Tagged in: champion

Kaitlin Young to replace injured Julia Budd vs. Kayla Harrison in PFL 6 main event

A programmed battle between a former Bellator champion and a defending PFL champ will have to wait.

Former Bellator women’s featherweight champion Julia Budd is out of a planned July 1 fight versus Kayla Harrison in PFL due to an undisclosed injury, sources told ESPN. In Budd’s place will step women’s MMA pioneer Kaitlin Young, sources said.

Harrison vs. Young, a regular-season women’s lightweight matchup, is set to be the main event of PFL 6 in Atlanta.

ESPN has Harrison ranked No. 8 in the world on its pound-for-pound women’s MMA list. The two-time defending PFL women’s lightweight champion has earned two Olympic gold medals in judo and is undefeated in MMA.

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Harrison (13-0) is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Marina Mokhnatkina on May 6, giving her three points in the PFL women’s lightweight regular season.

The Ohio native, who lives and trains in Florida, is second in PFL’s current divisional standings.

Harrison, 31, had finished five consecutive fights before Mokhnatkina. Young (12-12-1), a league alternate this season, went 1-2 in PFL last season, including a loss to Budd last October. The 36-year-old Minnesota native has a striking background — including a black belt in taekwondo — and has been a pro MMA fighter since 2007.

Budd (16-4), lost her first fight this season to Genah Fabian, but was granted three points due to Fabian’s weight miss. Mathematically, the 38-year-old Canadian fighter could still make the playoffs, especially if another fighter falls out, but it is unlikely.

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23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams skips practice ahead of doubles match that will mark competitive return

Serena Williams skipped her arranged practice session at Eastbourne with late notice on Monday as the 23-time Grand Slam champion prepares to make her return to competition after a year away.

Williams trained at a nearby club over the weekend and was expected to have an on-site session at Devonshire Park ahead of playing doubles with Ons Jabeur. Their first match is set for Tuesday versus Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova.

Williams, 40, who hasn’t competed anywhere since she was injured in the first round of Wimbledon last year, was awarded a wild card for singles at the All England Club.

Jabeur stated it was “unbelievable” to have been asked by Williams to be part of her journey back to competition at the Wimbledon warm-up. “I’m a good secret keeper — yes, I’ve known [since] before the French Open,” said the No. 3-ranked Jabeur, who arrived at Eastbourne after winning the title in Berlin on Sunday.

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“Many players were jealous because I’m playing with her. Honestly, Serena is Serena. She is a legend and always will be.”

Jabeur said she is hoping to learn “even like 2% from it.”

“Now I’m joking with other doubles players,” she said. “I was like, ‘If you have minus 20 grand slams, don’t even ask me to play doubles with you anymore.'”

Jabeur has pulled out of the singles at Eastbourne following her run to the title in Germany and will play only the doubles. Still, she’ll likely be kept busy this week given her partner.

“I cannot wait to see her; I haven’t seen her yet,” Jabeur said of Williams. “Hopefully we will get together and talk a little bit and see, because I’m really pumped. I want to win this doubles and why not win the title here, you know?”

Among those to advance in the singles Monday were three qualifiers — Donna Vekic, Kirsten Flipkens and Lesia Tsurenko — and a wild card in Britain’s Jodie Burrage. American player Alison Riske was beaten by Magda Linette of Poland 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (4).

In the men’s event, sixth-seeded Alex de Minaur of Australia started his title defense by beating Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-3. Two Americans — fifth-seeded Reilly Opelka and seventh-seeded Frances Tiafoe — lost in the first round on Monday.

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Devin Haney dethrones George Kambosos to become undisputed lightweight champion

Devin Haney can no longer be called an email champion, a titleholder or anything but the undisputed lightweight champion of the world.

The 23-year-old traveled from Las Vegas to Melbourne, Australia, and delivered a dominant performance to collect all four 135-pound belts in a unanimous-decision triumph Sunday over George Kambosos before 41,129 at Marvel Stadium on ESPN.

Haney (28-0, 15 KOs) used his excellent jab to dictate the pace en route to the lopsided victory via scores of 116-112, 118-110 and 116-112.

“The game plan was to go there and hit and not get hit, and I did that for the majority of the fight,” said Haney, who entered the ring rated No. 4 by ESPN at lightweight. “I took the last round off just because I knew I was comfortably ahead, but I fought a good, smart fight.

“I handicapped him of his best things. He wanted to land the overhand right, and he wanted to land the big left hook. … I was fighting both ways. When I would go to the left, I would fight his right hand. When I would go to the right, I would fight his left hook. And he couldn’t hit me with neither one of them.”

Indeed, it was a virtuoso defensive performance from the rising star. He used the lead weapon to disrupt Kambosos’ rhythm and often changed levels with the jab, shooting it to the body and head.

Anytime Kambosos (20-1, 10 KOs) closed the distance, Haney stepped back and fired a jab. On the rare instance Kambosos connected with a solid shot, Haney tied up the Australian before he could follow up his attack.

Despite the clear gap in skill level, there will likely be a rematch between Haney and Kambosos later this year in Australia.

The 28-year-old, who was rated No. 1 by ESPN at lightweight, is contractually guaranteed another fight with Haney in his home country if he chooses to exercise the rematch clause.

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“Yes, 100 percent … we’ll do it again,” Kambosos said when asked if he would exercise the rematch clause. “Look, I gave him the shot. If I hadn’t given him this shot, he wouldn’t have had his moment right now.

“He grabbed and held a lot and did what he had to do to win. That’s what it’s about. You do what you have to do to win, and today they gave him the decision, but I’m sure it will change when we get it on again. … This is going to make me hungrier.”

Said Haney: “I’m not ducking or dodging nobody. If it makes sense, if the network wants it, I’ll do it again. But it has to make sense.”

As the rounds ticked by, it became increasingly clear Kambosos had no answers for Haney’s ring smarts, jab and educated footwork. He pressed harder during the late stages of the fight, when he needed at least a knockdown to win, but never came close to landing the sort of fight-altering punch that materialized in November when he shocked Teofimo Lopez to collect four lightweight titles.

When Kambosos dethroned Lopez in ESPN’s Upset of the Year, he started fast with a knockdown in the opening round, and survived a knockdown in Round 10 to earn the split-decision victory.

Afterward, Kambosos called for the biggest fights possible in the star-laden lightweight division rather than the usual victory lap many new champions enjoy. He was ringside for not only Haney’s decision win over Joseph Diaz Jr., the following week, but also Gervonta Davis’ victory over Isaac Cruz.

“This is what it’s all about, f— protecting records,” Kambosos said. “I’ve always been about fighting the best.”

Ultimately, Kambosos engaged in negotiations with Vasiliy Lomachenko, the former pound-for-pound king, and there was a deal in place. But when Russia invaded Ukraine, Lomachenko decided to remain in the war-torn country with his family and passed on the fight.

Enter Haney, who was embroiled in a dispute with Kambosos and much of the boxing world over the legitimacy of his title. Haney was elevated from interim champion to WBC titleholder in October 2019, while Lomachenko, who held the WBC’s lightweight belt, was designated the franchise champion.

“It’s a title to basically duck your mandatory,” Haney told ESPN in May.

Finally, Haney grabbed his opportunity to “put a stop to the confusion: the email champion or the franchise and all that,” with his fight versus Kambosos, who entered the bout with the WBA, WBO, IBF and WBC franchise title.

However, it initially appeared he would have to do so without his father and trainer, Bill Haney. Due to a 1992 drug conviction, the elder Haney initially wasn’t approved for a travel visa, but on Thursday, he received clearance and arrived in Melbourne approximately 15 hours before the bell rang.

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Roger Federer plans return to tournament play at Swiss Indoors

Roger Federer intends to return to tournament tennis after what will have been more than a year away from the tour by playing at the Swiss Indoors in October.

The event in Basel revealed in a statement posted on its website on Tuesday that the 20-time Grand Slam champion “has officially entered the tournament and will appear on the entry list with the protected ATP ranking” of No. 9.

His agent, Tony Godsick, confirmed Federer’s plan to The Associated Press.

Federer’s first match there is scheduled for Oct. 25, according to the website. The Swiss star has not played a competitive match since losing to Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-0 in the Wimbledon quarterfinals on July 7.

Soon after that defeat, Federer had surgery to repair damage to his meniscus and cartilage in his right knee — the third time in a span of 1½ years that knee was operated on.

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Federer, 40, has won a men’s record eight championships at the All England Club.

He and Novak Djokovic are tied for the second-most overall major tennis titles acquired by a man; they trail Rafael Nadal, who has 21.

Federer said in an interview with a Swiss newspaper in November that he expected to miss Wimbledon this year — it starts on June 27 — and was not sure when, if ever, he might be able to play again at a high level, although he did “want to see one last time what I’m capable of as a professional tennis player.”

In February, Federer and Nadal announced they were both planning to participate in the Laver Cup in London on Sept. 23-25.

That would mark Federer’s return to action for the first time since last July — albeit not at a full-fledged tournament but at a team event founded by his management company.

Federer has won the Swiss Indoors trophy 10 times. The tournament will return this year after being called off in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Andrey Rublev beats Novak Djokovic to win Serbia Open title

Andrey Rublev defeated Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-0 to collect the Serbia Open on Sunday for his third title of the season.

The second-seeded Russian player dug deep to stop Djokovic from mounting another comeback as he prevented the top-ranked Serb from claiming his first title of 2022.

The 24-year-old Rublev looked fitter in their third set as he closed out the win in 2 hours, 24 minutes.

Djokovic — who is 10 years older than Rublev — appeared affected by the effort he put in to level the match in the second-set tiebreaker.

Djokovic had already come back from a set down in each of his three matches at his hometown tournament, defeating Laslo Djere, Miomir Kecmanovic and Karen Khachanov on his way to the final in what were only his fifth, sixth and seventh matches of the year.

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The 20-time Grand Slam champion opened his clay-court season with a surprising loss to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at the Monte Carlo Masters the previous week, his first match since being eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Championships in February.

Dubai was his first tournament of the year after he was barred from playing at the Australian Open because of his unvaccinated status, which also prevented him from playing tournaments in the United States last month.

Rublev, who dropped only one set as he eliminated Jiri Lehecka, Taro Daniel and Fabio Fognini on his way to the final, has now equaled Rafael Nadal’s mark of three tour-level titles in 2022, after victories in Marseille and Dubai in February.

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Conor Benn eyes Yordenis Ugas fight after snubbing dinner request in Las Vegas

After turning down the opportunity to have dinner with Yordenis Ugas, Conor Benn hopes they can meet again in the ring later this year.

Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs), 35, puts his WBA welterweight belt on the line versus WBC-IBF champion Errol Spence (27-0, 21 KOs), 32, in a world title unification fight at the AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, on Saturday. Just a few hours after, Benn continues his development against Chris van Heerden at the Manchester Arena, England.

Benn (20-0, 13 KOs), who was raised in Spain and Australia and moved to Essex, England, is the son of Nigel Benn — the world middleweight and supermiddleweight champion in the 1990s — and has made rapid progress over the last two years.

The 25-year-old travelled to Las Vegas recently for sparring, but claims Miami-based Cuban Ugas turned down the chance to spar him and instead invited him to dinner. “When I was out in Vegas recently, we tried to make the sparring with Ugas because me and Ugas speak,” Benn said.

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“He kept saying we would spar, he knows the score and knows what was going on but we ended up sparring [Yuriorkis] Gamboa and he had to get pulled out of the spar. Bearing in mind I wasn’t even in training camp but he had to get pulled out because he was beginning to get a bit of a pasting.

“Ugas was there and after he was inviting me out for dinner with him and his missus. I thought: ‘That’s a bit odd,’ I look at that and think ‘I fancy my chances.’ If he does beat Spence, which I believe is not likely, but it is a fight I’d love in the future.

“I didn’t take him up on dinner. I told him I was busy but as I was walking through the casino, I see him and his missus having food and I went over to say hello and thought ‘That couldn’t have gone anymore awkward really.’

“It’s not that we are from the same country or live the same lifestyle so I was thinking ‘Why does he want me to go to dinner?’ What are we going to do? Sit there and stare at each other. I found it very odd. I don’t know what his motive was.

“I would love to do it for real. I want to test myself against the best in the division. Every challenge they put in front of me I come through it. I’m top five in every governing body and No. 1 in Britain.”

Benn is closing in on a world title shot which he hopes to get later this year or in 2023, as long as he defeats California-based Van Heerden (28-2-1, 12 KOs), a southpaw from South Africa.

Benn added: “I’ve done a lot of southpaw sparring and I love challenges, I love overcoming them. I think I have shown in my last few performances that I can beat any style put in front of me. I think I fill him in, to be honest. I’m prepared for a hard fight.”

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Carlos Alcaraz, 18, becomes youngest Miami Open champion, third-youngest winner of any ATP Masters 1000 event

Spanish fans brought plenty of their nation’s flags to Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, thrusting them into the air whenever things were going well for Carlos Alcaraz.

He kept them busy, all the way to the end.

Spain finally has a Miami Open men’s champion: an 18-year-old who wasn’t even in the top 100 of the world rankings at this time a year ago and now heads into the clay-court season arguably playing as well as anyone.

Alcaraz, the No. 14 seed, shook off a slow start to defeat sixth-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway 7-5, 6-4 in Sunday’s final.

The melting pot city of Miami — with its massive Spanish-speaking community — loved him back, and Alcaraz said that made a big difference throughout his two-week stay.

“I felt like I was home from the first minute I began playing,” Alcaraz said.

He became the youngest champion in Miami Open history — Novak Djokovic was 19 when he obtained the tournament, then the NASDAQ-100 Open, for the first time — and picked up $1,231,245 for the victory, nearly doubling his career earnings with one check.

The shot-making ability from the Spanish teen was on full display: daring drop shots in tense situations, deft touch at the net when needed, raw power from the baseline when warranted.

Alcaraz often would look to his team in the stands and give a joyous yell or a knowing fist-pump, clearly feeling more comfortable as the afternoon went along.

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Among those there with him: his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero. He had been away while mourning the death of his father, but made it back to Miami in time for the final. And when the match was over, Alcaraz hopped into the stands to give Ferrero his first hug as a Miami champion, as his coach wiped away tears.

“It’s pretty amazing to share this with you,” Alcaraz told Ferrero.

There had been four other Spanish men to make the final at what now is called the Miami Open — the tournament has changed names a few times over the years — over the last quarter-century. Sergi Bruguera was the first, in 1997. Carlos Moya was next, in 2003. David Ferrer got there in 2013 and the best player of them all, Rafael Nadal, made it to the Miami final in 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2017.

They all lost. Every time.

Alcaraz ended the drought and did so with authority.

He ripped a crosscourt forehand for a double-break lead of 3-0 in the second set. Ruud broke back for 3-1, and had a chance at setting up another breaker late in the set.

With Alcaraz hitting a second serve at 4-3, 30-30, Ruud guessed the incoming ball’s path correctly and ran around his backhand to try what would have been a down-the-line winner. He put it just wide, and a point later Alcaraz was up 5-3. Before long, it was over.

“You’re such a good player already,” Ruud told Alcaraz during the trophy ceremony. “You’re so young and if you continue like this you will stand there many more times. I’m sure of it.”

Rankings-wise, both players leave Miami better than ever. Ruud is expected to climb one spot to a career-best No. 7 in the world when the computer numbers are updated Monday; Alcaraz will be a career-best No. 11.

For Ruud, the rise has been steady. He was No. 26 in the world after Miami last year.

For Alcaraz, the rise has been meteoric. He was ranked No. 133 at this time a year ago.

But he made big jumps — getting to the third round of last year’s French Open as a qualifier pushed him into the top 75, making the US Open quarterfinals got him into the top 50, winning a tournament in Rio de Janeiro in February got him into the top 20, and he leaves Miami flirting with the top 10.

In any language, Alcaraz was the best in Miami.

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Tom Brady returning to Buccaneers to play 23rd season in NFL

Tom Brady’s retirement lasted 40 days.

Brady stated Sunday he’s returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for his 23rd NFL season.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion revealed his decision on Twitter and Instagram, saying he has “unfinished business.” The news stole the spotlight from the NCAA’s Selection Sunday.

“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady wrote. “That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa.”

Brady led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title following the 2020 season and NFC South championship last season. He teamed with coach Bill Belichick to win six Super Bowls during 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.

The 44-year-old Brady led the NFL in yards passing (5,316), touchdowns (43), completions (485) and attempts (719) in 2021, but the Buccaneers lost at home to the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round.

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“Tom Brady loves to play football as much as anyone I have ever been around,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said. “As Tom said, his place right now is on the football field. He is still playing at a championship level and was as productive as anyone in the league last season. We are ecstatic that he decided to continue playing and working toward winning another championship.” 

Brady cited his wish to spend more time with his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and three children when he decided to walk away from the game on Feb. 1. But he changed his mind about staying home, a day after attending the Manchester United match versus Tottenham Hotspur. Brady sat with the Glazer Family, who own Manchester United and the Buccaneers.

His reversal sent shock waves throughout the sports world, and his teammates and Buccaneers fans reacted with jubilation.

All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs called it “unreal.” Receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin shared their joy in emojis.

Giants safety Logan Ryan said Brady’s return is “good for football.” Rams star cornerback Jalen Ramsey tweeted: “THANK YOU! throw that last touchdown on somebody else.”

Brady’s decision comes right before the NFL free agency period begins. The Bucs have several key players set to hit the open market: running back Leonard Fournette, cornerback Carton Davis, safety Jordan Whitehead, linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Gronkowski and others.

They kept one of those key players when Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen agreed to a three-year contract late Sunday night, his agent Mike McCartney said on Twitter. 

Brady’s return should impact their decisions and the team’s plans. Tampa’s odds for winning the Super Bowl went from 25:1 to 7 1/2:1, tied with Green Bay for second-best behind Buffalo at 7:1, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

“We are thrilled that Tom has decided to come back this season,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. “We said we would leave all options open for him should he reconsider his retirement and today’s announcement is something we have been preparing for in recent days.

Brady has won three NFL MVP awards, been a first-team All-Pro three times and selected to the Pro Bowl 15 times. He is 243-73 in his career in the regular season and 35-12 in the playoffs. He’s back to build on all those numbers.

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Novak Djokovic in BNP Paribas Open draw, but ‘it has not been determined if he will participate’

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic was announced in the draw for the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday, despite his status to enter the United States still unclear due to being unvaccinated.

“Novak Djokovic is on the tournament entry list, and therefore is placed into the draw today,” the California tournament said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are currently in communication with his team; however, it has not been determined if he will participate in the event by getting CDC approval to enter the country.”

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It’s the latest setback for Djokovic, the 20-time major champion, in what has become a tumultuous 2022.

He was deported from Australia in January after initially receiving a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open and then having his visa revoked by the Australian government.

He has since played in just one tournament — a quarterfinal appearance in Dubai — and it stays unclear how many events he will be able to play as a result of his unvaccinated status. He was recently ousted from the No. 1 ranking by Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic told the BBC he would be willing to skip majors in the future if a vaccine was required.

“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” he said in February.

Djokovic publicly stated his desire to play at the Masters 1000-level event in Indian Wells, California but said in Dubai last month he wasn’t sure if he would be able to enter the country. He has yet to provide a further update.

The men’s main draw gets underway on Thursday and seeded players receive a first-round bye. Djokovic is currently scheduled to play the winner of the opening-round match between Jordan Thompson and David Goffin in a second-round match on Saturday or Sunday.

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UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman has hand surgery, is targeting July return

The best MMA fighter in the world went under the knife Monday.

UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman had surgery to repair a ligament in his hand, Usman’s manager Ali Abdelaziz of Dominance MMA confirmed to ESPN. UFC president Dana White posted a gruesome photo of the operation on social media.

Abdelaziz stated Usman is targeting a return for International Fight Week, the UFC’s big annual summer celebration in Las Vegas. UFC 276, the culmination of this year’s festivities, is arranged for July 2 at T-Mobile Arena. Abdelaziz would not say which hand Usman had surgery on.

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White has said that Usman’s next title defense likely will come versus top contender Leon Edwards, who is coming off a win over Nate Diaz last June.

ESPN has Usman ranked as the top pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world.

Usman (20-1) is putting together one of the best resumes in UFC history. The Nigeria native, who grew up in Texas, has won 15 consecutive fights, one off the UFC record winning streak held by former middleweight champion and all-time great Anderson Silva. Usman, 34, is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Colby Covington at UFC 268 last November.

Usman has been welterweight champion since 2019, collecting five title defenses.

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