Saudi Arabia could host Joshua vs. Usyk rematch

Saudi Arabia could host Joshua vs. Usyk rematch
British heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua (R) and Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk exchange punches during a heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 March 2022

Saudi Arabia could host Joshua vs. Usyk rematch

Saudi Arabia could host Joshua vs. Usyk rematch
  • The Kingdom is fast becoming a go-to place to host major boxing matches
  • Ukrainian Usyk was fighting in his country’s army until recently, but is now preparing for his rematch

LONDON: Saudi Arabia could host the Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua rematch in late June, according to Ukrainian promoter Alexander Krassyuk.

Ukrainian Usyk is set to face Anthony Joshua after beating the Brit last year for the title of unified heavyweight champion.

Their much-awaited rematch could take place in Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi is the place we are in discussions with at the moment,” Krassyuk told BBC Sport.

“Late June is the date we are looking at. Nothing has been confirmed on paper. We are working on it.”

Saudi Arabia is believed to be the front-runner, but Krassyuk has not ruled out the rematch taking place elsewhere.

“There are other options, but we take it step by step,” he added.

Saudi Arabia has been investing heavily in its sporting and entertainment industries, and has hosted a series of high profile sport events in recent years, including boxing matches.

Joshua, 32, could return to Saudi Arabia having regained his world title belts by beating Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr. in Riyadh in December 2019, after being knocked out by the Mexican in a shock knockout defeat six months earlier.

The fight had originally been billed for May, but was pushed back to allow Usyk, 35, to fight for the Ukraine army against Russian forces in the country.

Usyk left Ukraine on March 23, and confirmed two days later that he had begun to prepare for his fight with Joshua.


Ozzy Osbourne closes Commonwealth Games as Birmingham parties

Ozzy Osbourne closes Commonwealth Games as Birmingham parties
Updated 09 August 2022

Ozzy Osbourne closes Commonwealth Games as Birmingham parties

Ozzy Osbourne closes Commonwealth Games as Birmingham parties
  • The show, celebrating Birmingham’s rise from the wreckage of World War II and its emergence as a diverse and vibrant modern city, brought 11 days of sporting action to a close
  • Sporting powerhouse Australia have topped the table at every Games since 1990 except in 2014, when England finished in first place in Glasgow

BIRMINGHAM: Legendary Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne brought the curtain down on the Commonwealth Games in spectacular style on Monday as dominant Australia celebrated finishing top of the medals table yet again.

Athletes swarmed Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium for a closing party that also featured UB40, Dexys and a tribute to Peaky Blinders, the global hit TV show about the city’s most notorious gang.

Birmingham-born Osbourne, known as the “Prince of Darkness,” brought the ceremony to a climax after emerging as the surprise act.

The show, celebrating Birmingham’s rise from the wreckage of World War II and its emergence as a diverse and vibrant modern city, brought 11 days of sporting action to a close.

Earlier, six-time defending champions Australia wrapped up their campaign in style, hammering India 7-0 in the men’s hockey final to end up with 67 golds overall.

Hosts England ended in second place with 57 golds, ahead of Canada on 26 and India on 22, with para sports included in the medal tally.

Sporting powerhouse Australia have topped the table at every Games since 1990 except in 2014, when England finished in first place in Glasgow.

Australia hockey captain Aran Zalewski said winning the Commonwealth Games title is “harder than you think.”

“We have won seven, but it’s not as simple as coming out here and winning,” he said.

“There are so many challenges that go into winning a tournament of hockey.

“To finish off with a special performance like that, really clinical, was very nice.”

Elsewhere on Monday, Scotland’s James Heatly and Grace Reid won the mixed synchronized 3m springboard final, with England pair Noah Williams and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix taking gold in the 10m event.

India celebrated a golden double in badminton.

World No. 7 PV Sindhu won the women’s singles, overcoming Canada’s Michelle Li, while Lakshya Sen beat Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong to win the men’s gold.

India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta beat England’s Liam Pitchford 4-1 in the men’s singles table tennis gold medal match.

“The best two weeks of my 40 years of life,” said the winner, who won three golds and a silver in Birmingham. “It can’t get better.”

Birmingham 2022 CEO Ian Reid told a briefing earlier that the Games had been a huge boost for the city and the surrounding area.

He said more than 1.5 million tickets had been sold, with most venues above 90 percent capacity.

“One of the goals at the outset was to put the city on the world map and instil that huge pride across everyone that lives in the region and I think we’ve achieved that,” he said.

“I think that can lead to much bigger and greater things.”

Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Katie Sadleir said there had been “huge engagement” with the Games globally.

She added a number of countries had expressed an interest in staging future Commonwealth Games, including African nations.

She said Birmingham, which already had many facilities in place, could be a blueprint for the future.

“It is definitely not something we want people to spend huge amounts of money and capital investment if it is not needed and desired by the long-term plans for the country,” she said.

The Birmingham Games made history in being the first to award more medals to women than men.

Australian swimming great Emma McKeon became the most decorated athlete in Commonwealth Games history, with 20 medals — including six golds in Birmingham.

And the tiny island of Niue won its first ever Commonwealth Games medal, a boxing bronze for Duken Tutakitoa-Williams.

Commonwealth Games Federation president Louise Martin handed the flag to Linda Dessau, the governor of the Australian state of Victoria, which will host the 2026 Games.

Martin said Birmingham had put on an event “unlike any we’ve seen before.”

“We are emerging from one of the most challenging periods in modern history, where the Covid-19 pandemic has kept us apart,” she said.

“Birmingham 2022 proved to be a special moment when we reunited, when the power of sport to connect us came into sharp focus.”


Everton sign England’s Coady on season-long loan from Wolves

Everton sign England’s Coady on season-long loan from Wolves
Updated 09 August 2022

Everton sign England’s Coady on season-long loan from Wolves

Everton sign England’s Coady on season-long loan from Wolves
  • Coady is the fourth player to arrive at Goodison Park during the current transfer window, following the Burnley duo of James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil as well as Sporting Lisbon defender Ruben Vinagre

LONDON: England centerback Conor Coady has joined Everton on a season-long loan from Premier League rivals Wolves, it was announced on Monday.

The Toffees were left short of defenders after both Ben Godfrey and Yerry Mina were injured during a 1-0 defeat by Chelsea in their opening match of the new league season on Saturday.

This move sees Wolves captain Coady, 29, returning to his home city eight years after leaving Liverpool, where he came through the Anfield club’s academy.

“It’s incredible to join Everton,” Coady told his new club’s website.

He added: “I’ve grown up around the city, I know the football club, how big this club is and what it means to the supporters.

“I’m someone who was desperate to come here, to play for this club. I’ve got family and friends who are massive Evertonians.

“I’m here to give absolutely everything I’ve got for this football club.”

Coady is the fourth player to arrive at Goodison Park during the current transfer window, following the Burnley duo of James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil as well as Sporting Lisbon defender Ruben Vinagre.

“We are delighted to bring a player of Conor’s quality and vast experience to Everton and he fits into how we want to play as a team,” said Toffees manager Frank Lampard.

Coady was on the bench for Wolves’ first game of the season, a 2-1 loss away to Leeds.

He moved to Wolves from Huddersfield in 2015 and has played in 196 out of a possible 198 league games during the past five seasons for the Midlands club.

Just minutes after Coady’s move was announced, Wolves said they had signed Valencia forward Goncalo Guedes on a five-year contract for an undisclosed fee.

“We have been monitoring Goncalo for a long time and are very pleased to welcome him to Wolves,” said chairman Jeff Shi of the 25-year-old Portugal international, who was coached by Wanderers manager Bruno Lage at Benfica.

“He has natural talent and has performed very well across Europe and for his country, and we think he is well suited to the Premier League.

“Goncalo worked with Bruno at Benfica and played with many members of our squad previously, so we’re confident he will settle quickly into the group here.

“Now, we are delighted that Goncalo is a Wolves player and look forward to giving him a warm welcome at Molineux this Saturday.”


Serena Williams makes triumphant return to hardcourts

Serena Williams makes triumphant return to hardcourts
Updated 09 August 2022

Serena Williams makes triumphant return to hardcourts

Serena Williams makes triumphant return to hardcourts
  • Williams earned her first title in Canada in 2001 and her third and most recent nine years ago

TORONTO, Canada: Serena Williams stepped onto a hardcourt for the first time in a year and a half on Monday and fought through for a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz.
The 40-year-old American was competing in only her second match this season in defeating the 57th-ranked lucky loser to reach the second round.
Williams earned her first victory since last season at Roland Garros.
The opener took two hours, with the veteran winning a 25-minute game to level 4-4 in the second set.
She then served out victory as she plays the event for a 10th time.
Williams earned her first title in Canada in 2001 and her third and most recent nine years ago.
She defeated Diaz with seven aces and saved seven of the eight break points she faced.
Another multiple Grand Slam champion also advanced on a cloudy opening day, with Simona Halep sweeping the opening seven games on her way to a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Donna Vekic to also reach the second round.
Romania’s former number one and two-time Canadian champion lost no time in collecting her triumph over the number 82 qualifier in 62 minutes on a day where rain threatened.
Halep, ranked 15th, handed Vekic a 10th defeat in her last 11 matches against a top-20 opponent. The Croat last defeated a member of the ranking elite at the Olympics last summer when she put out No. 3 Aryna Sabalenka.
Halep added a 33rd match victory to her 2022 total as she advanced at one of the five WTA events she has won twice (2016, 2018).
The 15th seed leads the WTA with the most career wins at 1000-level tournaments on 180, ahead of Victoria Azarenka and now-retired Caroline Wozniacki on 177.
Reigning Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, playing only her second Canadian match, defeated Czech Marie Bouzkova 7-5, 6-7(3/7), 6-1.
2017 Roland Garros titleholder Jelena Ostapenko advanced past Anhelina Kalinina, overcoming 11 double faults in a 6-4, 6-2 decision.

 


Joshua Vs Usyk rematch in Jeddah can inspire future Saudi generations: Rights holder

Joshua Vs Usyk rematch in Jeddah can inspire future Saudi generations: Rights holder
Updated 08 August 2022

Joshua Vs Usyk rematch in Jeddah can inspire future Saudi generations: Rights holder

Joshua Vs Usyk rematch in Jeddah can inspire future Saudi generations: Rights holder
  • Prince Fahad bin Abdulaziz praised the Saudi leadership for their continued support in bringing major events to the Kingdom

LONDON: Inspiring the next generation of Saudis to take up sport and become champions is one of the main goals in bringing top-class sport to the Kingdom, according to the rights holder of the upcoming heavyweight boxing rematch between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk.

Prince Fahad bin Abdulaziz, spokesperson for Skill Challenge Entertainment, spoke this week about the build-up to the fight in Jeddah as well as the legacy he hopes the bout will leave behind on Saudi youth.

The prince praised the Saudi leadership for their continued support in bringing major events to the Kingdom.

“Sport and entertainment play a central role in Vision 2030, the strategy behind the nation’s transformation,” he said.

“The country’s esteemed leadership are truly invested in the impact sport can have in improving the lives of its people and we are fully aligned to support the transformation. The changes already implanted have already had a massive impact on people in our country.

“You can really sense how excited Saudis are to see some of the world’s biggest sports events take place in the Kingdom.”

Prince Fahad also said he believed hosting the fight in Saudi Arabia aligned with the broader ambition of growing boxing in the Kingdom.

“One of the major reasons to host events like this here in the Kingdom is to inspire the locals and future generations at a grassroots level,” he said.

“Since the last fight in 2019, the ‘Clash on the Dunes,’ we’ve witnessed a 300 percent increase in men and women participating in boxing and the number of boxing gyms increase from seven to 59.

“Through hosting further events like this, including the first women’s boxing championships, we aim to inspire over 500,000 individuals to take up the sport in the next four years. A key achievement will be to inspire the nation and region to try the sport and hopefully fall in love with it like so many already have.”

He added: “Alongside this we want to showcase the true Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world, the wonderful people, the countries transformation, the beauty of the landscape on the Red Sea.”

He said hosting the world heavyweight championship was a culmination of the transformation happening in the Kingdom at the moment.

“The changes and transformation as result of Vision 2030 inspires us to host some of the biggest global sporting events like this. This was really behind what gave us at Skill Challenge Entertainment the ambition to deliver this event and showcase Saudi globally.”

In the build-up to the fight and at the press conferences announcing the fight, Prince Fahad said that putting Jeddah and Saudi Arabia on the global map had been a highlight.

“There was an immense amount of pride during the filming of the promo video. For the main part of the video, Anthony Joshua and Usyk met face-to-face in the historical part of Jeddah alongside 300 locals which gave a glimpse into the excitement the locals have towards us hosting this event in the Kingdom,” he said.

“The fighters embraced the moment and bounced off the incredible atmosphere created, they both commented on how amazing the historical area of Jeddah was, it felt incredible to be there for that moment and we hope everyone loves it as much as we all loved creating it,” he added.

Prince Fahad’s message for boxing fans travelling to Jeddah for the “Rage on the Red Sea” fight on Aug. 20 was to “expect the unexpected.”

He continued: “‘Rage on the Red Sea’ is set to be one of this year’s biggest sporting moments globally, happening right here on our doorstep, I encourage you to be part of history and come to the fight, you will have an incredible time.”


Five things we learned from Saudi Arabia’s triumph at 2022 Arab Cup U-20

Five things we learned from Saudi Arabia’s triumph at 2022 Arab Cup U-20
Updated 08 August 2022

Five things we learned from Saudi Arabia’s triumph at 2022 Arab Cup U-20

Five things we learned from Saudi Arabia’s triumph at 2022 Arab Cup U-20
  • Young Green Falcons beat Egypt 5-3 on penalties after two hours of play ends in 1-1 draw

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia defeated Egypt 5-3 on penalties to win the 2022 Arab Cup U-20 after two hours of football ended 1-1, retaining the title they won in Cairo last year, becoming the record holders of the competition with two wins.

Below are five things we learned about the triumph and the tournament.

1. The future is good for Saudi Arabian football

Another tournament win bodes very well for the future. The young Green Falcons won the 2021 Arab Cup U-20, and June’s Asia U-23 Championships. While there is always more focus on the senior side and the upcoming World Cup, the country must be doing something right when it comes to youth development. Having success in major tournaments is not only impressive in its own right, but breeds a winning mentality in the players.

These are unprecedented times. As well as the tournament wins, Al-Hilal are champions of Asia, the Saudi Professional League is thriving and the national team were the best performers in qualification for the World Cup. There is still a lot of hard work to be done in Arab and Asian football, but Saudi Arabia are looking good.

2. Egypt’s penalty curse continues

This year has, so far, been a case of what might have been for Egypt. In the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, the Pharaohs’ senior side lost on penalties to Senegal, and the following month missed out on the World Cup against the same opposition, and by the same method.

Now the youngsters have lost a crucial shootout themsleves. It is always a heartbreaking way to lose a game of football, especially with the trophy within reach. It is to be hoped that this does not become a mental burden for Egypt. Losing three big shootouts in a row is tough to take, and the pressure will now be on for their next one; other big countries, such as the Netherlands and England, have struggled with the mental burden of spot kicks at great cost over the years.

3. Two stars emerge

Abdullah Radif and Salah Basha were not exactly unknown a few weeks ago, but they ended the tournament with their reputations enhanced. Radif belongs to Saudi Arabia and Asian champions Al-Hilal, though the 19-year-old has yet to properly break through for his club.

But with Al-Hilal unable to sign players this summer, the fact that he finished as top scorer with six goals should at least make coach Ramon Diaz consider his potential. There is no harm in giving the teenager more opportunities after showing so much composure here.

Basha, who scored his third goal in the final, is on the books of Italian side Udinese but has yet to make a first-team appearance. Tournament experience may make a difference, but if not, his stature has still grown, and there will be options if he wants to move for more playing time. Whatever happens, he will look back on this tournament fondly, and as the springboard of a fruitful career.

4. Another coaching success

Not long after Saad Al-Shehri led the U-23 team to the Asian title, Saleh Al-Mohammadi delivered a second successive Arab U-20 championship. Nobody could say that the team did not deserve it, scoring more goals and conceding fewer than any other. They beat a talented Iraq team 4-1 in the group stage, fought hard to get past Yemen on penalties in the quarters and then thrashed Palestine 5-0 in the semifinal.

With Saudi Arabian coaches a rare sight in the SPL as clubs look overseas for tacticians, the next time a manager is fired (and it will not take long once the new season starts), club bosses could do a lot worse than look at the domestic talent on offer. Both these coaches have delivered success on the international stage and, at some point, should be given a chance to show what they can do at home.

5. Tournament success will help 2027 bid

The city of Abha has not been regarded as one of Asian football’s main destinations, with Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam grabbing most of the attention. That may have changed a little over the last few weeks, and hosting an 18-team competition is not something to be taken lightly. After all, there are only six more teams at the European Championships.

Everything went smoothly off the pitch and, with COVID-19 still an issue, that is something to celebrate. Every tournament benefits when the host nation reaches the final, as that momentum provides excitement. Tickets for the final sold out quickly.

It will not go unnoticed at the Asian Football Confederation that Abha stepped up. Saudi Arabia has bid for the 2027 Asian Cup and the 2022 Arab Cup U-20, and this will have done the Kingdom’s chances of getting the nod no harm at all.