Spence-Crawford could become a welterweight classic when they meet Saturday

Spence-Crawford could become a welterweight classic when they meet Saturday
Errol Spence Jr., left, and Terence Crawford are scheduled to fight in an undisputed welterweight championship boxing match Saturday in Las Vegas. (AP)
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Updated 28 July 2023
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Spence-Crawford could become a welterweight classic when they meet Saturday

Spence-Crawford could become a welterweight classic when they meet Saturday
  • The boxers understand the buildup to the fight, each saying a victory would be his career highlight
  • Spence faces an opponent in Crawford who is a knockout machine, having ended 10 fights in a row by KO, boxing’s second-longest active streak

LAS VEGAS: The person once known as the “baddest man on the planet” stood between Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford at Thursday’s news conference, and just the mere presence of Mike Tyson further cemented the magnitude of their showdown.

Both undefeated fighters meet Saturday night, the winner unifying all four welterweight championships for the first time in boxing’s four-belt era that began in 2004.

Spence (28-0, 22 knockouts) already owns the WBC, WBA and IBF titles, and Crawford (39-0, 30 KOs) holds the WBO belt. Crawford is a minus-146 favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

“I haven’t seen things like this in over 30 years — two of the best fighters in the world to decide who is truly the best,” Tyson said.

This fight has been compared in many corners to so many other classic welterweight matchups such as two between Robert Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980, Leonard and Thomas Hearns the following year, Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez in 1993 and Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya in 2000.

The boxers understand the buildup to the fight, each saying a victory would be his career highlight.

“This is going to be legendary,” Spence said. “This is going to be iconic. People are going to talk about this fight 30, 40 years from now when they talk about legendary fights. When they talk about Leonard and Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler ... they’re going to talk about this fight the same way.”

The fight sold out quickly, and on the secondary market, the cheapest tickets are well more than $300, especially if someone is interested in actually having a seat and not standing for three hours.

Much of the excitement leading into the fight was because of how long it took to come together, the appetite for this meeting building up with boxing fans for several years.

They always seemed destined to meet, though Spence twice survived serious car crashes. He was nearly killed in 2019 when he was ejected after losing control, and last year a 14-year-old hit him head on.

Somehow, Spence not only escaped serious injuries both times and successfully underwent surgery in 2021 for a detached retina, he was able to focus on his career. The 33-year-old who lives in DeSoto, Texas, won the IBF title in 2017, claimed the WBC championship in 2019 and took the WBA championship last year.

“I’ve been fighting the best for a long time,” Spence said. “When you see all the legends of the sport, they fought each other and made historic fights. That’s what I want to do. Terence is one of the best fighters in the world and I’m one of the best fighters in the world, so we had to make this happen.”

Spence faces an opponent in Crawford who is a knockout machine, having ended 10 fights in a row by KO, boxing’s second-longest active streak.

Crawford, 35, has won titles in super lightweight and lightweight in addition to welterweight, capturing the latter after moving up in 2018. Should he beat Spence, the Omaha, Nebraska, native will become the first male boxer to unify two titles.

“This fight means everything,” Crawford said. “This puts the cherry on top of my career. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, and I can’t wait to get it on.”

Maybe both fighters will put on another memorable championship fight in Las Vegas. The hype has certainly been there for this bout.

No matter how it looks, one boxer will emerge as not only the king of the welterweight division, but will have a strong case as the best pound-for-pound fighter.

Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, who is working the corner for Giovanni Cabrera in the co-main event, said he slightly favors Crawford.

“I have wanted to see this fight for a long time,” Roach said. “I can tell Spence and Crawford have wanted it, too, which is another reason I have wanted to see this fight. They want to know, and prove, which one is the best. It will be a close fight. While on paper, it has the look of Leonard-Hearns, I think it could end up being better.”

In the co-main event, Cabrera (21-0, seven KOs) goes against Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz (24-2-1, 17 KOs) in a WBC and WBA lightweight match that will have future championship ramifications.


McIntosh topples Ledecky in US Open 400m freestyle

McIntosh topples Ledecky in US Open 400m freestyle
Updated 36 sec ago
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McIntosh topples Ledecky in US Open 400m freestyle

McIntosh topples Ledecky in US Open 400m freestyle
  • McIntosh, a four-time world champion, handed Ledecky her first defeat in the event in a US pool in 11 years, seven-time Olympic gold medalist Ledecky taking second in 4:02.38
  • Kate Douglass pulled off an impressive double with victories in the women’s 200m individual medley and the 50m free

WASHINGTON: Canadian teen Summer McIntosh clocked a meet-record 3min 59.42sec to win the 400m freestyle at the US Open ahead of American distance great Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a four-time world champion, handed Ledecky her first defeat in the event in a US pool in 11 years, seven-time Olympic gold medalist Ledecky taking second in 4:02.38.

McIntosh held the 400m free world record for three months last year. But at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, she finished a disappointing fourth as Australian Ariana Titmus regained the world record in winning gold ahead of Ledecky.

“After that race, I learned a lot about how to get back out after it,” said McIntosh, who would go on to win 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley gold at Fukuoka.

“I had so many races after that that I was really happy with. No matter how bad one race is, you really get back up and get back into it.”

McIntosh said she was “pretty happy” with the result in her first long-course race of a season pointed at the Paris Olympics.

“I was just really excited going into it and really didn’t know what to expect ... I’ll just kind of learn through this, learn from this, and kind of start to move forward for the rest of the year.”

Ledecky, who hadn’t lost a 400m free race in home waters since she was third at the 2012 Olympic trials as a 15-year-old, was coming off a victory in the 800m free on Wednesday.

She, too, is gearing up for Paris, with the US Olympic trials to be held in Indianapolis June 15-23.

The two finished comfortably ahead of third-placed Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong, who clocked 4:06.32.

Kate Douglass pulled off an impressive double with victories in the women’s 200m individual medley and the 50m free.

The reigning 200m medley world champion used strong breaststroke and freestyle legs to seize control of a race led by Torri Huske after the butterfly before Regan Smith gained the lead on the backstroke.

Douglass finished in 2:08.46 to finish ahead of Alex Walsh, whose 2:08.96 gave her silver ahead of Huske (2:09.10).

Less than half an hour later, Douglass returned to win the 50m free in 24.38sec, with Abbey Weitzeil and Huske tied for second in 24.41.

“I’m kind of shocked to win that one. I was pretty focused on the IM today,” Douglass said.

American Michael Andrew won the men’s 50m free in 21.80sec. Josh Liendo was second in 21.90 and Aruba’s Mikel Schreuders was third in 21.93.

Seven-time Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel, continuing his return to the sport after a lengthy break, won the “B” final in 21.99sec.

Chase Kalisz, fresh off altitude training in Colorado, won the men’s 200m medley in 1:57.43 with Hungary’s Hubert Kos second in 1:57.88 and Trenton Julian third in 1:58.46.


Thunder rally to beat Lakers, Bulls stun Bucks in overtime

Thunder rally to beat Lakers, Bulls stun Bucks in overtime
Updated 9 min 16 sec ago
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Thunder rally to beat Lakers, Bulls stun Bucks in overtime

Thunder rally to beat Lakers, Bulls stun Bucks in overtime
  • The short-handed Bulls held off Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks 120-113 in overtime
  • Miami’s Jimmy Butler returned from a two-game injury absence and scored 24 of his 36 points in the second half to help the Heat rally for a 142-132 victory over the Indiana Pacers

LOS ANGELES: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 33 points to propel the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 113-110 NBA victory over LeBron James and the weary Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.

Gilgeous-Alexander connected on 11 of 18 shots from the field and made all 10 of his free throws.

Jalen Williams scored 21 points and rookie center Chet Holmgren added 18 for the Thunder, who had seven players score in double figures.

Anthony Davis led Los Angeles with 31 points and 14 rebounds. James had 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for the Lakers, who led by as many as 14 points in the first half but couldn’t keep the pressure on in the second night of a back-to-back and with a bevy of players nursing injuries.

Oklahoma City out-scored Los Angeles 42-23 in the second quarter to lead 72-60 at halftime and never trailed the rest of the way.

“I thought we played really good ball the first quarter,” James said. “But after that you could start seeing the three in four (nights), back-to-back, the bodies that we don’t have started to wear on us... especially versus a young team like OKC.”

In Chicago, the short-handed Bulls held off Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks 120-113 in overtime.

Nikola Vucevic scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who were without injured Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.

Alex Caruso drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to send it to overtime, and Caruso’s steal set up Patrick Williams’s dunk that capped the scoring in the extra session.

A dunk by Antetokounmpo had put Milwaukee up 110-109 with 2:41 left in overtime, but Vucevic answered with a dunk that put Chicago up for good.

Antetokounmpo shook off a slow start — he scored just four points in the first half — to lead the Bucks with 26 points and 14 rebounds.

Brook Lopez scored 20, Malik Beasley added 19 and Damian Lillard had 18 for the Bucks, who trailed by 12 early in the fourth quarter but grabbed a 106-103 lead with 5.2sec left in regulation.

Miami’s Jimmy Butler returned from a two-game injury absence and scored 24 of his 36 points in the second half to help the Heat rally for a 142-132 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Butler grabbed 10 rebounds and rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr scored 24 points off the bench as the Heat withstood a 44-point performance from Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton.

The Heat trailed until the fourth quarter, but out-scored the Pacers 45-32 in the final frame.

The Charlotte Hornets, who confirmed Thursday that LaMelo Ball will miss significant time with a sprained right ankle, got a morale-boosting 129-128 victory over the Nets in Brooklyn.

Terry Rozier scored 37 points for the Hornets, his step-back basket with 39.9sec remaining putting Charlotte up 129-126.

Nic Claxton managed to cut the deficit with a layup, but Cam Johnson came up empty on a three-point attempt in the waning seconds and the Hornets escaped with the win.

Elsewhere, Jalen Brunson starred for the New York Knicks, scoring 42 points in a 118-112 victory over the reeling Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Garden.

The Pistons have now lost 16 straight — including all 15 of their games in November.

San Antonio’s skid continued, too, the Spurs dropping their 13th straight — 137-135 to the Atlanta Hawks.

Trae Young scored a season-high 45 points for the Hawks. Jeremy Sochan scored 33 for San Antonio and rookie Victor Wembanyama added 21 points 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in the defeat.

The Portland Trail Blazers, trailing by as many as 16 points in the first half, came alive after the break to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-95.

Shaedon Sharpe scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half, Jerami Grant added 13 points and rookie Duop Reath chipped in 13 off the bench to help Portland mount their comeback.


Arsenal plot long stay at Premier League summit

Arsenal plot long stay at Premier League summit
Updated 33 min 45 sec ago
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Arsenal plot long stay at Premier League summit

Arsenal plot long stay at Premier League summit
  • Arsenal smashed Lens 6-0 in the Champions League in midweek in a reminder of what can happen when everything clicks
  • Despite a long injury list, Newcastle have won six of their seven Premier League games at their St. James’ Park stronghold this season
  • Early pacesetters Tottenham desperately need to arrest their slide after three straight defeats but champions Manchester City are their next port of call

LONDON: Arsenal are back on top of the Premier League with ambitions to stay there as they host Wolves this weekend while champions Manchester City play faltering Tottenham.

Newcastle take on Manchester United in a clash of two teams with high ambitions of their own while Chelsea face Brighton, still searching for consistency.

AFP Sport picks out three talking points ahead of the action.

Arsenal’s last-gasp 1-0 win at Brentford last week, which took them back to the top of table, was their fifth Premier League victory by a single goal this season.

The Gunners lack the fluidity they showed in the 2022/23 campaign and attacking numbers are down but former Manchester United defender Gary Neville believes they are now better equipped to win the league.

“Perfect, pretty football is unlikely to win the league unless it’s combined with a doggedness and resilience,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Arsenal are better this year in these areas and the football will come in due course.”

But former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, a Sky Sports pundit alongside Neville, believes Mikel Arteta’s team need to win games more convincingly.

“If Arsenal continue how they are, if this is the Arsenal we’re going to see this season, I don’t think they can win the league,” he told Sky.

He added: “So many games are going to the wire and sometimes that can go against you.... Those games that finish 1-0 can easily go 1-0 the other way.”

Arsenal smashed Lens 6-0 in the Champions League in midweek in a reminder of what can happen when everything clicks.

Early pacesetters Tottenham desperately need to arrest their slide after three straight defeats but champions Manchester City are their next port of call.

Ange Postecoglou’s team, unbeaten in their first 10 games, have developed the costly habit of letting leads slip — losing to Chelsea, Wolves and Aston Villa despite scoring first each time.

Postecoglou is grappling with a lengthy list of absentees and suffered another blow with the loss of midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, expected to be out until February after suffering a serious ankle injury against Villa.

City last week showed a chink in their armor, failing to win at home in any competition for the first time this year when they were held 1-1 by Liverpool.

But Erling Haaland notched his 50th Premier League goal in just his 48th game at the Etihad — obliterating Andy Cole’s record — and this week became the quickest player to 40 Champions League goals with his strike against RB Leipzig.

City will be confident normal order can be resumed at home.

Newcastle vs. Manchester United pits a team with one of the best home records against a side who have been picking up wins on the road.

Despite a long injury list, Newcastle have won six of their seven Premier League games at their St. James’ Park stronghold this season.

Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United, despite their patchy form overall, have four victories out of six games away from home.

Both teams have ambitions of qualifying for season’s Champions League and they each face a battle to qualify for the knockout phase of this year’s competition after midweek draws.

Newcastle, who recently hammered Manchester United 3-0 in the League Cup, will fancy their chances against a team who, while they have started to score more freely, remain vulnerable at the back.

United have conceded 33 goals in all competitions this season, the most in their opening 20 matches of any campaign since 1962/63.

Fixtures

Saturday (1500 GMT unless stated)

Arsenal vs. Wolves, Brentford vs. Luton, Burnley vs. Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest vs. Everton (1730), Newcastle vs. Manchester United (2000)

Sunday (1400 unless stated)

Bournemouth vs. Aston Villa, Chelsea vs. Brighton, Liverpool vs. Fulham, West Ham vs. Crystal Palace, Manchester City vs. Tottenham (1630)


Tiger Woods has a sloppy finish for a 75 on his return in the Bahamas

Tiger Woods has a sloppy finish for a 75 on his return in the Bahamas
Updated 26 sec ago
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Tiger Woods has a sloppy finish for a 75 on his return in the Bahamas

Tiger Woods has a sloppy finish for a 75 on his return in the Bahamas
  • British Open champion Brian Harman and Tony Finau led the way at 5-under 67, one shot ahead of Jordan Spieth
  • This day was all about Woods, as it usually is whenever he plays, and especially when he has been away for so long

NASSAU, Bahamas: Tiger Woods held up just fine Thursday in his first time competing in eight months, except for limping at the end. That was more about his golf than his fused right ankle.

Woods was holding his own at the Hero World Challenge until a double bogey from a bush on the par-5 15th, followed by two more bogeys. The result was a 3-over 75, eight shots out of the lead and a score better than only two players in the 20-man field at Albany.

Asked what he got out of his round, Woods laughed and said, “Hit a lot of shots.”

British Open champion Brian Harman and Tony Finau led the way at 5-under 67, one shot ahead of Jordan Spieth, who was entertaining as ever. Spieth made only five pars and had one stretch of 10 holes without one until the final hole.

But this day was all about Woods, as it usually is whenever he plays, and especially when he has been away for so long. He expected to be rusty, and it eventually it showed.

“I didn’t have my feels,” Woods said. “Conditions were tough early. I did not finish off the round like I needed to. Kind of went sideways at the end.”

He was 1 under for the round through 14 holes when he pulled his tee shot to the left at the base of a bush. He contemplated his options before decided to try to punch it out toward the fairway or even a bunker, even though he could take the club back only a foot or so.

Woods caught mostly soil and advanced it only a few feet. He punched his third shot back to the fairway and then came up about 40 yards short of the green. He pitched that to 10 feet only to miss the bogey putt.

He found a fairway bunker off the tee on the tough 16th, came up short of the green and hit a weak pitch to 20 feet that led to bogey. Then, he three-putted the par-3 17th from 45 feet.

Woods wasn’t the only player who struggled in his return. Will Zalatoris had back surgery right after he withdrew from the Masters. He had three double bogeys and a bogey in a four-hole stretch around the turn and closed with one more bogey for an 81.

Woods attributed his mistakes to a lack of commitment, that coming from a lack of playing. Instincts gave way to thinking about too many elements as he began to swing.

“Should I do this or not? By then I’m pulling the trigger,” he said. “I shouldn’t really pull the trigger. Hit a bad shot. I kept doing it time and time again. It was a lack of commitment to what I was doing and feeling. I’ve got to do a better job of it.”

He also said he was plenty sore and would resume the process he has come to know all too well — recovery in the evening, back in the gym to get his body ready before the next round.

He still had no regrets about playing for the first time since Saturday at the Masters. He didn’t finish his rain-delayed third round in the April chill at Augusta, and then had fusion surgery on his right ankle a few weeks later.

“I wanted to compete, I wanted to play. I felt like I was ready to compete and play,” Woods said. “I hit it solid most of the day. As I said, I just didn’t mentally do the things I normally would do and I need to do.”


Liverpool advance in Europa League. Aubameyang hat trick for Marseille includes overhead kick

Liverpool advance in Europa League. Aubameyang hat trick for Marseille includes overhead kick
Updated 01 December 2023
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Liverpool advance in Europa League. Aubameyang hat trick for Marseille includes overhead kick

Liverpool advance in Europa League. Aubameyang hat trick for Marseille includes overhead kick
  • Liverpool are four points clear atop Group E with 12 points

LONDON: Liverpool advanced to the round of 16 of the Europa League with a game to spare after Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo scored early to set the tone in a 4-0 victory over Austria’s LASK on Thursday.

Diaz headed in a cross from Joe Gomez for the opener in the 12th before Gakpo tapped in Mohamed Salah’s pass three minutes later at Anfield. Salah made it 3-0 early in the second half in what was his 199th goal for the Reds. Gakpo added his second in stoppage time.

Liverpool are four points clear atop Group E with 12 points. Toulouse in second on eight after a 0-0 draw with Union Saint-Gilloise.

Leverkusen remained the only team with a perfect record after five games. Victor Boniface and substitute Patrik Schick contributed a goal apiece for a 2-0 victory at Hacken in Group H and a place in the round of 16.

Tomas Soucek struck late again to help West Ham beat TSC Backa Topola 1-0 and advance to the knockout stage.

The midfielder met Maxwel Cornet’s cross at the far post to volley home the winner in the 89th minute in Serbia.

Soucek, who has scored in five straight games, had snatched a 2-1 victory for West Ham against Burnley with a stoppage-time winner Saturday in the Premier League.

West Ham are tied atop Group A with Germany’s Freiburg, who routed Olympiacos 5-0. Michael Gregoritsch had a hat trick by the 36th minute. Kiliann Sildillia and Ritsu Doan also socred. The winners both have 12 points.

The Hammers need only a point against Freiburg on Dec. 14 in London to win the group and avoid a two-legged playoff in February.

Brighton advanced from Group B after Joao Pedro converted from the spot for a 1-0 win over 10-man AEK in Athens.

Pedro was fouled in the box before sending goalkeeper Cican Stankovic the wrong way for his fifth goal of the campaign. The hosts lost midfielder Mijat Gaćinović to a second yellow card in the 65th minute.

Marseille forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s hat trick included a stunning overhead kick and two penalties — one in stoppage time — in a 4-3 win over 10-man Ajax to lead to Group B with 11 points. Brighton trail by one. AEK remain on four points in third, Ajax have two.

The eight group winners in Europe’s second-tier competition earn a direct place in the last 16 of the competition whereas finishing in second only gets a team a playoff against the clubs who drop into the Europa League as third-place finishers in Champions League groups.

Atalanta advanced directly to the round of 16 despite 1-1 draw at home with Sporting Lisbon. Sporting substitute Marcus answered Gianluca Scamacca’s opening goal. Atalanta won Group D with 11 points. Sporting are second with eight.

Roma’s 1-1 draw at Servette in Geneva allowed Slavia Prague to settle atop Group G following a 3-2 win at Sheriff in Tiraspol. Roma trails the Czech team by two points with a game remaining.

In Group C, Lukas Haraslin’s second-half curling shot from the edge of the area led Sparta past Real Betis 1-0 in Prague to keep the Czech team’s home for a top-two finish alive.

Maccabi Haifa remained winless in last place in Group F after a 3-0 loss to Rennes in a game played at the Puskas Arena in Budapest because Israel are not allowed to host UEFA-sanctioned matches due to the war with Hamas.

Also in the group, 41-year-old goalkeeper Pepe Reina helped Villarreal beat Panathinaikos 3-2 to climb to second on an all-time list of appearances in European competition with his 189. Only Cristiano Ronaldo played more, 197.

EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE

Greece’s PAOK became another team to join Viktoria Plzen in the round of 16 as a winner of Group G with a 2-1 away win at Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Czechs won 1-0 at Ballkani to make it five wins from five in Group C.

Aston Villa moved to the top of Group E after a 2-1 win over Legia Warsaw. Moussa Diaby and Alex Moreno had a goal each at Villa Park with Ernest Muçi netting for the visitors. Villa needed to win by two or more goals to clinch the top spot in the group.

Club Brugge thumped Besiktas 5-0 in Turkiye to lead Group D with 13 points. Bodo/Glimt trails by three after a 5-2 win over Lugano.

A first-place finish earns a direct spot in the last 16, while finishing in second takes clubs into a playoff with third-place finishers in the Europa League.