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.”


Stubborn Roshen Silva inches Sri Lanka past England in Kandy

Updated 15 November 2018
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Stubborn Roshen Silva inches Sri Lanka past England in Kandy

  • The hosts, down 1-0 in the three-match series, were bowled out for 336 in reply to England’s 290
  • Silva built crucial partnerships including a 56-run ninth wicket stand with Akila Dananjaya as the hosts edged past England’s total

KANDY: Roshen Silva hit a stubborn 85 to guide Sri Lanka to a 46-run first innings lead over England in the second Test on Thursday.
The hosts, down 1-0 in the three-match series, were bowled out for 336 in reply to England’s 290. England’s Rory Burns and tail-ender Jack Leach had to see out one nervy over before the end of the second day in Kandy.
After Adil Rashid struck twice to England’s tourists’ hopes of securing a lead on the turning pitch, Silva built crucial partnerships including a 56-run ninth wicket stand with Akila Dananjaya as the hosts edged past England’s total.
Dananjaya frustrated England’s spinners before falling to Moeen Ali leg before for 31. Stand-in skipper Suranga Lakmal was unbeaten on 15 at the end.
The visitors were yet to open their account after nightwatchman Jack Leach faced six balls from Dilruwan Perera in the final over of the day. Rory Burns was accompanying Leach at close of play.
“We had a chat upstairs — a little bit disappointed that they’ve got a little bit of a lead,” said Leach, who also took three wickets in Sri Lanka’s innings.
“We’re very much feeling good about the fact that we’re bowling last on that wicket. We feel if we can put pressure on tomorrow with our batting and get a good total, we feel that we can win the game,” he said.
England had made inroads into the Sri Lankan middle order through some brilliant fielding by Ben Stokes before lunch but Silva frustrated the opposition bowlers for the rest of the day.
Dimuth Karunaratne, who made 63, put on 96 for the third wicket with Dhananjaya de Silva, who hit 59, to steady the innings after they had slipped to 31 for two early in the day.
But Stokes, who on Wednesday had failed with the bat as England’s new number three, broke the partnership when he pounced to run out Karunaratne with a direct throw from gully.
The star all-rounder then took a stunning one-handed catch low to his left at first slip to dismiss Kusal Mendis for one off the slow left-arm spin of Leach.
“We got a 46 runs lead, its a huge score for us when they play in the second innings. We can put them under pressure if we can get a couple of wickets early morning,” said Karunaratne.
“If we can get England before 250 it will be a gettable target for us,” he added.
England’s first innings total was 285 but Sri Lanka were docked five runs after the umpires deemed that Silva did not ground his bat properly while taking a run.
According to international cricket rules an umpire can dock five runs if he feels the batsman ran a short run deliberately.
“I don’t think Roshen did it deliberately. He thought the ball had gone for four he came back to his partner to give a high five,” said Karunaratne.
“Those things can happen its part of the game we don’t blame him. We are not so worried about the five runs.”