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.”


‘Fighter’ Zidane as good a coach as he was a player, says Klopp

Updated 25 May 2018
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‘Fighter’ Zidane as good a coach as he was a player, says Klopp

  • Jurgen Klopp: “If a lot of people think Zinedine Zidane doesn’t have much knowledge of tactical things — because a lot of people think that about me — that would be really funny.”
  • Zidane’s detractors see him more as a supervisor of a supremely talented squad rather than a tactical genius.

KIEV: Jurgen Klopp is in no doubt that Zinedine Zidane has shown himself to be as good a coach as he was during a wonderful playing career, as the two men prepare to lead their Liverpool and Real Madrid sides into Saturday’s Champions League final.
“If a lot of people think Zinedine Zidane doesn’t have much knowledge of tactical things — because a lot of people think that about me — that would be really funny,” Klopp told media at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on the eve of the game.
Zidane finds himself in a position to win a third Champions League title despite only becoming Real coach in January 2016.
If he does that, the 45-year-old would equal Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti as the only coaches to have won the European Cup three times.
Despite that, Zidane’s detractors see him more as a supervisor of a supremely talented squad rather than a tactical genius.
Klopp, who arrived at Anfield in October 2015, added: “Zidane for me is one of the best five players of all time in football.
“Since two and a half years now, I am longer at Liverpool than he is at Real Madrid and he can win for the third time the Champions League.
“You have to expect he is brilliant, like he was as a player. His players and him seem to work like a clock from Switzerland.”
While Zidane was a Champions League and World Cup winner as a player, Klopp’s own playing career in his native Germany was modest.
The two have taken different paths in the game, having come from very different backgrounds.
“Zinedine Zidane was his whole life a fighter growing up in Marseille in the area where he has grown up, and to have his kind of career, you need to be a fighter,” said the German.
“Only when he was a player, he didn’t look like that.
“I saw his face when someone asked him in a press conference about hunger, and he got angry — the same would happen to me and I am from a small village in the Black Forest.”
Klopp and his captain Jordan Henderson faced a huge gathering of media in the Ukrainian capital on Friday along with Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk.
All of them appeared relaxed ahead of the game, as they hope to secure Liverpool’s sixth European Cup, and a first since the unforgettable defeat of AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005.
To do so Liverpool must end Real’s reign as European champions as the Spanish giants go for a 13th European crown in Kiev.
“We’ve done fantastically well to get to this point,” Henderson said.
“We want to go one step further and be remembered for the right reasons and that is winning the Champions League.”
Liverpool’s return among the European elite is largely attributed to Klopp’s impact as manager.
However, the German has lost his last five finals, including the Europa League final in 2016 when Liverpool lost 3-1 to Sevilla.
And Henderson believes the English giants can use the pain of that defeat for a different outcome against Madrid.
“It hurt that night, but you can use that as motivation going forward and we’ve done that since that night.
“But it’s also important for us to win trophies and hopefully we can start that tomorrow.
“The club have won the competition a few times so it is the DNA of the club to win trophies. We want to win the trophy for fans and the club and we’re certainly going in the right direction.”