Month: February 2020

Anthony Joshua will face Kubrat Pulev in a mandatory title fight

Fans wanting a Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua matchup for the undisputed heavyweight championship will have to wait a bit longer.

Promoters Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sports and Todd duBoef made it official that Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs), the IBF-WBA-WBO champion, will defend his belts in a mandatory fight against Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) on June 20 in the United Kingdom.

The fight will take place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London and is expected to stream live in the United States on DAZN.

Pulev was first scheduled to face Joshua as a mandatory challenger in late 2017 until he withdrew due to injury. Since a 2014 knockout loss to Wladimir Klitschko, Pulev has won eight consecutive fights.

Joshua returns to England for the first time since his 2018 fight with Alexander Povetkin. The fight will be his first title defense since regaining the belts after a shocking knockout loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. during his U.S. debut in 2019.

Pulev, like Fury, joined Top Rank, which will do business with Hearn. If all goes according to plan and Joshua beats Pulev and Fury beats Deontay Wilder in their third fight, it could set up the biggest fight in British history and arguably the best pay-per-view fight in boxing.

Alabama loses a crucial game against Mississippi State

Alabama’s NCAA tournament chances get slimmer each time they step foot on the court. Unable to finish in February has proven to be the Crimson Tide’s kryptonite.

In each of the past four seasons, Alabama hasn’t earned more than two wins to finish its last five games. Until that changes, nothing changes. The expectations remain the same and the NCAA tournament isn’t one of them.

The Crimson Tide has a better chance of blowing a double-digit second-half lead then they do making the round of 64.

Alabama (15-13, 7-8 SEC), without junior guard John Petty Jr. who left the game with a right elbow injury, fell to Mississippi State 80-73.

“That was a tough loss,” head coach Nate Oats said in a press release. “(Mississippi State) is playing hard and playing well.”

With two minutes remaining, Alabama missed multiple makeable shots; junior forward Herbert Jones fouled out and junior forward Alex Reece continued to be a problem.

“We missed some layups, free throws and some wide-open threes we needed to knock down, especially with Petty not being out there on the floor,” Oats said.

Reece finished just 2-of-9 from the field, with four of Alabama’s 10 turnovers.

Mississippi State’s Tyson Carter scored six straight points, two layups and a pair of free throws to put the final touches on the game.

Ahead of its matchup with the Bulldogs, Alabama knew starting forward Reggie Perry would be tough to contain.

It proved to be right.

Perry led Mississippi State, scoring a team-high 21 points and recording a team-high 12 rebounds. Forward Abdul Ado added eight points, blocking two shots.

Sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. led all scorers with 29 points–16 in the second half–and seven rebounds and four assists. Freshman guard Jaden Shackelford scored 17 points–12 in the second half–with five rebounds.

“I thought Beetle played hard and Kira had a great game,” Oats said. “It just wasn’t quite enough to beat a team as talented as Mississippi State in their gym tonight.”

Alabama returns to Coleman Coliseum on Saturday to face South Carolina (16-11, 8-6 SEC).

Alabama is in a position needing to win out in the regular season and make an SEC tournament run to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Tipoff with the Gamecocks is slated for 8:30 p.m.

Deontay Wilder to exercise rematch, opens up about loss

Former heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder will exercise his option for an immediate rematch against newly crowned WBC and lineal champion Tyson Fury.

Fury (30-0-1, 21 KO’s) knocked Wilder down twice, cut his ear open and pressured him so much so that Wilder’s co-trainer, Mark Breland, was forced to throw in the towel in the middle of the seventh round.

“We’re definitely going to exercise it,” said Wilder, who spoke to ESPN days after the fight in Las Vegas. “We’re looking forward to it. I’m a warrior and a true champion, and I fight like that every bit of the way. We’re definitely going on with it. That’s for sure. By the summertime.”

It was Wilder’s first career loss, one that sent shockwaves through the entire sport. Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KO’s) was dominated from the start.

Wilder got backed up to the ropes on several occasions, trapped in the corner and suffered a two centimeter cut in his ear, which required seven stitches. He was outboxed and outclassed. The boxer who relies heavily on his devastating right hand, couldn’t land it. Fury defeated Wilder doing what so many are afraid to do, stand in front of him and fight.

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“There were a lot of things that went wrong leading up to the fight, in the last minutes before the fight, but I accept full responsibility,” Wilder said about the outcome of the fight. “I paid a severe price because my legs were how they were because of my uniform. My uniform was way too heavy. It was 40-plus pounds. We had it on 10 or 15 minutes before we even walked out and then put the helmet on. That was extra weight, then the ring walk, then going up the stairs. It was like a real workout for my legs. When I took it off, I knew immediately that game has changed.”

Wilder, who wore a 45-pound costume to honor Black History Month, said the weight of the outfit affected his legs, saying from the third round on, his legs were shot.

He also voiced his opinion on Kenny Bayless–one of boxings most respected referees–for his lack of protection.

“The referee told me specifically that if I hit him in the back of the head or hit him on the break, he’d disqualify me,” Wilder said to Yahoo Sports. “But I guess that was only directed toward me because he allowed Fury to do those things. That’s the one thing that bothered me of everything.”

Bayless did take a point from Fury in the fifth. However, that didn’t matter to Wilder, who was significantly behind on the scorecards.

Wilder was very upset with Breland that he threw in the towel, instead of letting him go out on “his shield.” Breland, who won an Olympic gold medal and was a two-time professional world titlist before becoming a trainer, did the right thing saving his fighter even more damage. Though, right now, Wilder may not see it that way.

“I’d rather die in the ring than have the towel thrown in,” Wilder told The Athletic. “I’m a warrior.”

Despite the fight having to take place by July 18, per the contractual agreement between Top Rank and Premier Boxing Champions, Fury’s promoter Bob Arum said it could be delayed until the fall in hopes of having the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium as a host.

 

Tyson Fury Stops Deontay Wilder in the seventh, becoming the baddest man on the planet

If there was any debate before, just put it to rest. Tyson Fury is the king of the heavyweight division.

Fury was flawless. His boxing was spectacular. He stalked Deontay Wilder like a lion hunts its prey. He forced him back to the ropes unleashing a fury of punches, again and again, and again. So ruthlessly, that after scoring two knockdowns earlier in the fight and after a crushing annihilation in the beginning part of the seventh-round, Wilder’s longtime trainer Mark Breland was forced to throw in the towel.

Fury retained the lineal heavyweight championship and took Wilder’s WBC belt with force in front of a sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Nobody thought Fury was going to take the approach that he did. Wilder–perhaps the best puncher the sport has ever seen–has a devastating right hand. One that, if landed, would put any fighter on the canvas. In the first fight, Wilder knocked Fury down in the ninth round and then again with a brutal combination in the 12th round. A spirit in the sky swooped down and lifted Fury to finish the fight. There’s no way an opponent would be the aggressor. But Fury, who weighed in at 273 pounds, 42 pounds heavier than his opponent did just that. He backed Wilder up. He used his jab to set the tone. He used his body to throw Wilder around like a ragdoll.

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Wilder’s eardrum was thought to be busted. His jaw swollen, with a chance it’s fractured. Wilder is lucky he has a team that thinks highly of him to know, enough is enough. As he sat in the locker room, alone, with the doctors evaluating him, there’s a sense of loneliness. The effort isn’t enough. The size of the heart doesn’t matter. Emptiness. Dissatisfaction. Unless it’s a win, it’s all for nothing.

The fight was never close. Wilder never stood a chance. Fury threw punch after punch. He did what he wanted. When he wanted. However, he wanted. Fury continued to shock the world, dismantling the man many thought was untouchable.

It’s been 20 years since boxing has seen an undisputed heavyweight champion. With Fury beating Wilder to claim the WBC and lineal heavyweight championships, people are calling for a unification fight between Fury and Anthony Joshua, who holds the other three recognized heavyweight world championships (WBA, WBO and IBF).

It would be the biggest fight in the United Kingdom. They’d sell out the biggest stadium and the world will be watching, just as they did when Hasim Rahman knocked out Lennox Lewis in an upset fight in 2001 and when Lewis became the last undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, on Nov, 13th 1999.

It’s time for the unification fight. It’s time heavyweight boxing returned to where it belongs.

Wilder vs. Fury II means more now than ever for the sport of boxing

It’s been a long time since there’s been a heavyweight title fight of this magnitude. Heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury will meet center ring for the second time. Waiting to crown a champion.

On Dec. 1, 2018, it was already an excellent fight. Fury was outboxing the puncher. But when Wilder–perhaps the best puncher the sport has ever seen–landed his devastating right hand, Fury was sent into an alternate universe. Flat on the canvas, back down face up. Motionless. Dazed. As the referee continued the count, a spirit of some sort traveled through Fury’s body, he rose again and finished the fight. After 12 rounds, judges scored it a controversial split draw: 114-112 for Fury, 115-111 for Wilder and 113-113.

Ahead of the rematch, because of a shoving match between the two fighters at the final news conference on Wednesday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission said that there would not be a face-off following their weigh-in Friday.

Even so, standing face-to-face separated by rope and security guards, the two heavyweights stared, exchanging words, gesturing hand signals to one another. The intensity was there. Fans in the packed MGM Grand Garden Arena cheered ahead of the most anticipated heavyweight championship fight since Lennox Lewis retained the title in his long-awaited showdown against Mike Tyson in 2002.

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It has the feeling of a super fight. All signs point to this being the fight that changes how people look at boxing.

Before it was Gene Tunney beating Jack Dempsey, in September 1927 named the “The Long-Count Fight.”

It was Joe Louis knocking out Max Schmeling in June 1938.

It was all the masterful performances by Muhammad Ali against Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Or it was the start to one of boxing’s most celebrated eras, the age of “The Four Kings,” Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

But in less than 24 hours, all that changes. Wilder, a 6-foot-7 puncher from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Fury, a 6-foot-9 boxer from Manchester, England, set up a rematch for the ages. With both fighters in their prime, it doesn’t get better for the sport.

Rivals are colliding. It could rejuvenate heavyweight boxing to what it once was.

Fury’s promoter Bob Arum and Wilder’s promotor boxing power broker Al Haymon hasn’t worked much together. For so long, boxing has been suffocating, searching for survival. Boxing used to be a mainstream sport, being relied on by the heavyweight.

It may be that way soon again.

Arum stated the event sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena, roughly generating $16 million in gate revenue.

The first Wilder-Fury fight attracted 325,000 pay-per-view buys and the rematch is estimated to crush those numbers.

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ESPN, who works with Top Rank Boxing and Fox Sports, a partner with Premier Boxing Champions, joined together. Both will screen the fight on its pay-per-view services and online platforms. During the College Football Championship Game, which attracted 25.6 million viewers in January, the fight was promoted. During the Super Bowl, two commercials ran, which viewership peaked at 99.9 million.

Everything is at stake: Wilder’s WBC title and Fury’s lineal crown. The winner will get a 60/40 split for a third fight that Saturday’s loser has 30 days to accept. The winner will likely be considered as the recognized heavyweight champion.

England’s Anthony Joshua currently holds three of the division’s four alphabet titles. However, the way he lost to Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019 has taken much of the hype away from a future matchup between Wilder or Fury.

Still, Lennox Lewis remains the last undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, which happened on Nov, 13th 1999.

Wilder is a bronze medalist from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He has 41 knockouts. Just when his opponent thinks he’s matching him, his one-punch power gets put on display—most recently against Dominic Breazeale and Luis Ortiz.

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Fury, on the other hand, has a nation backing him. Boxing has remained a mainstream sport in England where boxers are national icons. He has 20 knockouts. He’s got the toughness. The Swiftness. And has mastered the art of boxing.

The fight is a match made in heaven for boxing fans all across the world.

And as the sport is entering new territory, it’s not the first time rivals have aligned; they did so for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. Both screened on Showtime and HBO pay-per-view. But, it is the first time doing so for a heavyweight battle.

In 40 years, people will be talking about where they were when this fight took place, just like people do with so many past fights. It has that type of impact, not only on boxing but on American sports.

Sportswriters, fans, people just watching because it’s on TV will be talking about this fight. It’s been a long time coming, but the next great heavyweight is upon us.

Both fighters are impacting the sport.

Both fighters boxing desperately need.

More now than ever.

But, only one can be victorious.

Alabama suffers bad loss to Texas A&M at home

Alabama had it. And then they didn’t.

Alabama basketball lost a crucial home game to Texas A&M 74-68 on Wednesday night inside Coleman Coliseum.

Texas A&M forced Alabama to play at its strengths. The Aggies hold its opponents to 64 points per game and held the Crimson Tide to just 68. Texas A&M played the shot clock. Played physical defense. And Alabama struggled to find a solid answer.

“This was a disappointing loss, one we really needed if we’re going to make a run at the NCAA tournament,” head coach Nate Oats said in a press release. “You’ve got to give Texas A&M a lot of credit, they’re playing hard.”

The opportunities were there for Alabama (14-12, 6-7 SEC). Two, in fact. Actually, in reality, like three. Maybe four. Two potential game-tying three-point shots in the final minute, but both Kira Lewis Jr. and Jaden Shackleford missed. Alex Reece had an opportunity but missed it. Then, on a three-point shot, Shackleford was fouled and missed all three free throws.

But it was more than that. It was a tale of two halves.

To end the first half, the Crimson Tide held the Aggies to zero field goals in the last 6:16. Texas A&M had 14 turnovers, resulting in 14 Alabama points. The Crimson Tide made eight three-pointers and four two-pointers.

Alabama was playing its game, Texas A&M was just hanging around.

But then things changed.

To close out the game, Texas A&M finished on a 12-0 run, including a Quenton Jackson three-ball with 57 seconds remaining to take the lead 68-62.

Each year it’s the same reality. Alabama can’t finish in February. In each of the past four seasons, Alabama hasn’t earned more than two wins to finish its last five games. The Crimson Tide will have to finish 4-1 or 5-0 to have a shot at the NCAA tournament. And, that’s a lot to ask.

The fight in this team is undeniable, but you can’t lose to Texas A&M and expect to make the NCAA tournament. A Quadrant three loss really hurts the Crimson Tide. Remember, Alabama was an 11.5 point favorite. They lost by six.

With five games remaining on the Crimson Tide’s schedule, two stick out. Mississippi State and South Carolina. Both of whom sit on the bubble, both of which Alabama can’t afford to lose.

“We have got to get this figured out. Some of this is on the coaching staff,” Oats said about Alabama’s struggles late in the season. “We didn’t do a great job of attacking the pressure. That’s on me, and we’ve got to get them more prepared to play.”

Alabama starts a two-game road trip in the state of Mississippi, starting with Ole Miss on Saturday. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. CT.

 

 

 

 

Alabama earns much needed top-25 win

No frustration. No lack of urgency. Just blue-collar basketball.

On a night Alabama retired Wendell Hudson’s No. 20 jersey, everything went right for the Crimson Tide against No. 25 LSU.

After playing only seven minutes against Auburn, junior forward Herbert Jones played 29 minutes for the Crimson Tide. Essentially playing one-handed, having a cast on his left wrist, Jones was the difference-maker. He finished with a career-high 17 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass, six points, three assists and two blocks.

He was taking charges. Diving for loose balls. Contesting shots. Giving maximum effort. But despite his one-handed heroism, the Tigers rallied from an 18-point deficit to just one. Alabama, once again, was blowing a double-digit lead.

But, Alabama’s storybook night would not be taken from them.

Junior forward Alex Reese hit the three-pointer in the final minute of a game, Jones hit two free-throws, with just his right hand. For a team that struggles down the stretch, it was on the verge of pulling off the upset. With 1:37 left, LSU’s Skylar Mays hit a three-pointer that cut it to 79-78.

That was the closest the Tigers would get.

The Crimson Tide pulled off the 88-82 win over the Tigers and gave themselves a second quality win for its NCAA tournament résumé. Alabama (14-11, 6-6 SEC) now has wins over LSU and Auburn. Entering the game, the Tigers were No. 27 in the NET rankings. After losing, it is crucial for Alabama that LSU (18-7, 9-3 SEC) remains in the top-30, allowing the win to count as a quadrant one win.

“It was a big win. We’ve been saying we needed another Quad 1 win and we got it,” head coach Nate Oats’ said in a press release. “I thought our energy out of the gate was really good.”

Sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. led Alabama with a game-high 27 points–18 of which came in the second half– and four assists, while freshman guard Jaden Shackelford added 26 points and a game-high five three-pointers. Junior forward Galin Smith had his best game of the year, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds.

The Crimson Tide finished with 13 made shots from beyond the arc to bring its season total to 269, which broke the program record of 259 three-pointers made, set back in 2015-16 across 33 games. This year it took only 25 games.

LSU outrebounded Alabama 44-42; however, the Crimson Tide had the 23-17 advantage in the second half. And after shooting 59 three-balls against Auburn, Alabama found much success playing aggressively in the paint getting the whistle, finishing 19-of-26 for 73.1 percent from the foul line.

After finishing 1-1 this week, Alabama will be favored in five of its last six games, except against Mississippi State, respectively. With an opportunity to finish the season with 20 wins, the Crimson Tide’s NCAA tournament hopes remain alive. 18 wins heading into the SEC Tournament may be enough. 19 wins may be the sweet spot. But, 20 wins might seal the deal.

Alabama will be back in action Feb. 19 at Coleman Coliseum against Texas A&M (12-12, 6-6 SEC). Tipoff is slated for 6:00 CT.

Alabama’s historic night not enough against Auburn

Frustration. Inconsistency. Trying to do too much. Alabama basketball trailed 16-0 in the first four minutes of its in-state rivalry game against Auburn Wednesday night.

The Crimson Tide didn’t quit, though; every time the Tigers pulled away, Nate Oats’ team showed its blue-collar basketball. Playing fast, playing physical and shooting a lot of three-point balls.

But despite it’s scoring in spurts and suffering prolonged scoring droughts, junior guard John Petty Jr. made a three-point shot to tie the game at 81 with 14.9 seconds left. The iron bowl was heading to overtime, Alabama’s second overtime game in a row and Auburn’s third-straight and fourth in five games.

But, the Crimson Tide started slow and the Tigers scored six straight. Alabama came close, but couldn’t overcome the deficit, losing 95-91.

“It was a tough game. Give Auburn credit,” Oats said in a press release. “They came out ready to play. We got down by 16 at the first media timeout. We can’t do that in an environment like this.”

In a game Alabama never led, the Crimson Tide was outrebounded 60-44, including 20 offensive rebounds. The Tigers had 24 second-chance points.

Junior forward Herbert Jones, missing the last three games with a broken wrist, despite the stat sheet was the most significant difference in the game. He played only seven minutes, but while on the floor, Alabama outscored Auburn by 13 points. Jones contested the last shot by Auburn, which, if made, would have ended the game in regulation.

Sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. became just the second player in program history and the first since Roy Rogers in 1996, to record a triple-double. Lewis Jr. finished with 10 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds.

“Some of the positives for us obviously are Kira with the triple-double was huge,” Oats said. “I couldn’t afford to take him out of the game. He’s playing all 40 minutes, which is hard, but we had to do it. It speaks to the way he controlled the game. I thought he was unbelievable.”

In a game which the Crimson Tide needed to shoot the three-point ball and play fast, they did it. Alabama attempted an SEC-record 59 three-pointers and made an SEC-record 22.

Freshman guard Jaden Shackelford made seven shots beyond the arc while Petty Jr. made six.

Beating Auburn would have done wonders for the Crimson Tide’s resume. Now playing LSU at home on Saturday adds to its pressure. In essentially a must-win, the opportunities are there; but the Crimson Tide needs to capitalize.

Tip-off is slated for 3 p.m. on Saturday in Coleman Coliseum.

How Alabama’s 2020 Recruiting Class Shaped Out

National Signing Day saw Alabama football sign three additional athletes to its 2020 roster, ending with a total of 25 signees.

Javon Baker, Jamil Burroughs and Damieon George each signed their National Letter of Intent on Wednesday during the February signing period.

The 25 high school players come from eight states, including Alabama (9), California (2), Florida (3), Georgia (5), Louisiana (1), Maryland (1), Ohio (1) and Texas (3).

The Crimson Tide added five defensive linemen, four players apiece at linebacker and defensive back, three running backs, wide receivers and offensive linemen, a quarterback, a tight end and an athlete.

Alabama’s 2020 signing class ranks No. 2 nationally by 247Sports and third by ESPN and Rivals. Although Georgia edged out Alabama for the No. 1 spot, the 25-man class had the highest average ranking per player at 93.45 by 247Sports and 4.0 by Rivals.com.

The Crimson Tide signed six five-star prospects, including William Anderson Jr., Chris Braswell, Demouy Kennedy, Drew Sanders, Timothy Smith and Bryce Young.

Eighteen players were ranked in the ESPN300, eighteen players were listed on the Rivals250, ten players were listed on the Rivals100, eighteen players were ranked in the Top247 and each of the 25 student-athletes is listed as a four-star prospect by one of the following: 247Sports, Rivals.com and/or ESPN.com.

Alabama Suffers Third-Straight Loss to Tennessee

Call it what it is, bad basketball. After falling apart against Arkansas Saturday night, Alabama basketball lost a much-needed home game against Tenessee 69-68, equaling three straight losses.

In its second straight game without junior forward Herbert Jones, the Crimson Tide is starting to feel his absence. Nobody is doing the dirty work. Poor decisions are being made. And for how good Kira Lewis Jr. is, he continues to do too much.

Tennessee outrebounded Alabama 42-33, making it the eighth time in 22 games that the Crimson Tide lost the rebounding battle. Tennessee forced 12.95 turnovers per game, Alabama had 20, including 12 in the first half.

Alabama was held to the second-lowest output in a game this season since scoring 67 at Kentucky and against North Carolina. 

With under two minutes remaining, Alex Reece, Galin Smith and Javian Davis all fouled out. The Crimson Tide was left playing five guards, the tallest being John Petty Jr. at 6’5. As a result, the Volunteers finished 23-of-32 from the line.

“We have three bigs that we play in the rotation and they all end up fouling out, which was big because they bodied us up inside,” head coach Nate Oats said in a press release. “John (Petty) had to play the four position pretty much the whole night because of us being in foul trouble, but he did a great job and had 11 rebounds.”

Alabama finished just 5-of-8 from the foul line.

The offense continues to be a problem. They score in runs and suffer in droughts. The Crimson Tide led the Razorbacks for more than 25 minutes before losing. They led the Volunteers for 32:27 until they didn’t. Its the third time in four games that Alabama blew a double-digit lead.

Lewis Jr. led Alabama with 19 points, shooting 8-of-15 from the field, with four assists and three rebounds. Freshman Jaden Shackelford finished with 12 points and Petty Jr., a year after scoring 30 points against the Volunteers, added just eight points and led the team with 11 rebounds and a career-high-tying seven assists.

The Crimson Tide was already in a must-win situation. They’ve lost three straight. Two winnable games. As a result, their NCAA tournament hopes are fading into darkness. Things need to change. And fast.

Alabama will start a two-game road trip with Georgia Saturday at 5 p.m. Alabama is 2-5 in the last seven meetings with the Bulldogs.