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In nothing short of a “Rocky” movie fight come to life, junior welterweight contenders Jose Zepeda and Ivan Baranchyk combined to delight boxing fans with eight knockdowns over five rounds in what will undoubtedly be the fight of the year. 

Zepeda (33-2, 26 KOs) rose from the canvas in Round 5 to savagely knock Baranchyk (20-2, 13 KOs) out cold with a two-punch combination in the main event of a Top Rank cad from the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Referee Kenny Bayless waved off the fight without a count at 2:50 to end one of the best slugfests this century. 

The 27-year-old Baranchyk, who previously held the IBF junior welterweight title, ate a right hand followed by a left hook to set up the savage finish. The native of Russia appeared to be already knocked out as he fell backward when he hit the back his head hard on the canvas as his right leg was pinned behind him. 

Baranchyk stayed down in the center of the ring without moving for an extended period of time while undergoing medical attention before eventually walking under his own power. He was immediately taken to the hospital. 

In the biggest victory to date of his career, the 31-year-old Zepeda got up off the deck four times in total before winning by knockout. A native of southern California, Zepeda became the mandatory challenger for Jose Ramirez’s WBC title just 20 months after Zepeda dropped a disputed majority decision to him in their first meeting. 

“I know I’m tough, I didn’t how tough I was,” Zepeda said. “Tonight, I showed and I showed myself too. This was the first time I was in a fight like this and it was a great learning experience.” 

Just how close was this all-action affair in which both fighters slug for the fences from the opening round? Zepeda outlanded Baranchyk by a margin of 64 to 63 in total punches, according to CompuBox. Of the combined 140 total punches landed over five rounds, 127 of them were power shots. 

“I feel great because I won the fight,” Zepeda said. “It was a hard fight. I’m thinking, ‘Man, boxing is hard. It’s no easy game.’ Boxing is tough and you have to give it 100 percent. It’s a hard sport and probably the hardest sport.”I told him thank you for the opportunity. Both of us were climbing up and somebody had to stay. I was able to win the fight and I said, ‘Thanks for the fight.'”

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Zepeda, who won his third straight since the loss to Ramirez, looked like he might get finished early after getting dropped twice in the opening round by the hard-punching Baranchyk. But the fight began to reach epic levels in Round 2. 

Shortly after Bayless ruled what appeared to be a knockdown of Baranchyk as merely a slip, Zepeda sent him down for real with a stiff counter shot. But Baranchyk dusted himself off to regain the momentum by dramatically dropping Zepeda later in the round. 

Just when it looked to be anyone’s fight, that’s when Zepeda began to settle in by relying on his craft as the more technical fighter to land first when the two traded flurries. He dropped Baranchyk one time each in Rounds 3 and 4 as the buzz for the instant classic that was brewing started to swirl on social media. 

But just as more viewers began to tune in and take notice, Round 5 secured the fight’s status as one of the most dramatic to date. Zepeda was hurt by the same looping left hook that Baranchyk had success with the whole fight. Bayless ruled it a knockdown as the ropes appeared to prevent Zepeda from going down. 

After Zepeda cleared the cob webs and got his legs back, he landed the stiff combination to end the fight. 

“To be honest, I have to watch the fight again but I [was] thinking just to believe in myself,” Zepeda said while re-watching the knockout. “There are two guys in there giving their all and I think at the end of the day, it’s which fighter wants it more. 

“It happens to me all the time in every fight and I doubt myself too much. I’m a fighter who only had 16 amateur fights. I’m always doubting myself and this was tough.”

ESPN color commentator and former two-division champion Timothy Bradley Jr. was so moved by the weight, bringing back visions of his own 2013 war against Ruslan Provodnikov, that he summed up how humble he felt to call the fight from ringside.

“Just watching this let me know that I got out of my career at the right time,” Bradley said.

Zepeda led 37-35 on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.



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BBL 2020-21 – Mohammad Nabi’s versatility lauded as he returns to Melbourne Renegades

Afghanistan allrounder Mohammad Nabi will return as one of Melbourne Renegades’ overseas players for the BBL.

Nabi, who is the No.1-ranked T20I allrounder, has been part of three previous campaigns for the Renegades: in 27 matches he has scored 476 runs at a strike-rate of 130.76 and has taken 21 wickets with an economy rate of 7.17.

He is the second signing for the Renegades in recent days following the return of James Pattinson from the Brisbane Heat. They have lost Dan Christian (Sydney Sixers), Tom Cooper and Jack Wildermuth (both Brisbane Heat) as they look to rebuild the squad having finished bottom last season following the title-winning 2018-19 season.

Nabi is also the first overseas player from outside of England to be confirmed for this year’s BBL. ESPNcricinfo revealed earlier this week that teams will be able to have three overseas players in their XI instead of the previous two.

“Nabi’s versatility makes him a very valuable member of our team. He can bat and bowl in a number of different situations and he reads the game so well,” Renegades coach Michael Klinger said. “We’ll again be looking for Nabi to play a key role in our middle order and he’ll be called upon to bowl some important overs.”

Current Renegades squad: Cameron Boyce, Zak Evans, Aaron Finch (capt), Jake Fraser-McGurk, Sam Harper, Marcus Harris, Mackenzie Harvey, Jon Holland, Shaun Marsh, Mohammad Nabi, James Pattinson, Kane Richardson, Will Sutherland, Beau Webster.

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Ranking Wisconsin’s 2020 Big Ten opponents

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Well, we are getting Big Ten football in 2020, even if it looks a bit different.

After the Big Ten’s original 10-game conference season was postponed, the conference will play football the fall of 2020 in the form of an eight-game schedule. It will remain an all-conference slate and each team will play a ninth game against its divisional counterpart (No. 1 in West vs. No. 1 in East, No. 2 in West vs. No. 2 in East, and so on) on Dec. 19.

The Badgers lost a number of key players from last year, including linebacker Zack Baun, center Tyler Biadasz, wide receiver Quintez Cephus and running back Jonathan Taylor, all taken in the NFL draft, and will start redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz after incumbent Jack Coan suffered a foot injury in preseason practice. Still, this is not the first time Wisconsin has lost key contributors to the draft or had uncertainty at QB in the Paul Chryst era. Expect a stout defense once again and for running backs Garrett Groshek and Nakia Watson to get significant work out of the backfield.

As far as its 2020 schedule, Wisconsin will miss Ohio State and Penn State – two of the best teams in the conference – in the regular season. The Badgers were originally supposed to play Maryland and Rutgers in its 10-game schedule but is now scheduled to only play Michigan and Indiana from the East division.

Here’s how Wisconsin’s 2020 Big Ten opponents shake out, in order of easiest to hardest.

 

  1. Purdue (home, Nov. 7)

Last matchup: Wisconsin defeated Purdue 45-24 at home last season.

Wide receiver Rondale Moore originally decided to opt out but will now play in 2020. That will certainly help Purdue and sophomore signal caller Jack Plummer, who was very average as a freshman, throwing for 1,603 yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions in seven games. The Boilermakers do have incredible defensive end George Karlaftis but it is not like this is one of the better rosters in the conference.

 

  1. Northwestern (away, Nov. 21)

Last matchup: Wisconsin defeated Northwestern 24-15 at home last season.

The Wildcats were absolutely putrid in 2019. There is no other way to put it. However, considering the recent success Pat Fitzgerald has brought to the program, one can expect Northwestern to bounce back to at least a .500 level. Fitzgerald’s Wildcats almost always have a good defense and Indiana grad transfer quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who started seven games and completed 68% of his passes for 2,454 yards with 13 touchdowns and five picks for the Hoosier in 2019, should make the offense respectable.

 

  1. Illinois (home, Oct. 23)

Last matchup: Illinois defeated Wisconsin 24-23 in Champaign, Ill., last season.

The Illini were feisty last season as Badgers fans know all too well. With quarterback Brandon Peters returning for his redshirt senior season there is no reason to think Illinois won’t be a tough out in 2020. Last season Peters threw for 1,884 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight picks and ran for 213 yards and three scores, so if he can improve on those numbers then Illinois will be an even tougher out.

 

  1. Nebraska (away, Oct. 31)

Last matchup: Wisconsin defeated Nebraska 37-21 on the road last season.

Is this the year for Scott Frost and Nebraska? With new offensive coordinator Matt Lubick, it could be what Adrian Martinez (10 TD,  9 INT) needs to improve after his disappointing sophomore season. The Huskers will also need their defense (27.8 points, 388.8 yards per game allowed in 2019) to take a step up if they want to compete in a real way.

 

  1. Indiana (home, Dec. 5)

Last matchup: Wisconsin defeated Indiana 45-17 on the road in 2017.

These isn’t your father’s Indiana football team! Coming off an 8-5 season and a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten East, the Hoosiers are not the easy out they used to be. Tom Allen’s squad won eight games for the first time since 1993 and a big part of it was because of dynamic quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who threw for 1,394 yards and 10 touchdowns while completing 68.8% of his throws. He will be back for his redshirt sophomore year after playing just six games in 2019, so it will be interesting to see how a healthier and more experienced Penix performs in this shortened season.

 

  1. Iowa (away, Dec. 12)

Last matchup: Wisconsin defeated Iowa 24-22 at home last season.

The Hawkeyes will probably have the same type of hardnosed, giant-killer type team that they usually do in 2020. They will lean on ball control and good defense, which will be extra important for them this season with Nate Stanley now off to the NFL. Iowa limited opposing teams to 308.5 total yards and 14 points per game (fifth-best in the nation) but lost A.J. Epenesa, Michael Ojemudia and Geno Stone in the 2020 NFL draft. If it can overcome their absences on defense then the Hawkeyes should be in good shape regardless of who is under center.

 

  1. Michigan (away, Nov. 14)

Last matchup: Wisconsin defeated Michigan 35-14 at home last season.

Michigan will have to replace Shea Patterson but the Wolverines return talented skill position players, including running back Zach Charbonnet and wide receiver Ronnie Bell. That should make things easier for whomever wins the starting quarterback job. Michigan should have a good defense once again even though it lost some players to the NFL, including linebacker Josh Uche in the second round. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis is also in his second season with the Wolverines, so Michigan’s offense should operate better in its second year in the system.

 

  1. Minnesota (home, Nov. 28)

Last matchup: Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 38-17 on the road last season.

If wide receiver Rashod Bateman had decided to opt out for the entire season then the Gophers would not be at the top of this list. But he chose to come back, which means the Gophers will have the best receiver Wisconsin plays in the regular season and Tanner Morgan, who is arguably the best quarterback it will go up against. Bateman is an excellent deep threat, catching 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns last season (20.3 yards per catch), so him being back for 2020 will open things up for a high-powered Minnesota offense that has continuity and also returns running back Mohamed Ibrahim (5.3 yards per carry).



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Boxing schedule for 2020: Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz, Aleksandr Usyk vs. Dereck Chisora on tap

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After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down boxing, a series of Top Rank shows “in the bubble” in Las Vegas kickstarted the sport’s comeback. While those cards lacked top-tier names and championship fights, the boxing calendar is now filling with big fights, highlighted by a series of PBC events on Showtime and Showtime pay-per-view.

Jermell and Jermall Charlo showed why they are two of the best boxers in the world in September with wins over Jeison Rosario and Serigy Derevyanchenko during a Showtime PPV doubleheader. The duo have just one loss combined to their resumes and it was avenged. 

Then in October, we saw a new unified lightweight champion crowned as Teofimo Lopez Jr. shocked many with his unanimous decision win over pound-for-pound great Vasiliy Lomachenko. There’s still more action to be had in October, however, as Gervonta Davis returns when he faces off with Leo Santa Cruz on Showtime PPV on Oct. 31. Plus, heavyweight Aleksandr Usyk and bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue also fight on Halloween.

Then there’s the super exhibition everyone is talking about in November. Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. are set to face off in an exhibition match on Nov. 28 in California. The bout was originally expected to take place on Sept. 12, but has been delayed, according to reports. While many of the details are still to be determined, seeing a pair of former champions mixed it up in their 50s will be worth the PPV price.

Below is a running list of boxing main events for the 2020 year.

Note: This will be updated constantly with changes and additions.

Oct. 24Uncasville, ConnecticutSergey Lipinets vs. Custio ClaytonIBF interim welterweight titleShowtime
Oct. 31EnglandAleksandr Usyk vs. Dereck ChisoraHeavyweightsDAZN
Oct. 31Uncasville, ConnecticutGervonta Davis (c) vs. Leo Santa Cruz (c)WBA lightweight and WBA junior lightweight titlesShowtime PPV
Oct. 31Las VegasNaoya Inoue (c) vs. Jason MoloneyIBF, Ring bantamweight titlesESPN+
Nov. 21TBAAlexander Povetkin vs. Dillian WhyteHeavyweightsDAZN
Nov. 27Kansas City, MissoriVaughn Alexander vs. DeAndre NealSuper middleweightsCBSSN
Nov. 28LondonDaniel Dubois vs. Joe JoyceHeavyweightsTBD
Nov. 28Uncasville, ConnecticutChris Colbert vs. Jaime ArboledaJunior lightweightsShowtime
Nov. 28Los AngelesMike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. Heavyweight exhibitionTriller PPV
Dec. 5TBDLuke Campbell vs. Ryan GarciaInterim WBC lightweight titleDAZN
Dec. 5Dallas, TexasErrol Spence (c) vs. Danny GarciaUnified welterweight titlesFox PPV
Dec. 12LondonAnthony Joshua (c) vs. Kubrat PulevUnified heavyweight titlesDAZN
Dec. 12Uncasville, ConnecticutNordine Oubaali (c) vs. Nonito DonaireWBC bantamweight titleShowtime



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