Saudi Arabia can expect 'fireworks' when Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev meet in final

Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev face-off ahead of the big fight in Jeddah. (@WBSuperSeries)
Updated 07 February 2018
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Saudi Arabia can expect 'fireworks' when Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev meet in final

LONDON: The General Sports Authority (GSA) of Saudi Arabia defeated rival interest from Russia, Ukraine and Chicago to stage the final of the cruiserweight edition of the World Boxing Super Series in Jeddah.
On May 11 at King Abdullah Sports City, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk and Russia’s Murat Gassiev will fight for the IBF, WBA, WBO and WBC cruiserweight titles in what — alongside the May 5 rematch between Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez — is expected to be the most significant fight of 2018. The winner will receive $10 million in addition to winning the first Muhammad Ali Trophy.
The competitive and dramatic nature of the past fortnight’s semifinals, in which Usyk outpointed Mairis Briedis and Gassiev stopped Yunier Dorticos, led to what Arab News understands was renewed interest from Russia to host the match-up involving one of its leading fighters in Gassiev. Usyk’s involvement led to further interest from his home country, but Saudi Arabia secured the rights in October when the quarter-finals were yet to conclude and are not about to give them up, especially now such a mouthwatering showdown is on the cards.
“We have an agreement with Saudi Arabia and are looking forward to putting a show on there on May 11,” said Kalle Sauerland, one of two German brothers based in London who run Sauerland Promotions and are taking a fight to Saudi Arabia for the first time. “We have a deal with Saudi Arabia. That’s very clear.
“There was a lot of interest from all over the place, especially in Eastern Europe, but this is a major statement for the brand that we found a significant partner interested in showcasing the first final. There were no confirmed fighters for the final. Of course there’s a financial element: It’s professional boxing, but in the end the decision wasn’t too difficult to make.”
The Kingdom recently hosted a World Series squash event, staged its first ever motorsport event last week and Tuesday announced plans to put on a new horse racing championship with prizes totaling more than $17 million, making it one of the sport’s richest events.
“Some of the plans that the Saudis have to bring big sporting events there — they’ve acquired other interesting events — are very ambitious, and they have a great infrastructure,” Sauerland said. “I don’t see it as a big surprise. We said the Ali trophy would be a global tournament. The trophy travels: We’re all about firsts, and it’s a fitting story.”
Sauerland has joined forces with Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of the GSA, to stage the event, adding to the Kingdom’s growing sporting portfolio and signaling its intention to use sport as a vehicle for promotion and change.
“When I think about Saudi Arabia, I think about Jeddah, and also Riyadh,” Sauerland said. “The infrastructure there is very, very high end. There was an approach from the Saudis who were in the market for a major sporting product. In the world of sport in the past 12 months, the newest brand to launch that has appeared the most aggressively is the World Boxing Super Series.
“There’s been a great deal of investment: A six-figure-million fund has gone into the WBSS (owned by Comosa AG). The shareholders are very aggressive on the project and have a great deal of know-how, and that appealed to the Saudis, who are in a similar boat and want to attract a sporting product. It’s a great statement for the first season, and they’ve made a statement that they’re super keen on boxing.”
The winner of Usyk-Gassiev will become the first to simultaneously hold all four of the 200lb world titles and be considered the finest cruiserweight since Evander Holyfield.
“The Usyk-Gassiev final will be fireworks, it doesn’t get better,” Sauerland said. “After the initial draw (for the quarter-finals), people said ‘Nice tournament, but it’s so obvious who’s going to win it’. On an online poll 96 percent had Usyk. I’d love to do that poll today, because everyone’s suddenly swung. People are going to make Gassiev the favorite. Of the semifinal performances, Gassiev’s was better.”
Suggestions persist that Breidis and Dorticos, the two beaten semifinalists, could feature on the May 11 undercard, potentially against each other, but Sauerland said: “I like the idea, but Dorticos, the way that (defeat by Gassiev) finished, needs a tune-up and a break. You don’t put a guy with a head knockout in the ring against a guy like Breidis a few months later. That’s actually quite disgusting.”


Salah ’confident’ for World Cup despite shoulder injury

Updated 10 min 52 sec ago
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Salah ’confident’ for World Cup despite shoulder injury

  • Egypt’s Mohamed Salah is “confident” of being fit for the World Cup despite suffering a shoulder injury in Champions League final
  • Egypt’s team doctor Mohamed Abou El-Ela said Salah has sustained only ligament damage

LONDON: Egypt’s Mohamed Salah is “confident” of being fit for the World Cup despite suffering a shoulder injury in Liverpool’s Champions League final defeat against Real Madrid.
Salah was forced off in tears during the first half of the 3-1 loss in Kiev on Saturday, sparking fears he wouldn’t make it to next month’s World Cup.
The 25-year-old sustained the problem when he was dragged awkwardly to the turf following a challenge with Sergio Ramos, leading some to claim the Madrid defender had deliberately tried to injure Liverpool’s star forward.
Speaking after the final, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had described the injury as “serious” amid fears Salah had suffered a dislocated shoulder.
That would have ruled him out of Egypt’s first appearance in the World Cup since 1990.
Salah was pictured with his shoulder in a sling when he got off Liverpool’s plane at John Lennon Airport on Sunday.
But it now appears there is a good chance Salah will be able to join his country for the tournament in Russia.
“It was a very tough night, but I’m a fighter. Despite the odds, I’m confident that I’ll be in Russia to make you all proud,” Salah wrote on his official Twitter account on Sunday.
“Your love and support will give me the strength I need.”

Egypt’s team doctor Mohamed Abou El-Ela said in a statement that, according to information from Liverpool’s medical staff, Salah has sustained only ligament damage.
And, just as Salah tweeted his fitness update, fresh reports in Egypt claimed he had only suffered a strain in the shoulder ligaments and is expected to be back in action in three weeks.
Salah’s injury played a major role in Liverpool’s failure to win a sixth European Cup.
Ramos apologized after the match, but Liverpool defender Andrew Robertson hinted the Madrid captain knew what he was doing when he collided with the Egyptian.
“I think it is just how he (Salah) has landed but Ramos is quite clever, isn’t he?” Robertson said.
“It’s unfortunate. It just disrupted our rhythm a wee bit.”
Salah had been instrumental in Liverpool’s unexpected run to their Champions League final since 2007.
In an incredible first season with the Premier League club following his transfer from Roma last year, Salah broke a host of record as he scored 44 goals in all competitions.
He was voted Liverpool’s Players of the Year and also scooped the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards.
Salah had also scored the goal that took Egypt to the World Cup when he netted a dramatic late penalty in a qualifier against Congo in October.
“He has done unbelievable this season and for it to end that way for him was devastating,” Robertson added.
“I hope he goes to the World Cup because a nation is relying on him.
“Hopefully he’ll come back bigger and stronger.”
Egypt’s opening World Cup group stage match is against Uruguay on June 15.
The Pharaohs will then play against Russia and Saudi Arabia on June 19 and June 25.
Before that, Egypt will play friendlies, almost certainly without Salah, against Belgium and Colombia on June 1 and June 6.