Tagged in: cuba

USA basketball draws Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico for World Cup qualifying

Team USA will face Puerto Rico, Mexico and Cuba in the first round of qualifying for the 2023 Basketball World Cup.

The Americans, who acquired a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal in Tokyo but concluded only seventh at the most recent Basketball World Cup two years ago, found out their qualifying opponents Tuesday when the draw was held at FIBA headquarters in Mies, Switzerland.

It will also be the first major tournament for USA Basketball with Grant Hill as managing director. Hill is succeeding Jerry Colangelo in that role; Colangelo oversaw each of the last four Olympics for the U.S., helping assemble teams that collected gold medals each time.

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The U.S. has won the World Cup five times, most recently in 2014.

There are 80 teams in the qualifying rounds. It starts with a double round-robin; all teams in the various groups for the first round will play the other three teams in their group twice. First-round games will be played during three different windows — Nov. 20-30, Feb. 21-March 1 and June 27-July 5.

Second-round games start in August 2022 and run through February 2023. The next World Cup — to be hosted by the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia — takes place from Aug. 25 through Sept. 10, 2023.

Defending World Cup champion Spain, trying to become one of the 12 European qualifiers for the tournament, opens with games versus Ukraine, Georgia and North Macedonia in the opening round.

As hosts, the Philippines and Japan are already in the 32-team World Cup field. The other 30 spots will be decided through qualifying. Indonesia does not get an automatic spot as a host country.

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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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