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When thinking back to the last time he was in a boxing ring some 14 months ago, Errol Spence Jr. doesn’t mince words when tasked to describe where his life was at the time. 

Feeling like he was “on top of the world,” the unbeaten welterweight champion had just defied his own trainer’s game plan to box Shawn Porter and went on to out brawl him in one of 2019’s best fights to edge their pay-per-view matchup by split decision. What followed immediately after for the 30-year-old star was constant partying and an immediate trip to Miami with his closest friends. 

Spence (26-0, 21 KOs), who had cemented himself among boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters, even had a PPV blockbuster already scheduled to follow up the big win when it was announced he would face former two-division champion Danny Garcia in January. 

Just two weeks after the Porter win, however, Spence endured a life-changing scare that he claims has forever changed his life when, on his way home from partying at a club, he drove drunk at high speeds and flipped his Ferrari 488 Spider multiple times in Dallas before being ejected from the vehicle. 

Saying months later he felt as if angels were protecting him on the night of Oct. 10, 2019, Spence survived the crash with a few scrapes and bruises, no broken bones and, from a surgical standpoint, simply in need of a new set of teeth. 

“I should have lost my life that night,” Spence, a father of three, has echoed multiple times in the aftermath while using terms like “miracle” to describe why he feels, spiritually, as if he was given a second chance at life.

The fight with Garcia didn’t go on as planned after the accident and the subsequent coronavirus pandemic allowed Spence, who was later convicted of DWI charges, more time to take stock of his life and make sure, both physically and mentally, he’s truly ready for a return to boxing. 

Without a tuneup fight of any kind, Spence will put all of the concerns surrounding him to the test on Saturday when his IBF and WBC titles are at stake against Garcia (Fox PPV, 9 p.m. ET) in the main event of Premier Boxing Champions PPV card from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

Not surprisingly, most of the questions Spence has fielded ahead of this fight — outside the never-ending ones asking when he will finally square off with WBO champion Terence Crawford — has surrounded whether he can still be the same fighter post-accident that he was before.

If actions often do a better job answering a question than words, Spence has seemingly done everything right to give himself the best possible chance. That has included not only curtailing his self-described “reckless” life of partying for a more traditional family approach by moving his home from Dallas out to the country, it has involved putting his health first by not allowing himself to get out of shape between fights. 

“The biggest change is going back to basically when I got started and just focused exclusively on boxing,” Spence told “Morning Kombat” last week. “I just moved back into a ranch house and I have cattle and horses with more land. I can go outside without living in the high rises and hearing noise at 7 a.m. in the morning with cranes and construction. Basically, it’s taking it back to square one where it’s just nothing but gym work and staying ready rather than just getting ready when it’s time to fight.”

When it comes to his accident, Spence doesn’t remember any of it, including anything that happened in the hours leading up. In fact, Spence additionally has zero memory of the subsequent three weeks he spent in the hospital recovering. 

Whether it turns out to be a blessing in disguise or not from the standpoint of helping him move past the life-threatening moment emotionally, Spence’s first memory is when he woke up at home nearly one month after the crash took place. To make sure everything was fine in terms of his brain, he went on to take numerous tests at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and was cleared to begin training again. 

In order to heal from the multiple surgeries on his teeth, Spence wasn’t allowed to begin sparring for the first time until late spring, which brought with it a bit of a judgement day scenario where those close to Spence’s camp, including trainer Derrick James and his father, Errol Spence Sr., had a chance to see firsthand whether the fighter was ready. 

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.

“I didn’t have any concerns at all. The only concern was the questions that I knew my coach or my dad had,” Spence said. “Basically, it was answering those questions. They never said it but I just knew [their questions were] could I still take a punch and were my reflexes still good. If it wasn’t like that, they would never let me step foot back in the ring. Everything went well and they basically told me what I was doing right instead of things I needed to work on. It didn’t feel awkward.”

James echoed those thoughts during an appearance last month on the “Last Stand” podcast with Brian Custer when he talked about specifically focusing on Spence’s timing and how quickly he was able to slip punches. 

“There was never any doubt because I know what kind of guy he is,” James said. “He’s a competitor and if there are any deficiencies, by fight time there won’t be any. I haven’t seen any thus far because I know he is a competitor and he has pushed himself to be great. 

“I believe [the Garcia fight] will show that Errol was the same guy he was before and the accident was just a small hiccup and now he’s back. The point will be proven that he is the guy who wants to be here for the long haul.” 

The fact that Spence insisted on being matched tough for his return without a comeback fight also spoke to his competitiveness. The 32-year-old Garcia (36-2, 21 KOs) remains at the peak of his prime having only lost disputed decisions in fun fights against Porter and Keith Thurman. 

But Garcia seems to be the only person who isn’t interested at all as to which version of Spence might show up this weekend and has chosen to focus exclusively on what he brings to the table. 

“Right now, I’m just focusing on Danny Garcia and am making sure that I’m ready,” Garcia told “Morning Kombat” last week. “I can’t worry about whether he is ready, I have to make sure that I’m ready and I’m doing everything I can do to be ready for this fight. 

“I’ve got to him hard and I think the truth shall be told once he takes my hit.”

Because of Garcia’s resume and the danger he brings, Spence believes this fight is among the most important of his career and imagines a victory would taste particularly sweet given everything he has endured.

“With everything that happened and me coming back to work to get back to this spot, it will definitely be special,” Spence said. “It will probably be my second most meaningful victory besides the Kell Brook fight and fighting in someone else’s hometown. 

“Coming off my accident and fighting at home, this is my return fight and fighting a great fighter like Danny Garcia where nobody has blown him out of the water. If it’s not the first than it’s definitely the second [most important fight]. It’s huge.”

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Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs England 2nd Test 2020/21


Tea Sri Lanka 381 (Mathews 110, Dickwella 92, Dilruwan 67, Chandimal 52, Anderson 6-40) vs England

An ageless James Anderson bagged six wickets while delivering England the breakthroughs they needed against Sri Lanka on the second day of the second Test. The home side fought their way into a strong position, however, through impressive innings from Niroshan Dickwella and Dilruwan Perera.

By shortly after lunch, Anderson, the 38-year-old seamer playing his 157th Test, had doubled his tally from the first day, adding three more wickets to help end Sri Lanka’s innings on 381 and finish with figures of 6 for 40 off 29 overs.

They were important wickets, too, as he removed centurion Angelo Mathews with his sixth ball on day two and denied Dickwella an elusive Test century. Dickwella gifted Anderson his five-for, chipping to Jack Leach at mid-off for 92, his highest score in 41 Test appearances. Anderson then drew Suranga Lakmal into a poke outside off-stump and Zak Crawley took a sharp catch at gully.

It was Anderson’s second straight five-wicket haul in Tests away from home, following his 5 for 40 in Cape Town a year ago, and the 30th of his career – only Richard Hadlee has more among pace bowlers with 36.

Still, Sri Lanka’s performance represented further improvement with multiple contributors and a stubborn tail. Dilruwan made an impressive fifty from No. 8, taking to Leach in particular, dancing down the pitch three times to plunder fours through mid-on and mid-off and a six down the ground. He helped add 89 in partnership with Dickwella and then another 49 for the last two wickets to frustrate England.

Anderson picked up where he left off the night before but, where Mathews could not, Dickwella stepped up to keep Sri Lanka in an engaging tussle through the morning session.

Mathews added just three runs to his overnight score before a subdued England appealed for what appeared to be lbw, with the ball appearing to pass the inside edge and deflecting via the knee roll to Jos Buttler behind the stumps. Mathews was originally given not out but Joe Root called for a review and UltraEdge revealed a spike as the ball passed the bat to end Mathews’ fine innings and give Anderson his fourth wicket for the match.

Anderson continued in miserly fashion, conceding just five runs from his four-over spell.

Dickwella, meanwhile, shifted gears into drive, quite literally at times, as he assumed the lead upon debutant Ramesh Mendis’ arrival at the crease. Dickwella unfurled a series of well-timed boundaries, carving Sam Curran through backward point and punching Mark Wood through long-on.

A fantastic take by Buttler had Mendis out for a duck, a faint edge off Wood going down the leg side and finding Buttler’s glove at full stretch to his left.

Sri Lanka had lost two wickets for 11 runs in the space of 19 balls but Dickwella remained in excellent touch, piercing the covers with two beautiful drives, first off Wood then Anderson. He used Wood’s pace to guide the ball effortlessly to the rope at fine leg before bringing up his fifty with a single off Dom Bess, whom he then swept twice to the boundary.

Leach joined Bess in the attack as England opted for dual spinners after the first hour, to Perera’s delight. Bess was also on the receiving end of some harsh Perera treatment after lunch, spilling a return catch struck so hard it caused considerable pain to Bess’s non-bowling hand.

The spinners went wicketless as Wood’s hard graft was further rewarded with the wicket of Lasith Embuldeniya and Curran finally accounted for last man out Perera, who holed out to Leach at deep backward square leg.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Badgers’ third period rally falls short against Penn State

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After falling behind by three goals in the first period, the Wisconsin Badgers rallied late, but fell short in a 5-4 loss to Penn State on Friday night.

The Badgers pulled within one goal twice in the third, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

Dylan Holloway got the Badgers on the board in the second period, but Penn State restored its three-goal lead, scoring a few minutes later to make it 4-1.

Roman Ahcan scored halfway through the third period and Ty Pelton-Byce brought the Badgers within one at 12:02.

Penn State took advantage of an open net and regained their two-goal lead before Cole Caufield added a goal in the final minute of the game.

Cameron Rowe made 13 saves in net for the Badgers, while Robbie Beydoun, who entered the game in the first period, ended the night with 21 saves.

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Olympic Football Tournaments 2020 – Men – News – Ripoll: France’s youngsters are gifted, dependable and committed


Men’s Olympic Football Tournament

© imago images

  • Men’s Olympic Football Tournament kicks off in exactly six months
  • We talk to Sylvain Ripoll, coach of France’s Espoirs (U-21) team
  • “I’m part of a generation that dreamed of going to the Olympics”

This Friday 22 January marks six months to the day before the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament kicks off in Tokyo. The tournament will see France back on the Olympic stage 25 years after reaching the quarter-finals at the Atlanta Games in 1996.

So what has caused such a prolonged absence from the Olympics? “I can’t give you an exact answer, since I wasn’t there,” says Sylvain Ripoll, coach of the France Espoirs (U-21) team since 2017. “Qualification for such a prestigious competition is always on a national federation’s wish-list, but for some reason we’ve been unsuccessful in recent times. In any case, we’re delighted to be back with the French team in a major tournament like the Olympics,” said the 49-year-old strategist.

“I’m part of a generation that dreamed of the Olympics – just talking about it always makes our eyes light up,” says the man who was not yet 13 when Les Bleus won gold at Los Angeles 1984. “And I think it’s the same with my players,” he adds. “It generates so many memories and great moments that just being part of it is bound to be an honour.”

The France football team pictured wearing their gold medals

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For now, though, it is still too early to be focusing on Tokyo, with tournaments looming before then both for the U-21s and senior team. “We have the EURO (11 June-11 July) taking place shortly before the Olympic Tournament (22 July-7 August), so one event will influence the other. Before that, there’s the European U-21 Championship, which we’ve qualified for, starting in March in Hungary and ending in June. So, the best thing we can do is to deal with those in the order they come.”

There is no point then in Ripoll looking too far ahead or contemplating which three players over the age of 23 he might include in his squad for Japan, as permitted under the rules of men’s tournament. “Logically, the priority will always be the France senior team,” says the Rennes native, who was nevertheless amenable to remarks last year by Kylian Mbappe, who expressed his desire to take part in the Tokyo Olympics. “We can only rejoice that we have a player in France of the calibre of Mbappe who thinks this way.”

An insatiable talent scout, Ripoll carefully monitors a good 60 players, including 20 who play abroad. He works closely with France’s World Cup-winning coach Didier Deschamps, who is always looking for new blood to energise his squad. “Didier and I talk a lot about the Espoirs’ potential to establish themselves into the senior team. You need to be performing regularly at the highest level for some time to break into the senior side, whereas with the Espoirs, that process can happen much more quickly,” he explains.

France coach Sylvain Ripoll looks on Serravalle 21-06-2019 Stadio San Marino Stadium Football UEFA Under 21 Championship Italy 2019 Group Stage - Final Tournament Group C France - Croatia.

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“Didier and his staff keep a very close eye on the Espoirs and watch a lot of their matches. We talk a lot about the players’ mentality, commitment and potential,” adds Ripoll, who takes immense pride in seeing one of his young players called up. He also regularly talks with the selectors of the younger age-category teams to try to progress the most promising talents through the ranks.

If we add to the mix the exemption that allows the inclusion of the 1997 generation that was eligible for the postponed Olympics last summer, then there will be a particularly large group to choose from when deciding on the final squad for Tokyo.

For all that, Ripoll already has grounds to be satisfied with his current crop. “This is the second generation I’ve been in charge of since I arrived four years ago. Apart from being gifted, which has been the case for many years in France, given our enormous reservoir of talent, I find them to be very dependable and committed. For now, I feel my players are very focused on their goals, and I hope that remains the case,” says the coach, whose aim is not to assemble only a squad of big names for Tokyo.

“There are a lot of criteria that come into play when you put together a squad for a tournament like this. There are performances, of course, but the priority is to have the best possible squad, which doesn’t always mean you only take the best players. We have to assess how squad members complement each other and perform together.”

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