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For the uninitiated who tuned in to see Vergil Ortiz Jr. ply his trade against Samuel Vargas in an empty Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, it took little time to see why Ortiz is considered the top prospect in boxing. Ortiz battered the gutsy Vargas before the referee was forced to step in and call a merciful halt to the bout just before the conclusion of the seventh round.

Wearing trunks sporting the name of Travell Mazion, who died in a car crash earlier this week at the age of 24, Ortiz (16-0, 16 KOs) looked to dial in his left hand, popping stiff jabs and cracking left hooks to open up a heavy straight right hand that parted the gloves of Vargas. The crisp attack left Vargas off-balance, ineffective and bloodied.

Vargas (31-6-2, 14 KOs) , a rugged veteran, tried to pressure in the second round, attempting to push Ortiz to the ropes and work the body. But moving past the jab of Ortiz remained a puzzle Vargas was incapable of figuring out.

Ortiz remained committed to his powerful jab, snapping Vargas’ head back round after round, patiently waiting for Vargas missteps to allow openings for blistering right hands. One such opening came in Round 4, with Ortiz blitzing Vargas with overhand rights and crisp left hooks, buckling Vargas’ legs as punch after punch landed clean to the head. Vargas managed to clinch before ending the round trading shots in a fire fight. Vargas managed his best round of the fight in Round 5, pressuring Ortiz and landing his own combinations on the prospect. 

A Vargas comeback was not in the books, however, and Ortiz poured on the damage in Round 7. Ortiz pummeled Vargas, sending blood flying from his mouth with every shot. With Vargas all but out, he resorted to tackling Ortiz to the canvas. Vargas tried to fight on. He demanded Ortiz hit him, an order Ortiz was more than happy to fill, landing shot after shot until referee Jack Reiss stepped in to sop the fight seconds before the seventh round came to a close. The official time of the stoppage was 2:58 of Round 7.

After the fight, Ortiz graded his performance “a solid B+,” and called for a fight with some of the toughest welterweights in the game.

“I would like to fight someone like Danny Garcia or [Keith] Thurman,” Ortiz said. “I believe those are very good fighters that I can beat. Let’s make the fights happen. I don’t think 100 percent that I’ll win those fights, but that’s the point of boxing. I’m not here to take the easy fights. I’m content with being in the hardest division in boxing. That’s how I know when I win a world title, I earned it.”



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After season-opening loss, K-State looks to bounce back with upset of Sooners

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Last year, Oklahoma wasn’t fully focused on Kansas State.

After the Sooners left Manhattan with a stunning loss that nearly cost them a shot at the College Football Playoff, there will be no such problem this year. Third-ranked Oklahoma will host the Wildcats on Saturday in the Big 12 opener for both teams.

“I think the concern stems from me turning on the film from a year ago and watching us get completely outplayed by that program,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said. “And so, it took all of one game to earn complete respect for that coaching staff and how they play.”

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler remembers how the Sooners fell behind by 18 points and rallied before losing 48-41.

“That was a tough game for us,” Rattler said. “We went in there, we didn’t execute on all the levels we wanted to but … so what, now what? We’ve got to move on, improve on what we had to improve on. And so we’re getting ready to get a shot at them again this year.”

Two weeks ago, Rattler passed for 290 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start to help Oklahoma beat Missouri State. He left an impression on Kansas State coach Chris Klieman.

“He does a great job of reading defenses, looking people off and knowing where he’s going with the football,” Klieman said. “He’s an extremely good athlete. They didn’t run him or need to run him much against Missouri State, but I know from doing some research that he can beat you with his feet as well as his arm. I know he’s a young player, but I’ve been so impressed with his skillset.”

Kansas State’s season got off to a rough start — Arkansas State scored with less than a minute remaining to shock the Wildcats two weeks ago. So as big an upset as last year’s win over Oklahoma was for Kansas State, doing it this year would be an even bigger surprise.

“They’re a really good football team, and we, after one game, showed that we have a long way to go, so that makes sense to me,” Klieman said. “You still have to line up and play. We have to not worry about who the opponent is, and we know who it is, and more focus on us getting better at all areas offensively and defensively.”

THOMPSON’S INJURY

Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson suffered an undisclosed injury against Arkansas State, but Klieman said he should be available.

“He didn’t do anything last week other than rehab and things,” Klieman said. “He did practice yesterday, and I thought he felt really good. So, I’m confident that, with a week of practice, that he’ll be at full strength for Saturday.”

Thompson passed for 213 yards and rushed for four touchdowns in last year’s game against the Sooners.

BATTLING COVID-19

Both teams nearly weren’t able to play their openers.

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley confirmed after the Missouri State game that the game was in jeopardy because of the team’s COVID-19 cases.

Klieman said Kansas State’s game against Arkansas State game was in doubt, too.

“It was Friday at five o’clock where we finally got the go ahead to play because we were one player at one position from having to cancel that game. And we’re not the only ones, there’s a lot of people.”

RUNNING GAME

Oklahoma gained just 124 yards on 35 carries in the opener.

The Sooners were missing running back T.J. Pledger and several offensive linemen against Missouri State. Anton Harrison, a true freshman who was slated to start at left tackle against Missouri State, did not play.

Riley said the offensive line should be getting closer to normal this week.

“Hope to have a few more options and guys available, and even the potential to play multiple guys throughout the game, which is something that when at full strength we’d like to be able to do,” he said. “Obviously that’s going to depend on week to week and how these guys perform and certainly how these COVID tests go.”

ANOTHER WIN

Klieman acknowledges that last year’s win over Oklahoma was significant, but he has been a winner for years — he won four national titles in five years at FCS power North Dakota State before taking over at Kansas State last season.

“It was obviously a big win because it was a home win, it was on Homecoming and those things,” he said. “I guess I don’t ever really look at that as far as where it ranks. I don’t have a tally on my wall or anything of where things are at. I kind of just play it year-by-year and game-by-game.”

SOONER DEFENSE

Oklahoma’s defense has been criticized for years. For now, it ranks among the nation’s best.

That’s in part because the Sooners have only played one game — against FCS program Missouri State.

But numbers are numbers, and they look good so far for the Sooners under Grinch. The Sooners lead the nation in scoring defense and total defense, rank second in pass defense and are fourth in rushing defense.



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Jermall Charlo pursues recognition as a top middleweight in title defense against Sergiy Derevyanchenko

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In the three years since he vacated his 154-pound title and moved up to middleweight, Jermall Charlo has chased the recognition of being considered the best in the world at his weight class, which can only come by defeating the truly elite. 

Despite scoring a trio of impressive knockouts and even capturing the WBC title through five appearances at 160 pounds, Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs) had largely been a population of one on his own middleweight island. Any cries or callouts for the best in the world at his division to come face him largely fell on deaf ears because of his standing on the wrong side of the street within boxing’s promotional and political sphere. 

What didn’t help was that in Charlo’s most critically acclaimed bout to date (in terms of his opponent’s standing — a 2018 title defense against former champion Matvey Korobov) he ended it with a decision some felt Korobov should’ve won. 

Yet as he enters the biggest and most difficult fight of his career on Saturday (Showtime PPV, 7 p.m. ET) against former two-time title challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KOs), Charlo finally gets a shot to quiet all the extraneous talk about how good he is or how his resume compares by defeating a fighter who might be the best kept secret in the entire sport. 

“Fighters like Canelo [Alvarez], [Daniel] Jacobs, [Gennadiy] Golovkin; all those fighters on the big stage, I’ll be there soon,” Charlo said. “Hopefully, a victory over Derevyanchenko will open up the eyes of the division and they’ll get a chance to see who the real deal is. I’m coming. 

“No fighter Jermall Charlo fights will ever be the same after we fight. Derevyanchenko wants to be a big bully but if he doesn’t step back, we are going to fight fire with fire.”

Respect box? Subscribe to our podcast — State of Combat with Brian Campbell — where we take an in-depth look at the world of boxing each week, including a complete breakdown of Showtime’s PPV doubleheader with Rafe Bartholomew below.

While Charlo’s impressive combination of size, speed, power and athleticism has long helped him pass the eye test as a fighter poised for stardom, the challenge that Derevyanchenko brings as a tough, crafty and aggressive fighter is one he has needed all along. 

Derevyanchenko, a 34-year-old Ukranian with a decorated amateur background, pushed both Jacobs and Golovkin to the limit in recent years despite coming up short in close decisions. While his split-decision defeat to Jacobs felt deserved during a close fight in which Derevyanchenko was dropped early, his ability to rally back to hurt Golovkin in their all-action brawl seemed like it was deserving of the judges’ nod. 

“Derevyanchenko is a come-forward fighter. He’s going to bring a lot of power and speed with good technical skills,” Charlo said. “He calls himself ‘The Technician’ but we’ll see how technical he is once I start putting my jab in his face. I’m going to use all my natural skills in this fight.”

Charlo will co-headline this weekend’s pay-per-view card along with his 30-year-old twin brother Jermell, who faces fellow junior middleweight champion Jeison Rosario in a unification. But one thing Jermall, the older brother by one minute, has stressed throughout the build that he and his brother might not be long for the game after all. 

With a growing business outside the ring throughout their #LionsOnly branding, Charlo knows it’s time to make the career-defining fights now while he’s in his physical prime and believes Derevyanchenko will be his ticket to get there regardless of promotional entanglements. 

“After I win this fight, the sky is the limit. I know people will respect me a lot more after this,” Charlo said. “This fight is another big stepping stone toward even bigger fights to come. I’m telling those other middleweights to buckle your seatbelts. It’s lift off. Everyone that doubted me, everyone who wants a chance, you’ll get your turn. I’m running the show. You just stay locked in.

“We don’t have too much longer to be doing this. Where are the rest of the belts at? I’m ready. Watch me Saturday night because I’m making this statement loud for everyone who doubted me.”



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IPL 2020 – KKR vs MI

Kolkata Knight Riders captain Dinesh Karthik finds it extremely “unfair” that his premier pacer Pat Cummins is being criticised after just one bad performance in IPL 2020.

Cummins, who only completed his mandatory quarantine two hours prior to the match, conceded 49 runs in three wicketless overs. Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai Indians captain, was particularly severe on the Australia pacer as Mumbai posted 195 in his team’s 49-run victory.

“It is very unfair to judge him (Cummins) right now,” Karthik said on Wednesday night. “He is just off quarantine, he got permission to come and play the match itself at 3.30-4pm. We are just happy to have him and I don’t think this is a game where we need to judge him at all.”

Karthik termed Cummins a “champion bowler” who will come good during the season. “Just the fact that he is a world champion bowler, from whatever I have heard and seen he is one of the best going around in the world,” he said. “I trust him and I’m sure, he will come good.”

The best bowler for Knight Riders was young Shivam Mavi, who is returning to top-flight cricket from a stress fracture. The Uttar Pradesh fast bowler picked up the wickets of Rohit and Quinton de Kock, finishing with 2 for 32 in his four overs. These were the most economical figures among those who completed their full quota for the Knight Riders.

“Upfront he (Mavi) was very good,” Karthik said. The poor guy missed out due to an injury last year and he is looking forward to this competition and he is shaping up well and that’s a good sign for KKR.”

Karthik also said the decision to have Andre Russell come in at No. 6 was strategic. When Russell walked in to bat in the 12th over, Knight Riders needed 118 off 50 balls.

“I think it is a strategy because it is done universally, because it is not easy for a bowler to bowl consistently to left-hander and a right-hander,” he said. “Even if they get their line a little wrong, it could go for runs. Because we have the advantage of doing that, sometimes we tend to do that.”

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