mikkel Kessler. The fight was for the title of undisputed champion. On 4th November 2007, Calzaghe defeated Kessler by unanimous decision. He became the undisputed champion of the super-middleweight division. The BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award crowned what was the biggest year in Calzaghe’s boxing career.
2014 – Lewis Hamilton – Formula One
Having won 209,920 of the 620,932, Lewis Hamilton took the biggest share of the votes for the 2014 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, with 34%. That year’s runner-up was Rory McIlroy, who received 20% of the votes. Hamilton’s success came after he had been runner-up to Joe Calzaghe, in the 2007 television award. Following on from Damon Hill (1994, 1996), Nigel Mansell (1986, 1992), Stirling Moss (1961) and Sir Jackie Stewart (1973), Hamilton became the fifth Formula One racing driver to win the award. The 2014 F1 championship was dominated by spirited competition between Mercedes teammates Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Culminating in the very last race of the season, Hamilton commanded the Abu Dhabi grand prix from the start, as Rosberg struggled with car problems. It was the second time Hamilton had won the F1 Drivers’ Championship.
British Formula One legend Damon Hill is one of a select group of sports personalities to win the annual BBC award twice. During a year in which the Formula One world was flung into mourning by the death of Ayrton Senna, Hill was very close to winning the F1 World Championship. However, with Michael Schumacher hot on his trail, the decision rested on the final race of the season. In a controversial finish, both Schumacher and Hill failed to complete the race due to a collision, with some observers blaming Schumacher for causing the crash. Ultimately, Hill lost out to the German by a single point. Nevertheless, in recognition of his efforts the British public selected him as BBC Sports Personality of the Year. In 1996, Hill secured a total of eight grand prix wins and maintained his position on the front row of the starting grid, over the course of the season. With those wins, and consistent performances throughout the season, Hill won his first F1 World Championship title. Also, he became the third person to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award twice, following Nigel Mansall and Henry Cooper.
1999 – Lennox Lewis – Boxing
Between the late 1980s and early 1990s, new life was breathed into heavyweight boxing with the emergence of the precocious Mike Tyson. Following a lull in the division after the excitement of the Muhammad Ali era, heavyweight boxing resurged in the 1990s. During this time, Lennox Lewis rose to great prominence. Following decisive victories over Ray Mercer, Oliver McCall and Shannon Briggs in previous years, in 1999, Lewis clashed against Evander Holyfield. While the first bout between the two ended in a split decision draw, Lewis secured a unanimous decision victory against his formidable later that year. As a result, the British boxing legend retained the WBC and lineal heavyweight titles and won the WBA, IBF and IBO championships, becoming the undisputed and unified heavyweight champion. This rare feat was recognised by the British public, who selected him for that year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.
British heavyweight boxer and British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight champion, Henry Cooper is best remembered for his 1963 and 1966 clashes with Muhammad Ali. The first fight is remembered as featuring one of only four knockdowns suffered by Ali in his entire boxing career. Susceptible to cuts, Cooper was ultimately forced to withdraw from both fights due to excessive bleeding. Henry Cooper was the first person to be selected for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award by the public and is the only British boxer to be awarded a knighthood.
1981 – Ian Botham – Cricket
Hailed as one of the greatest all-rounders in the history of cricket, Botham’s public selection as BBC Sports Personality of the Year came after achieving the highpoint in his career. Having ascended to the captaincy, Botham’s form suffered greatly. In his last test as captain at Lord’s, during the historic 1981 Ashes series, Botham was dismissed for a duck in both innings. Resigned from the captaincy, Botham returned to the subsequent tests with an invigorated fire. At the legendary Headingley test match, England carved out a victory from certain defeat, after following on caused by a batting collapse. Botham exhibited a valiant batting display, achieving 149 not out. Additionally, at the final match at the Oval, Botham took a ten-wicket haul. England took the Ashes series victory, largely thanks to Botham’s efforts and he was named Man of the Series.
1986 – Nigel Mansell – Formula One
In one of the tightest Formula One World Championships in history, Nigel Mansell was edged into the runner-up’s position by Alain Prost in the final race of the F1 season. Missing out on the title at the Australian Grand Prix, Mansell’s setback came in sensational fashion, as his left-rear tyre exploded on the main straight with only 19 laps to go.