Tagged in: champion

Yordenis Ugas upsets Manny Pacquiao by decision to retain WBA title

This night was supposed to be a celebration, a culmination of all the great Manny Pacquiao has accomplished — a champion in eight divisions in four decades, a superstar the world over.

Yordenis Ugas wasn’t here for the Pacquiao party, though; Ugas was here for his own arrival. And he made good on his promise to bring all his respect for Pacquiao into the ring.

Ugas, who accepted the assignment on 11 days’ notice, scored a unanimous decision over Pacquiao on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena to hold his WBA “super” welterweight title, spoiling the festivities in an upset victory that establishes Ugas as a major player in boxing’s best division.

All three judges scored the fight for Ugas: 116-112, 115-113 and 116-112. ESPN had it 116-112 for Ugas, who won as a +310 underdog, according to Caesars Sportsbook.

“I’m very excited, but most of all, I want to thank Manny Pacquiao for giving me this moment in this ring today,” said Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs). “Now the plan is to unify the title at welterweight. … Errol Spence is the next one on the list. … I am praying that he recuperates.”

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Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39 KOs) was slated to meet Spence, ESPN’s No. 4 pound-for-pound boxer, in a super fight.

Those plans were canceled when it was discovered Spence suffered a detached retina in his left eye just 12 days before the fight.

Ugas, a bronze medalist for Cuba in the 2008 Olympics and ESPN’s No. 6 welterweight, was set to defend his title versus Fabian Maidana in the co-feature and didn’t hesitate to step in to fight Pacquiao when the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself.

“We only had two weeks of training,” Ugas said, “but I listened to my corner, and it all worked out.”

Ugas’ strategy was simple yet brilliant: a double jab to the head followed by a right hand to the body. A high guard that picked off Pacquiao’s incoming shots before a crisp right looped around Pacquiao’s gloves and connected upstairs. Counterpunches that hit the target over and over, finally cutting Pacquiao over the left eye in Round 12.

Pacquiao also was cut under his right eye during the fight. His team told ESPN afterward that he needed five stitches to close one of the cuts and had three stitches glued onto the other. They didn’t specify which cut needed which fix.

On this night, under the brightest of lights, Ugas displayed the composure of a heart surgeon, patiently picking his spots with precise punches that constantly met their mark. He also imposed his superior size and strength on Pacquiao, who perhaps was fighting in his final bout.

This 42-year-old, flat-footed version of Pacquiao was not the same fighter who vaulted to the sport with dizzying speed and combinations thrown from seemingly every angle. Now, well past his best and with a potential presidential race to prepare for, this could be it for Pacquiao.

When Pacquiao was asked if this was his final fight, he said, “I don’t know. I need to relax and make a decision.”

“That’s boxing,” he said. “I had a hard time in the ring making adjustments. … My legs were tight. I’m sorry I lost tonight, but I did my best.”

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Barbora Krejcikova wins women’s doubles with Katerina Siniakova to complete Paris title sweep

French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova completed a rare title sweep at Roland Garros as she acquired a third women’s doubles major trophy with fellow Czech teammate Katerina Siniakova on Sunday.

Less than 24 hours after she claimed her first singles Grand Slam title, Krejcikova became the first woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to lift both trophies at the clay-court major. Only seven women have completed the title sweep at Roland Garros.

“Right now after all of this happened, this last two weeks, last two days, I feel really relieved and relaxed,” Krejcikova said.

“I just know from now on I can really enjoy because I have pretty much achieved everything I really wanted. Now I can just improve. That’s the only thing I can do, just improving.”

In addition to her pair of trophies, Krejcikova will reclaim the No. 1 spot in the doubles rankings next week.

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“We will have a little bit glass of champagne,” Krejcikova said. “I already said I don’t really drink, but I think it’s a time to actually celebrate it. I think we going to really enjoy.”

Krejcikova, 25, who overpowered Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for the women’s singles title Saturday, also became the first player to sweep both titles at any Grand Slam tournament since Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2016.

Krejcikova and Siniakova are both 25 but have extensive experience playing together, having started their partnership in the juniors in 2013.

It clearly showed in their 6-4, 6-2 victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek in Sunday’s final as they converted five of their seven break points.

After racing to a 4-0 lead in the opening set, they resisted a late comeback with an efficient display at the net. Krejcikova served out the set at love as Mattek-Sands missed a tough backhand volley.

The Czech pair won the final four games and sealed the game with Siniakova’s final backhand winner.

Siniakova and Krejcikova had already won in Paris in 2018 and claimed the Wimbledon trophy the same year.

“I’m just really happy that we have another title, and looking forward we going to continue with our cooperation in Wimbledon and also for the Olympics,” Krejcikova said.

“I hope there’s going to be a bright future for us.” Swiatek was the defending singles champion in Paris but bowed out in the quarterfinals this year.

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Usman knocks out Masvidal to win rematch

Kamaru Usman dominated his fight the first time he faced Jorge Masvidal, but he wasn’t thrilled because there were so many unanswered questions left. Masvidal had taken that fight on six days’ notice and needed to cut 20 pounds to make weight.

That seemed to take something off Usman’s one-sided victory.

Saturday’s rematch in the main event of UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida, was just as one-sided, but this time, he left no doubts.

He became the first man to knock out Masvidal when he landed with a perfectly thrown straight right hand. He dropped Masvidal hard and finished him with three hammer fists on the ground, forcing referee Herb Dean to stop it at 1:02 of the second.

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“Thank you to my man Jorge,” Usman said. “You elevated me. You made me go through the workshop to sharpen up my tools to put on a performance like that.”

There was no controversy, no complaints from Masvidal’s side and nothing but respect for a man who is quickly on his way to becoming the greatest welterweight in UFC history.

That’s a big feat considering what Georges St-Pierre accomplished, but in his last seven fights, he’s defeated Demian Maia, Rafael dos Anjos, Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns and Masvidal twice.

That’s a Murderer’s Row if ever there was one, and he knocked out Covington, Burns and Masvidal in the process.

Masvidal paid tribute, saying, “He showed me something he didn’t show me the first time.”

Usman was confident after going through several training camps with Trevor Whitman, a striking expert who has worked hard on sharpening Usman’s stand-up. It showed on Saturday, as he tagged Masvidal several times with clean combinations in the first round.

Usman, a former Division II national wrestling champion, has an extremely complete all-around game.

“I know with my fundamentals, I’m the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet right now,” he said.

There aren’t a lot of people outside of Jon Jones’ camp who would argue that right now.

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Robert Whittaker beats Kelvin Gastelum via unanimous decision in Las Vegas

Robert Whittaker doesn’t create a lot of headlines. He doesn’t talk any trash. Never has he made a spectacle of himself.

But quietly, Whittaker has built a résumé that rivals some of the most impressive in mixed martial arts.

The former UFC middleweight champion put forth another brilliant performance Saturday, defeating Kelvin Gastelum by one-sided unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45) in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.

Whittaker beautifully mixed up his striking over all five rounds, landing jabs, straight rights, left hooks, leg kicks and even a front kick to Gastelum’s jaw in the final frame. It was a sublime showcase against another one of the top middleweight fighters in the world.

“I’m feeling on top of the world,” Whittaker said. “Obviously, this was a very hard fight. A lot of people were selling Kelvin short. … He’s one of the best fighters in the division. That was a very tough fight.”

ESPN had Whittaker ranked No. 2 in the world at middleweight coming in. This victory should put him in line for a shot at champion Israel Adesanya, who beat him for the belt two years ago.

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“Nothing but respect,” Whittaker said of Adesanya. “He’s a great fighter. But I think we should talk, mate. I think it’s time we crossed paths again.”

Whittaker and Gastelum were first supposed to fight at UFC 234 on Feb. 10, 2019, when Whittaker was the UFC middleweight champion. But Whittaker withdrew from the fight the day of the card due to a hernia. A collapsed bowel caused him to have to undergo emergency surgery.

On Saturday, Gastelum was replacing Paulo Costa, Whittaker’s original opponent, who had to pull out due to lingering effects of COVID-19.

The change of opponent did not affect Whittaker at all. He rocked Gastelum in the first round with a head kick and never really slowed down from there. The very tough Gastelum hung around for all 25 minutes, but rare was a minute when Whittaker was not in total control.

Later in the first round, Whittaker took Gastelum down and landed some ground-and-pound. In the second, Gastelum had some success with his boxing and straight left hands, but Whittaker landed some nice jabs and counters. Whittaker rocked Gastelum again with a combination in the third, a round in which Gastelum had some success early.

Whittaker landed two nice uppercuts in the fourth round and got right up from a Gastelum takedown. In the fifth, Whittaker was starting to wear some of Gastelum’s offense — Gastelum was bruised up, as well — but Whittaker capped the technical performance with a surprising front kick to Gastelum’s face.

Whittaker outlanded Gastelum in meaningful strikes 150-62, and 115 of those from Whittaker were to the head, according to UFC Stats.

Whittaker (23-5) has won three consecutive fights and 12 of his past 13 overall. The New Zealand-born Australia resident has just one loss since 2014, versus Adesanya. Whittaker, 30, held the middleweight belt from 2017 to 2019, dropping it to Adesanya at UFC 243 in October 2019.

Whittaker is 14-3 in UFC.

Gastelum (16-7, 1 NC) was coming off a unanimous decision victory over Ian Heinisch at UFC 258 on Feb. 13. The California native had lost three straight prior to that.

The 29-year-old Gastelum was once considered one of the best middleweight fighters in the world, fighting Adesanya for the interim belt at UFC 236 in April 2019.

Saturday’s card was held with no fans at the UFC Apex, a facility across from the promotion’s corporate campus, with COVID-19 protocols in place.

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Defending champ Ash Barty returns to Miami Open final

In her first match at this year’s Miami Open, Ash Barty was one point from elimination.

Now she’s one win from becoming a repeat champion. The top-ranked Barty returned to the final by defeating No. 5-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday.

Barty has gained momentum after starting the tournament by saving a match point versus qualifier Kristina Kucova. That was Barty’s first match outside her native Australia since February 2020.

“Whenever you come back from a match point, it’s a little bit of a strange feeling,” Barty said. “You have to be more open with what the possibilities the rest of the tournament could be, and keep going out there and keep fighting, knowing you could have just as easily been out of the tournament.”

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Barty, who is assured of maintaining her No. 1 ranking next week, will play for the title Saturday versus the winner of the second semifinal between No. 8 Bianca Andreescu and No. 23 Maria Sakkari.

Barty was locked down for a year in Australia because of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 Miami Open. She won the event in 2019, and said her run to that title was different from this year’s matches in Miami.

“Chalk and cheese,” the Aussie said. “The conditions have been different here this week. It has been a lot warmer and physically very demanding.”

Barty had been 1-5 previously against Svitolina, but took charge with two early breaks and used her strong serve and deep slices to keep the Ukrainian on the defensive.

Midway through the second set, Svitolina made a rare trip to the net, and Barty responded with a perfect lob winner that drew an appreciative pat of the racket strings from her opponent. On match point, Barty closed out the triumph with a forehand winner and a fist pump.

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Roger Federer out of Miami Open, will train to ‘work his way back’

Roger Federer is withdrawing from this month’s Miami Open so he can spend extra time preparing to “work his way back out on tour,” his agent told The Associated Press on Monday.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has not competed in more than a year after having two operations on his right knee during last campaign.

Federer, who turns 40 in August, is booked to make his return to the tour next week in a hard-court tournament at Doha, Qatar. He posted a photo of himself on Twitter this past Friday with the caption: “The countdown to Doha begins.”

That will be his first event since he reached the semifinals at the Australian Open in February 2020.

As of now, he also is slated to participate in the hard-court tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, that starts March 14.

Federer also had been on the entry list for the Masters 1000 stop in Miami, where play begins on March 24.

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But his agent, Tony Godsick, wrote Monday in an email to the AP that Federer will not play there.

“After Doha and maybe Dubai, (Federer) will go back and do a training block to continue to slowly work his way back out on tour,” Godsick wrote.

Miami Open tournament director James Blake said he hopes Federer will return in 2021 to an event he has won four times, including two years ago.

“We certainly would have loved Roger to return to Miami to defend his title. However, as a former player, I understand that you need to tailor your travel and playing schedule to properly work your way back to 100 percent fitness when coming off an injury,” Blake said. “Roger is an incredible ambassador for the sport, so the longer he is able to play on tour, the better it is for all of tennis.”

Federer beat John Isner 6-1, 6-4 in the final to win the Miami Open in 2019, the last time it was held. The tournament was one of dozens that were called off last year when the professional tennis tours went on hiatus for several months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That was Federer’s fourth title at the hard-court event, following trophies he collected there in 2005, 2006 and 2017.

Federer is currently No. 5 in the ATP rankings. He has spent 310 weeks total at No. 1, an ATP record tied by Novak Djokovic on Monday. Federer’s tally of 103 tour-level titles is the second most in the professional era of men’s tennis, trailing only Jimmy Connors, who won 109.

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Promoter — Deal done for Anthony Joshua-Tyson Fury heavyweight title fight

Anthony Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn stated a deal for the world heavyweight champion to meet Tyson Fury in an undisputed world heavyweight title fight this year is all but done, with a venue in the Middle East a front-runner to host it.

Joshua defeated Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev last month to keep his IBF, WBO and WBA titles to set up the prospect of a mouth-watering clash with fellow Briton Fury who holds the WBC belt.

“The deal is done, really — without being signed,” Hearn told the Times.

“The financial elements of the deal are done. We’re talking through the broadcast situation, the only thing really now is to paper it. “And when you paper a deal like that, it does go back and forwards 15 times before every single letter is approved on the document.”

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Fury has not fought since beating American Deontay Wilder in their Las Vegas rematch in February to claim the WBC crown.

Fury and Wilder had a rematch clause in their contract but they couldn’t make the fight.

Hearn said Joshua and Fury would face off in two fights — with the first likely to be in the Middle East later this year — and he hoped to bring the rematch back to Britain.

“The Middle East will be aggressive and will be front-runners in this. To stage this fight, you need significant government support. You need someone who is staging this fight as a statement for their country,” Hearn added.

“I’d like it [the rematch] to be [in the United Kingdom]. Where? Millennium Stadium.”

Fury’s American promoter Bob Arum has stated before that he is “95 per cent confident the fight happens”. Arum said: “I don’t want to make a deadline, but I just can report that everything so far has been going splendidly, and we hope to have a signed document within the next couple of weeks.

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Gennady Golovkin returns to the ring

Once feared, but still revered by many boxing fans, IBF and IBO middleweight champion Gennadiy Golovkin will be back in the squared circle this Friday versus mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta at Seminole Hard Rock and Casino in Hollywood, FL.

Now 38, Golovkin is anxious to get back in the ring.

“I’m ready to fight. I feel great,” said Golovkin Tuesday during a virtual news conference.

Golovkin was last seen in the ring battling Sergey Derevyanchenko. The bout was intense, brutal, and exciting. Golovkin was judged the winner by a close unanimous decision. Many thought the wrong fighter got the nod. I thought Golovkin edged it, but his advanced age became more prominent after the bout.

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As it should. Combining his amateur and professional careers, Golovkin has engaged in close to 450 fights. Ten years ago, fighting in virtual obscurity in Europe, Golovkin captured a title (in Russia) that few respected, and then became something of a folk hero with more belts due to his modest ways and heavy hands.

He was just over 30 when he came to America. Many fighters evaded Golovkin like the plague when he reigned over the middleweight division. He scored 23 straight knockouts and held world titles in the division for eight years.

That was then. This is now.

Szremento, his opponent in a few days, is undefeated in 21 fights, scoring five knockouts. The Polish native earned his shot against Golovkin by stopping Oscar Cortes in two rounds on the undercard of Golovkin versus Derevyanchenko.

“I treat every fight very seriously,” Golovkin said. “At this level, there are no easy fights. Every opponent brings certain challenges.”

A third fight with Alvarez could be on the table next year for Golovkin. Promoter Eddie Hearn has talked of pitting Golovkin against other division champions, Jermall Charlo, and Demetrius Andrade.

Though he’s accomplished a lot in his boxing career, Golovkin is still hungry. “I have not achieved everything I have wanted,” Golovkin said. “I have to win Friday to look into other opportunities.”

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Khabib announces retirement after defeating Gaethje

Nurmagomedov submits Gaethje with triangle choke in round two despite competing with broken foot; Russian reveals shock retirement following the death of his father: “Today I want to say this is my last fight. No way am I coming here without my father”

Nurmagomedov extended his undefeated record to 29-0 with a second-round submission victory in Abu Dhabi – his third successful title defense, having previously beaten Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.

It was also the Russian’s first fight without his father and coach, Abdulmanap, who died from complications caused by coronavirus earlier this year, and one he went into with a broken foot.

In an emotional post-fight interview

Nurmagomedov stated: “Today I want to say this is my last fight. No way am I coming here without my father. When UFC called me about Justin I spoke with my mother for three days. “She didn’t want me to fight without father and I said this is my last fight – and I have given her my word.

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UFC president Dana White revealed after the fight that Nurmagomedov had competed with a broken foot and that by retiring with a 29-0 record he has to be considered as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time.

Nurmagomedov first claimed the UFC lightweight title with a points decision victory over Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 in 2018 before defending the title versus McGregor in Las Vegas later that year at UFC 229.

McGregor took to social media on Saturday night to congratulate Nurmagomedov and confirmed he would continue in the sport, even without the prospect of a rematch with the Russian.

“Good performance @TeamKhabib,” McGregor wrote on Twitter. “I will carry on. Respect and condolences on your father again also. To you and family. Yours sincerely, The McGregors.”

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Teofimo Lopez upsets Vasiliy Lomachenko to become youngest four-belt champion

There is a new lightweight king. At just 23 years old, Teofimo Lopez became the undisputed lightweight champion of the world by dethroning Vasiliy Lomachenko over 12 tense rounds inside the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

Lopez becomes the youngest fighter to become a four-belt champion since the WBO was founded in 1988.

After a strong start, Lopez overcame a late Lomachenko rally to win by the scores of 116-112, 119-109 and 117-111.

The fight was dominated early by the boxing of Lopez, who controlled the center of the ring by using his educated left hand and then hit Lomachenko with well-placed body shots that had the smaller boxer backing up.

Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) built a big lead on the scorecards as he was able to neutralize the graceful movements of Lomachenko (14-2, 10) behind that jab. For most of the first half of the fight, Lomachenko just moved around the ring and did very little offensively. It was clear the technical acumen and poise of Lopez was vastly underrated. For long stretches of the bout he was actually outboxing the master boxer.

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Yet Lomachenko didn’t give up without a fight. As the fight entered the late stages, Lomachenko, sensing he was behind, started to ramp up the pressure and began to close the gap on Lopez. He struck him with quick, laser-like left hands that slowed the momentum of Lopez. To his credit, Lomachenko put together a late rally in the championship rounds.

“I think the first half of the fight he got more rounds than I did, but in the second half of the fight I took over,” Lomachenko said. “I was much better.”

But if a late statement was needed by Lopez, it was made in the 12th and final round.

Despite Lopez’s father saying he had the fight won entering the last round, Lopez kept the pressure on and got his hand moving, landing several significant power shots that halted Lomachenko in his tracks. Only a clash of heads that caused a gash over Lopez’s left eye stemmed the tide.

“I’m a fighter,” Lopez said after the fight regarding the 12th round. “I gotta dig in deep. I knew he was coming. I didn’t know if they had him up on the scorecards or not, and I love to fight. I can bang, too. I don’t care, man. I’ll take one to give one. That’s what a true champion does. I find a way to win.”

This round was a late exclamation to what was a sterling presentation by a young man who fulfilled the destiny of his outspoken father, who prophesied that not only would his son win a world title by his 15th fight, but he would topple a boxer many consider the best in the sport by his 16th.

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