Tagged in: championship

Indianapolis Colts’ Julian Blackmon out for season after tearing Achilles

The injuries just won’t stop for the Colts in 2021, as second-year free safety Julian Blackmon suffered a season-ending torn Achilles in practice Wednesday, the team revealed.

This is Blackmon’s second significant injury in less than two years. He tore an ACL during the Pac-12 championship game while at Utah in 2019. Blackmon, who was selected in the third round of the 2020 draft, recovered quickly enough to play in 15 games and intercept two passes as a rookie.

Blackmon’s season ends with 34 tackles, one forced fumble and one pass defended.

“It’s how we respond that matters!” Blackmon tweeted. “Let’s get this W this week!!” Expect the Colts to add a safety to the active roster, because Khari Willis, George Odum and Andrew Sendejo are the only players at the position presently on the roster.

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Blackmon’s injury adds to what has been a season-long list of injuries for the Colts (2-4). Quarterback Carson Wentz, guard Quenton Nelson, linebacker Darius Leonard, kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, wide receiver Parris Campbell and right tackle Braden Smith are some of the key players who have been out or are currently out for multiple weeks due to substantial injuries.

Blackmon had 34 total tackles and forced one fumble in the Colts’ first six games of the season.

The second-year safety was just eight tackles away from matching the mark he set during his rookie season.

Blackmon, despite tearing his ACL during the Pac-12 championship game, was selected by the Colts in the third round of the 2020 draft and made 14 starts as a rookie. He finished that campaign with 42 tackles and two interceptions.

The Colts (2-4) have placed 19 players on injured reserve since the beginning of training camp in late July, with Blackmon set to be the 20th. Indianapolis plays at San Francisco on Sunday night.

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Anthony Joshua exercises right to rematch with Oleksandr Usyk for heavyweight championship

Anthony Joshua exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch with Oleksandr Usyk for the unified heavyweight championship, Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, revealed on Saturday.

Hearn stated he plans to stage Usyk-Joshua 2 in early spring.

“Back in the game and looking for him to become a three-time world champion,” Hearn said.

Joshua, 31, had 30 days from last month’s upset defeat to Usyk to inform the other side, in writing, that he was exercising the rematch clause. Neither boxer can stage an interim fight before the rematch.

The battle of Olympic gold medalists from the 2012 Games wasn’t all that competitive despite Joshua’s advantage in size and heavyweight experience.

Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) was boxing as a heavyweight for just the third time but neutralized Joshua’s edge in size and strength with superior quickness, boxing smarts and footwork.

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The former undisputed cruiserweight champion appeared on the verge of stopping Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) in the closing seconds of a fight that featured no knockdowns, though Joshua was stunned on several occasions.

Joshua, a U.K. star, emerged from the bout with a badly damaged right eye and sat on his stool for minutes after the fight concluded.

The unanimous-decision loss was the second of Joshua’s career. His other defeat was a shocking seventh-round TKO loss to Andy Ruiz Jr.

That fight also contained a rematch clause and Joshua made good use of it by exacting revenge via decision six months later in Saudi Arabia.

Usyk, a 34-year-old Ukrainian, is ESPN’s No. 2 heavyweight and No. 9 pound-for-pound boxer. Joshua is ESPN’s No. 4 heavyweight.

Usyk’s tremendous victory spoiled plans for a Tyson Fury-Joshua super fight in the first half of 2022. Fury and Joshua hoped to meet Aug. 14 in Saudi Arabia before an independent arbitrator ruled that Fury owed Wilder a third fight.

They meet Saturday for the WBC heavyweight championship (9 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV). The WBC ruled that if the winner of Saturday’s bout doesn’t unify with Usyk next, that the victor will be ordered to fight Dillian Whyte, the long-standing WBC No. 1 contender.

If Whyte can upend Otto Wallin on Oct. 30 in London, he could be in line to fight Fury or Wilder in the first half of 2022.

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Demetrius Andrade-Jason Quigley middleweight title fight headlines Nov. 19 tripleheader

Demetrius Andrade and Jason Quigley have agreed to terms for a middleweight title fight that will headline a DAZN-streamed championship tripleheader on Nov. 19 in New England, sources told ESPN.

Murodjon Akhmadaliev will defend his unified 122-pound championship versus Ronny Rios in the co-feature, sources said. Julio Cesar Martinez puts his 112-pound title on the line vs. McWilliams Arroyo in the opening fight.

All three fights pit champions promoted by Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn against challengers aligned with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. The promotions have yet to lock down a site for the card, but sources said it will be held in New England.

Andrade (30-0, 18 KOs), ESPN’s No. 3 boxer at 160 pounds, made the fourth defense of his title in April with a unanimous-decision triumph over Liam Williams. The 33-year-old from Providence, Rhode Island, has been dominant during his 160-pound title reign but has yet to face a formidable foe. That won’t change with this fight.

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The slick southpaw will be a heavy favorite to turn back the challenge of Quigley (19-1, 14 KOs), a hard-nosed fighter coming off the biggest vicory of his career. The 30-year-old Irishman scored a majority-decision win over Shane Mosley Jr. in May and will now step up to the elite level for the first time.

The other two title fights on the card figure to be far more competitive.

Akhmadaliev, a 26-year-old from Uzbekistan, is ESPN’s No. 1 boxer at 122 pounds. He won the unified championship from Daniel Roman in January 2020 and successfully defended it in April with a stoppage win over Ryosuke Iwasa.

An Olympic bronze medalist, Akhmadaliev (9-0, 7 KOs) is considered one of the brightest young talents in boxing.

He figures to face a stern challenge in Rios (33-3, 16 KOs). The 31-year-old from Southern California is ESPN’s No. 8 junior featherweight. Since suffering a sixth-round knockout to Azat Hovhannisyan in February 2018, Rios has reeled off four consecutive wins, most recently outpointing Oscar Negrete in February.

Martinez, ESPN’s No. 1 flyweight, has torn through the competition at 112 pounds under the guidance of reigning trainer of the year Eddy Reynoso. The 26-year-old Mexican is coming off a sixth-round TKO of Joel Cordova, and like Akhmadaliev, Martinez (18-1, 14 KOs) is on the cusp of pound-for-pound recognition.

Arroyo (21-4, 16 KOs) is a 35-year-old from Puerto Rico who has faced some of the best fighters in the sport. Among those: decision defeats to Roman Gonzalez and Kazuto Ioka. He has won four consecutive since the loss to Ioka, his latest outing a TKO victory over Abraham Rodriguez in February.

The DAZN card comes one day before Terence Crawford and Shawn Porter meet for a welterweight title on ESPN+ PPV.

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Two-time All-Star Luis Severino returns to New York Yankees, works two innings in 7-1 victory

Luis Severino took the mound in a major-league game for the first time since the 2019 American League Championship Series on Tuesday.

The two-time All-Star, who has battled myriad injuries since re-signing with the Yankees, entered in the unfamiliar role of reliever, working the final two innings of New York’s 7-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.

“Proud moment for him and for his teammates and for all of us who have seen him go through a lot,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone stated. “He’s battled different things, and has worked his tail off to get to this moment.”

He worked a quick eighth, authoring two strikeouts and a groundout to go along with a double. In the ninth, he permitted a single before ending it with a double play and a flyout.

“I was feeling a lot of different emotions. But I’m happy to be back, happy to finally help the team,” Severino told the YES Network. “I knew after the first pitch, that it was going to come back to normal.”

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He concluded with 30 pitches, 19 of which were strikes.

“There’s got to be rust, nerves, all of that, going out there,” Boone said. “And I thought he executed, and hopefully this is a step forward for him to help us here down the stretch.”

Severino was activated before Monday’s 4-3 victory over the Rangers, with Boone clearly saying he wanted to start him out as a reliever. Where he goes from here, an optimistic Boone wouldn’t say.

“I’m not going to cap what that can be. We’ll see,” he said. “That’s a talented person and a great pitcher. I’m not going to limit what he’s capable of.”

Giancarlo Stanton hit his 31st home run in the victory, while Joey Gallo added his 38th and Aaron Judge launched his 36th as New York’s offense woke up. It indeed was a feel-good night in The Bronx, despite the fact that the Yankees did not gain any ground in the American League wild-card race.

“He felt great to be a part of it,” Boone said of Severino. “There was some emotion in his voice, and you can imagine the hard work he’s put in to get to this point. It was a good night for him.”

The 27-year-old right-hander had Tommy John surgery on Feb. 27, 2020. He made four minor league appearances totaling 10⅔ innings for Tampa, Hudson Valley and Somerset, permitting four runs, five hits and one home run with three walks and 15 strikeouts.

His rehabilitation was slowed when he injured his right groin on June 12 in his second minor league appearance for Hudson Valley at Brooklyn.

Severino returned to pitch for Somerset on Aug. 3 and Aug. 8, then was scratched from an Aug. 13 outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because of shoulder tightness.

“The fans always help me, every time I’m out there, and I knew we scored seven runs,” Severino said. “So, I was pretty calm out there.”

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Coach Mike Budenholzer signs 3-year extension with Milwaukee Bucks

After leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the franchise’s first NBA championship in 50 years, coach Mike Budenholzer has signed a multiyear contract extension with the team.

The deal, revealed Tuesday night, is for three years, sources told ESPN.

Budenholzer — who was entering the final year of his deal — now ties himself to the Bucks through the 2024-25 season. His extension punctuates three seasons that include a trip to the Eastern Conference finals and the championship victory over the Phoenix Suns in July.

“The appreciation I have for being a part of the Bucks organization is hard to express,” Budenholzer said in a statement. “The players make the success happen on and off the court.

We have the best players and to them I am grateful. They’ve grown and we’ve grown together during the last three campaigns.

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“We all can’t wait to get back to work and face the great challenge of competing again for an NBA Championship. … Let’s keep getting better and building great teams and doing great work on and off the court.”

A two-time NBA coach of the year, Budenholzer is 31-17 in the playoffs as Bucks coach, including the 2021 NBA title and trips to the conference finals and semifinals.

He’s 172-65 as Bucks coach in the regular season.

“Bud is a great coach and a fantastic partner to work with every day as we build a team that consistently competes for championships,” said Bucks general manager Jon Horst.

“We’re extremely grateful for the leadership Bud provides and we look forward to building on the success we’ve had over the last three years and congratulate Bud on this well-deserved extension.”

Before arriving in Milwaukee in 2018, Budenholzer led the Hawks to the playoffs in four of his five seasons in Atlanta. He had a 213-197 record with the Hawks.

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Mercedes to leave Formula E after 2022

Formula E champions Mercedes will withdraw from the all-electric series at the end of the Gen2 era in 2022 to concentrate on Formula One, the carmaker said on Wednesday.

The announcement comes three days after Dutch driver Nyck de Vries acquired the Formula E world championship title after finishing eighth in the season’s final race in Berlin, with Mercedes also winning the teams’ title after Stoffel Vandoorne’s third place.

“Mercedes-Benz today announced that it will conclude its ABB FIA Formula E success story as a team entrant and manufacturer at the end of Season 8, in August 2022,” the manufacturer said in a statement.

“Moving forward, the company will concentrate its works motorsport activities on Formula 1, reinforcing the sport’s status as the fastest laboratory for developing and proving sustainable and scalable future performance technologies.”

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In December, German manufacturers Audi and BMW confirmed they would exit Formula E at the end of this year.

Mercedes announced a new strategic direction for its brand in July, with the aim of going all-electric by the end of the decade.

“As part of the new strategic direction, the brand has deliberately chosen to shift resources for this accelerated ramp-up of electrification, including the development of three electric-only architectures to be launched in 2025,” the carmaker said.

“Therefore, Mercedes will reallocate resource away from its ABB FIA Formula E World Championship programme and towards applying the lessons learned in competition to product development in series.”

This decision leaves Mahindra, DS Automobiles, Jaguar Land Rover, Porsche, Nissan and NIO as manufacturers who have committed to the Gen3 rules that will run until the end of the 2025-26 season.

Race teams Andretti Autosport and Envision Virgin Racing are also expected to continue, while Mercedes affiliate Venturi Racing will be required to find a new powertrain partner.

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The Milwaukee Bucks To First NBA Championship In 50 Years

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points on Tuesday night to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA Championship in 50 years.

Only six other players have scored 50 points or more in the NBA Finals. Only one other player has done it to clinch the title: Bob Petit had 50 in 1958 to win it all for the (then) St. Louis Hawks.

Led by two-time league MVP Antetokounmpo, the Bucks dominated the early part of the game, rocking the Phoenix Suns back on their heels from the outset. But Suns’ floor general Chris Paul took them on a run that had Phoenix back in the lead by halftime.

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Antetokounmpo took over in the 3rd, going for 20 points in the period, a single-quarter feat of force no other player has achieved in the Finals since Michael Jordan did it 28 years ago.

Antetokounmpo ended the game with 50 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks and — possibly most remarkable for him — made 17 of his 19 free throws.

The final score was 104-98. Bucks in 6.

It was a sweet victory for Milwaukee, who got to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in front of their home crowd, tens of thousands of whom crowded outside Fiserv Forum to witness the win together on big screens.

The Bucks’ last — and only other championship — came in 1971, when they were led by another all-time great big man named Lou Alcindor, who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After three more seasons Abdul-Jabbar went to the Lakers.

Antetokounmpo could have done the same thing once he was with the Bucks for three years. He could have left small market Milwaukee for the lights of L.A. or New York, but he stayed a Buck and signed a new contract in 2016.

In 2020, he redoubled his commitment and signed a $228 million contract, declaring in a Twitter post, “This is my home, this is my city.”

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Matsuyama makes history with Masters triumph

Hideki Matsuyama made history on Sunday as the first male golfer from Japan to collect a major championship.

Ten years after making a sterling debut as the best amateur at Augusta National, Matsuyama claimed the ultimate trophy with a triumph in the Masters.

Matsuyama closed with a 1-over 73 and a one-shot victory that was only close at the end, and never seriously in doubt after Xander Schauffele‘s late charge ended with a triple bogey on the par-3 16th.

Moments before Dustin Johnson helped him into the green jacket, Matsuyama needed no interpreter in Butler Cabin when he said in English, “I’m really happy.”

So masterful was this performance that Matsuyama stretched his lead to six shots on the back nine until a few moments of drama. With a four-shot lead, he went for the green in two on the par-5 15th and it bounded hard off the back slope and into the pond on the 16th hole.

Matsuyama did well to walk away with bogey, and with Schauffele making a fourth consecutive birdie, the lead was down to two shots with three to play.

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The next swing all but ended it. Schauffele’s tee shot on the par-3 16th bounced of the hill and dribbled into the pond. His third shot from the drop area went into the gallery. He wound up with a triple-bogey 6.

Never mind that Matsuyama bogeyed three of his last four holes.

All that mattered was that uphill walk to the 18th green, needing only to blast out of the bunker and take two putts for the victory.

That’s what he did, a final bogey for a one-shot victory over 24-year-old Masters rookie Will Zalatoris, who closed with a 70 and stayed on the practice range just in case of a playoff.

Matsuyama ended at 10-under 278 for his 15th victory worldwide, and his sixth on the PGA Tour.

He was far from a sure thing, closing at 40-1 to win the tournament at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Matsuyama could be found upward of 60-1 prior to the tournament at some sportsbooks, making him one of the biggest long shots to win Masters since Danny Willett in 2016.

He was not a popular choice for bettors either. As of Thursday, he accounted for only 1% of the money that had been wagered on the odds to win the Masters at William Hill sportsbooks.

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Novak Djokovic ends Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev’s golden run

Novak Djokovic had a perfect record in Australian Open semifinals, and he was playing almost flawless tennis to protect it.

It didn’t matter that across the net was Aslan Karatsev, a 114th-ranked, 27-year-old Russian who had come through qualifying to make his debut in a Grand Slam tournament after nine failed attempts.

Djokovic made only one unforced error in more than 50 minutes.

It was tight for the first seven games — before Djokovic reeled off eight consecutive points to win the first set — and again when Karatsev went on an all-or-nothing roll late in the second set.

Sensing a shift in support for the underdog — there was a vocal crowd at Rod Laver Arena after a five-day span when fans were barred during a local COVID-19 outbreak — Djokovic moved up a gear and finished off his opponent 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

He’s now 9-0 in semifinals at the season-opening major, and one victory from a ninth Australian title.

“The more I win, the better I feel coming back,” the top-ranked Djokovic said. “The love affair continues.”

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Djokovic, 33, will have a day off Friday when No. 4 Daniil Medvedev and No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is coming off a five-set victory over Rafael Nadal, meet in the other semifinal. Djokovic said he’d have a rest and get the popcorn ready to watch and see who he gets to face in Sunday’s final.

Given his past success in Melbourne, Djokovic should feel confident going into another championship match.

He already owns a record eight Australian titles, and he’s aiming for an 18th major title, which would reduce the gap to Roger Federer and Nadal, who share the men’s record at 20.

Djokovic also is aiming to be only the second man to attain nine or more titles at one of the four Grand Slams. Nadal has 13 at Roland Garros. Djokovic, in Australia, and Federer, with eight at Wimbledon, currently share second place.

“Recovery is the priority right now,” Djokovic said. “I’ve had enough match play, enough practice.

“Right now it’s just gathering all the necessary energy for the most important match of the Australian Open.”

Djokovic has been bothered by an abdominal muscle problem since the third round. He initially stated it was a tear, but has since refused to talk about the details until after the tournament.

After his victory over Karatsev, he said it’s “the best as I’ve felt the entire tournament.” “I felt great. I could swing through the ball. No pain. Best match so far,” Djokovic said. “It came at the right time. I’m thrilled to feel this way.”

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Bills advance to AFC championship with 17-3 win over Ravens

In what was supposed to be a showdown between Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Taron Johnson literally stole the show.

If not for the wall separating the field from the stands in the back of the east end zone, the Bills cornerback might still be running after returning an interception 101 yards for a touchdown that propelled Buffalo to its first AFC championship game appearance in 27 years.

Johnson’s pick-6 of Jackson’s pass with 41 seconds left in the third quarter helped secure a 17-3 triumph over the Ravens in a divisional-round playoff game Saturday night.

“We’re excited. It’s not done yet, we’re not done yet,” Johnson exclaimed. “It’s just a blessing. Our defense stepped up to the challenge.” Johnson’s return matched the longest in NFL history and punctuated a stellar defensive outing in which Buffalo (15-3) limited the NFL’s top running offense to 150 yards on 32 carries.

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Jackson, last season’s NFL MVP, was sacked three times and did not return after sustaining a concussion following the final play of the third quarter, and two plays after Johnson scored. He finished 14 of 24 for 162 yards passing, while being limited to 42 yards rushing on nine carries.

Allen, an MVP candidate this year, finished 23 of 37 for 206 yards and a touchdown.

In a season in which the Bills relied mostly on their dynamic Allen-led offense to outscore opponents, the third-year quarterback was gratified to see Buffalo’s defense make a difference in a game the pass-happy attack was kept mostly in check.

The Bills advanced to the AFC championship game for the first time since 1994 on their way to making — and losing — their four consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Buffalo also extended a season in which it has broken numerous droughts by claiming its first AFC East division title in 25 years and, with last week’s victory over Indianapolis, winning its first postseason match since the same year.

The Bills, have won eight consecutives to match their best streak since 1990 and will play the winner of the AFC’s other divisional playoff between Cleveland and Kansas City on Sunday.

The fifth-seeded Ravens (12-6) had their season come to an end after leading the NFL in yards rushing for a second consecutive year. Baltimore clinched its third playoff berth in three years by winning its final five regular-season games. The winning streak came after a 1-4 skid capped by a 19-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 2 in a game rearranged three times due to COVID-19 issues.

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