World Champion Sunny Edwards keen to maintain dominance in Dubai

World Champion Sunny Edwards keen to maintain dominance in Dubai
Sunny Edwards will make his Dubai debut at Probellum: Revolution on Saturday night. (Probellum)
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Updated 07 December 2021

World Champion Sunny Edwards keen to maintain dominance in Dubai

World Champion Sunny Edwards keen to maintain dominance in Dubai
  • Reigning IBF flyweight champ will take on Filipino Jayson Mama at the Coca-Cola Arena

UK boxer Sunny Edwards, the IBF flyweight world champion, says headlining Probellum: Revolution in Dubai this coming Saturday will be a “life-changing” moment.

Probellum, the new global boxing promotion company spearheaded by Richard Schaefer, launched in September and holds its first event at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena, with Edwards defending his title against Filipino challenger Jayson Mama.

Having fought outside the UK on a few occasions earlier in his career, Edwards is relishing the prospect of competing in the UAE.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time,” he said. “My management will tell you that I’ve always asked to get some international experience. I’m a world champion and I want to see the world. I’m not one of those world champions who just wants to defend the title against three fighters in Britain, that’s not what I’m all about. I want to go to Dubai, I want to go to Mexico, I want to go to Japan. I’ll go anywhere. It’s great to have this opportunity in Dubai.

“When I saw the venue, my head almost fell off. I couldn’t believe it,” Edwards added. “I made my debut in an industrial unit in Estepona, in Spain, had a couple of undercard slots where I got a taste of what the big life is like, gradually crept up and had a few arena shows, but this is completely different. Even the architecture looks like the Allianz Arena (in Munich).”

Having originally been due to face Mama in September, in the UK, Edwards was forced to pull out after sustaining an ankle injury during his training camp but, despite the inevitable frustration caused by the delay, he insists he is in great shape going into Saturday’s fight.

“There was a lot of talk about what happened but genuinely, I rolled my ankle and that put me out,” he explains. “I was devastated. All I like to do is fight, I can’t stress that enough. I’ve been involved in boxing for 16, 17 years and I don’t enjoy anything else. I can’t explain how much boxing, fighting and competing makes me feel alive, nothing else comes remotely close. I’m just buzzing for the fight to be here now.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been as fit, healthy or in as good a shape as I am right now. It’s the first fight in a while where I’m not really nursing an injury going into it, said Edwards. “When you’ve boxed as much as I have, and been in some of the fights I have, it’s going to take some lumps and bumps out of you, but this time it’s all gone well. I’m always confident but I’m in such a good place and even weight-wise, I’ve never done it this well before.”

Edwards said he is looking forward to establishing his name in this part of the world and is aware of his rival’s threat.

“Mama’s a good fighter. He’s done everything that has been asked of him so far,” he said. “I know he’s going to come into the ring with a lot of pent-up feelings and emotions. He’s going to come and try to take my head off because he’s been waiting patiently all year. He was my mandatory challenger and here we are now. I had my mind on Mama, I knew the conditions of me fighting for the world title were that, if I got through it, I’d be facing Mama next and I’m looking forward to it.

“He brings fire, he brings excitement and he wants to take my head off, but I’m fine with all of that. He could have dynamite in both hands, but I have the wind in my feet,” Edwards added.

Mama is one of three Filipino fighters on the card for Saturday’s event, with John Riel Casimero defending his WBO bantamweight title against Paul Butler, and Donnie Nietes facing Norbelto Jiminez.

“I’m sure they will have a lot of fans because it’s a big night for Filipino boxing,” says Edwards.

“Casimero is one of their brightest stars currently. Donnie Nietes has been one of their biggest stars and Mama, if he dethrones me, could be the next big thing coming out of there so it’s going to be pretty hostile but I thrive off that,” he said.

“If I was walking down the street and somebody decided to pick a fight with me, I’d have to kick into survival mode, and when I get into that mindset, it’s not about fighting for my family, or fighting to make my kids proud, or fighting to defend a title, it’s about me beating my opponent up instead of him beating me up. I can’t stress how simple it is in my mind. I think the simplicity of it provides a mental and emotional detachment of pressure.”

Edwards will be welcomed into the ring on Saturday by Michael Buffer, the most famous MC in the sport, and a man who has been involved in some of the biggest fights in history.

“Let’s face it, that’s like something out of a movie,” he admits. “I’m trying to be the most influential flyweight to walk the planet. If I’m getting announced by Michael Buffer, that says a lot about where I’m going. To headline such a great show is the stuff of dreams. Boxing is my place, my home, where I feel most comfortable. To be headlining the Coca-Cola Arena is amazing.

“Big-time boxing is coming to Dubai and it will be here to stay,” said Edwards. “This is going to be the start of something big and I’m buzzing to be a part of it. I can guarantee within the next two or three years, if not sooner, the biggest, best and most exciting fights in the world are all going to be happening in the UAE. 

“I’m just over the moon that a scruffy little kid from Croydon will be part of the first show. It’s life changing and I want to say a big thanks to Probellum for putting me on the card.”

Arteta vows to defend Arsenal with ‘teeth and nails’ after Covid postponement

Updated 33 sec ago

Arteta vows to defend Arsenal with ‘teeth and nails’ after Covid postponement

Arteta vows to defend Arsenal with ‘teeth and nails’ after Covid postponement
LONDON: Mikel Arteta vowed to defend Arsenal’s reputation with “teeth and nails” after criticism of the club’s successful request to postpone the north London derby against Tottenham.
The Gunners asked for last Sunday’s game to be rescheduled, with a significant number of players unavailable due to a mixture of international duty, injuries, suspension and coronavirus cases.
“We didn’t have the players necessary to put a squad out to compete in a Premier League match, that is 100 percent,” Arsenal boss Arteta said on Wednesday.
“This is a no-win situation. When we play the first three games of the season when other games were off, we were killed and called naive. Now we postpone a match for all the right reasons, believe me, and we get these reactions?“
Arsenal lost their opening three Premier League fixtures after Covid-19 outbreak at the club.
Spurs had reacted angrily to the Premier League’s decision to call off the visit of their London rivals.
“It’s the first time in my life — and I’ve had a bit of experience in football — to see postponed games because of injuries,” said Tottenham manager Antonio Conte.
But, speaking ahead of Thursday’s League Cup semifinal second leg against Liverpool, Arteta insisted the criticism was wide of the mark and said Arsenal did not have the numbers to put a squad together.
“We will defend our club with teeth and nails. We will not let anybody damage our name or try to lie about things,” the former Arsenal captain said.
“When a team have come to us and said ‘we cannot play, these are the reasons’ and the game has been postponed, we have never ever publicly questioned any of that.”
The Arsenal v Liverpool match at the Emirates Stadium should have been the first leg of the League Cup semifinal two weeks ago, before a coronavirus outbreak within the Liverpool camp led to its postponement.
Arsenal held Liverpool to a goalless draw in the first leg at Anfield last week despite playing more than an hour with 10 men after the dismissal of Granit Xhaka.
Arteta also told reporters that forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month, was back in London to undergo medical tests after Gabon sent him home from the Africa Nations Cup.
“He is in London and now is going through some examinations because we haven’t had any clarity from the Gabon national team over the reasons why he came back,” said the Arsenal boss.
In his own press conference, Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders said he had no complaints over recent Covid postponements both in the Premier League and the League Cup.
“It’s really difficult to judge from outside,” said Lijnders, who himself tested positive earlier this month during an outbreak at Liverpool.
“We saw this with our own situation. I fully respect the submissions because I trust 100 percent the medical departments of each Premier League club. I think this is the most important thing, full trust in these decisions.”

Qatar World Cup ticket sales launched at reduced prices

Qatar World Cup ticket sales launched at reduced prices
Updated 19 January 2022

Qatar World Cup ticket sales launched at reduced prices

Qatar World Cup ticket sales launched at reduced prices

DOHA: Qatar World Cup ticket sales were launched at reduced prices on Wednesday with residents and migrant workers able to attend games for just $11 as concerns persist over Covid-19.
Authorities have not yet announced how many fans will be allowed into stadiums for the first World Cup in an Arab country, which runs from November 21 until December 18.
Football’s world governing body FIFA opened a draw which offers individual match tickets for as little as $69 for international fans — about one third less than at Russia 2018 — but a ticket for the final could cost up to $1,607.
Qatari residents, including migrant laborers whose treatment has been a source of controversy for the organizers, will be able to get tickets for as little as $11.
Fans who apply now for the different packages — for individual games or following a team, or for special stadium tickets — will go into a draw after the first deadline on February 8. FIFA said fans who are successful in a random draw will be told by March 8.

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana
Updated 19 January 2022

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana
  • Shock exit of 2010 World Cup semi-finalists warning for Egypt ahead of vital clash against Sudan

RIYADH: The result of the 2021 African Cup of Nations so far is Comoros 3, Ghana 2. It has to be one of the greatest results in the history of Arab football.

Back in 2010, Ghana were a Luis Suarez handball and then a penalty away from reaching the semi-final of the World Cup. That ended up as a hugely painful defeat for the Black Stars, but Tuesday night brought another loss that will haunt them for years to come.

It will also serve as a useful warning to Egypt ahead of their crucial Nile Valley derby against Sudan on Wednesday evening.

Going into the final game of Group C, few gave Comoros, a country with a population of less than 1 million, any hope, and understandably so. Ranked 132 in the world with no previous appearances in Africa’s top tournament and no goals in the two games before this, the Coelacanths were facing the four-time champions ranked 80 places higher. In short, they were playing for pride heading for defeat and heading home.

That was not what happened on a warm evening in the northern Cameroon city of Garoua.

It was fitting that Comoros’ first ever goal at this level came from veteran striker El Fardou Ben Nabouhane after four minutes and it was equally fitting that it was a beauty, a shot rifled into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

A red card midway through the first half for Ghana captain Andre Ayew may have been harsh but really gave the minnows hope and then just after the hour, Comoros were in dreamland as Ahmed Mogni made it 2-0.

Then the game really took off with Ghana, throwing caution to the wind, pushing forward to be rewarded by two goals from corners in quick succession. But, with just five minutes remaining, Mogni scored his second and his team’s third. Ghana were out.

It was a breathless finish and the results and the celebrations in the dressing room after the game made headlines around the world. The Africa Cup of Nations has taken time to get going with the first round of games short of goals, drama, and talking points. Not anymore.

There were also doubts expressed about the format of the first stage which sees just eight teams from 24 banished. This often means that the big boys can afford a slip up or two but get through in the end. Not this time.

Ghana may not be the same team that reached the last eight at the 2010 World Cup, but nobody expected a fourth-place finish and instant elimination.

Nobody in the Comoros capital Moroni will care as their heroes gave all a night to remember. There may be more. Comoros are assured of third place. If Equatorial Guinea defeat Sierra Leone and then Guinea-Bissau do not defeat Nigeria in the final games of their respective groups, then Comoros will go on to the second round as one of the four best-performing third-placed teams.

Yet their victory has not only lit up the tournament but serves as a warning to others and Comoros, a team that have never appeared in Africa’s biggest event before, can help the continent’s most successful side. Egypt have lifted the trophy on no less than a record seven occasions and what happened to Ghana could happen to them against Sudan on Wednesday.

Compared to Ghana, the Pharaohs are in a better position with three points from their first two games, a loss to Nigeria and then a narrow win over Guinea-Bissau. They still need a point to be certain of a place in the knockout stage as defeat could spell the end. Such an outcome is not impossible. Sudan may have lost to Nigeria, but the Super Eagles have been perhaps the best team of the tournament so far along with the hosts and they were impressed with the Secretary Birds.

“The Sudanese side was more difficult than the Egyptians, but we expected it,” said Nigerian star Moses Simon.

To add extra tension and unpredictability to the situation is the fact that Sudan would love nothing more than to inflict a painful defeat on their northern neighbors.

Sudan defender Mazin Mohamedein said: “The Egypt match is special for us as Sudanese, as it is the Nile Valley derby. The Sudanese people are all looking forward to this match and we are looking forward to winning it and reaching the next round as this is the least we can do for our people.”

For Egypt, the game may determine whether they just started the tournament slowly and are getting into their stride in time for the knockout rounds or if there are bigger issues at play. Star forward Mohamed Salah scored the winner against Guinea-Bissau and believes it is the former.

The Liverpool player said: “We have to fight in this very difficult tournament. All the teams know how to play football and they have many players in Europe. We must believe in our abilities and our chances, fight as much as we can, and see where we go in the tournament.”

Egypt have to be careful however to ensure that they do not go the same way as Ghana.

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players
Updated 19 January 2022

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players
  • Five-part series will lift sport’s profile across the nation, and build support for Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif ahead of the $5m Saudi International next month

RIYADH: A specially commissioned documentary series following two of Saudi Arabia’s fledgling golf stars is aiming to raise the game’s profile among the sport’s growing fan base in the Kingdom.

The Golf Saudi-backed #SeeItAll Series follows amateur golfers Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif as they prepare to go head to head with global stars of the game at next month’s PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.

Shot over five episodes, the behind-the-scenes documentary follows the two golfers as they practice with their coaches, spend time on and off the golf course with their families, and put in the physical and mental training needed to ensure they go into February’s $5 million prize-pot tournament ready to compete at the highest level.

The first episode of the documentary is available on the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers’ social media channels.

“Both Saud and Faisal are incredible talents. We are proud to see them performing at an elite level internationally, and here within the Kingdom as representatives of Golf Saudi,” Majed Al-Sorour, CEO and deputy chairman of Golf Saudi, said.

Devised by Golf Saudi, the #SeeItAll Series aims to bring Saudi sports fans closer to both Salhab and Al-Sharif, expanding the golfers’ fan base for next month’s Asian Tour sanctioned event.

“We have watched them develop at an impressive rate over the last five years through our Elite Coaching Academy. The work has paid off, with both men claiming fantastic recent wins, including Saud’s victory in last year’s Jordan Open, and Faisal’s recent triumphs in both the Saudi Open and Pan Arab Championship in Egypt,” Al-Sorour said.

“These successes are testament to the hard work, talent and dedication of the pair, plus their strength of character,” he said.

“Their achievements are inspiring — something we want to bring to as many young Saudis as possible, with golf and sport generally continuing to grow exponentially in the Kingdom.”

Following their respective 2021 triumphs — a year that also saw Saudi Arabia’s national team convincingly clinch the title at the 40th edition of the Arab Golf Championship, beating more than 10 countries by a comfortable nine-shot margin — both Salhab and Al-Sharif head to Royal Greens for what will be their third appearance at the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.

The pair will play alongside the Kingdom’s sole professional golfer, Othman Almulla.

Al-Sorour added: “With the #SeeItAll Series, we hope to inspire more Saudis to embrace and follow Faisal and Saud’s journey with golf.”

The two players will take their biggest step yet at next month’s tournament.

“They will test their talents against the very best in the world — the likes of Major-winners Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry,” Al-Sorour said.

“We hope by showing how committed Saud and Faisal are to the game of golf, it will inspire Saudis of all ages.”

Speaking earlier this year, 25-year-old Salhab said that rubbing shoulders with the world’s best golfers during the $5 million tournament is not something that he takes for granted.

“It means a lot to take part in the Saudi International once again, especially considering I received the invite after winning the Saudi Open,” he said.

“I will never forget the reaction when we first saw the names announced for the tournament this year. Some of the national team players and I started jumping up and down, we were so excited. It is incredible to think how far Saudi Arabia has come in world of golf and to now see these players compete in our country.”

He added: “I encourage all Saudis, whatever their level of interest in golf, to come out and support the players and the events that everyone in Golf Saudi works tirelessly to organize. The quality of the tournament is incredible. Seeing the world’s elite golfers compete in the Kingdom is something that every Saudi should cherish.”

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis
Updated 19 January 2022

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis
  • Veteran Azarenka is a long-time member of the powerful WTA Players’ Council

MELBOURNE: Two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka threw her support Wednesday behind a vaccine mandate on the women’s tour, as tennis wrestles with the fall-out of the saga surrounding unvaccinated Novak Djokovic.
The veteran Azarenka is a long-time member of the powerful WTA Players’ Council, which is working through the challenges posed by coronavirus.
Those were laid bare by the chaos and confusion that engulfed vaccine-skeptic Djokovic, who was deported on the eve of the Australian Open.
Speaking in Melbourne, Azarenka admitted it could be legally challenging to enforce but she believes it would be “helpful for everybody” if the WTA Tour considered a no-jab, no-play policy.
“Well, from my standpoint it’s been very clear. I believe in science. I believe in getting vaccinated, that’s what I did for myself,” the 32-year-old Belarusian said.
“If you ask me just for my opinion if that should be the case, I think it would just be helpful for everybody in the world, especially when we are traveling internationally.”
But the former world number one acknowledged that forcing people to be jabbed could prove problematic.
“Some countries will not allow mandates. I think to impose something legally on the WTA Tour can be a challenge, I think that’s something that we are facing,” she said.
To play at the Australian Open players must be vaccinated, unless they have a medical exemption.
Djokovic believed he was exempt based on recently contracting COVID-19, but it was challenged by Australian authorities and after a high-stakes legal battle he flew out of Melbourne on Sunday.
Azarenka said the drawn-out controversy became “a circus” and there “should be a really hard look on this situation moving forward.”
“I think as soon as there is a grey area in the rules, that gives a bit too much questions, and situations like this happen,” said the Belarusian, who revealed she caught COVID-19 in November.
“On certain things I think black-and-white approach is necessary. In my opinion, this should be the case.”