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Anthony Joshua will return to the ring for the first time in more than a year on Saturday, defending his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight world titles against Kubrat Pulev. It’s a fight that could move boxing one step closer to a clash that unifies all four recognized heavyweight championships and caps off a resurgence of the heavyweight division.

Joshua has, like so many others, been sidelined from action by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, waiting for a safe spot to step back into the ring and defend the titles he regained from Andy Ruiz Jr. in December 2019 after Ruiz shocked Joshua the previous June. The time has now come, and Joshua will battle Pulev at SSE Arena in Wembley, London, England, with 1,000 fans in attendance.

While Joshua is a heavy favorite to retain his championships, there’s a lot riding on this fight — for Joshua as well as boxing as a whole.

Here are three things to know heading into the unified heavyweight championship battle between Joshua and Pulev.

1. Pulev win could kill undisputed championship hopes

While it may seem logical that Pulev would step into Joshua’s spot in a unification bout with Fury should he pull off the upset, nothing in boxing is that simple. Joshua’s rematch clause means the two would run it back,  just as Joshua had with Ruiz after that upset. Now, here’s where it gets complicated. Oleksandr Usyk has been the WBO mandatory challenger since moving up from cruiserweight, though he has not been in a rush to enforce his standing as he adjusts to his new weight class. That will change in 2021, according to Usyk co-promoter Alexander Krassyuk.

“Hopefully (Usyk) will be ready to return in April 2021, and hopefully AJ will be around to comply with WBO mandatory regulations,” Krassyuk told Sky Sports. “If not, we will be fighting for the vacant WBO title with a contender appointed by WBO. … The thing I can make really clear is that we will be pushing hard to put our mandatory position in effect.”

If Pulev wins and Joshua enforces his rematch clause, Usyk enforcing his mandatory status would leave Pulev unable to fulfill that obligation due to his contractual duties to the Joshua rematch. That means Pulev could get stripped of the WBO title so Usyk could fight for it. Once that happens, an undisputed heavyweight champion moves from possibility to dream. With a win, Joshua could defend his belts against Usyk in early 2021 and face Fury to unify all four recognized world championships in the back half of the year.

2. Joshua loss would also derail the fight

Everyone knows the most anticipated fight in the heavyweight division is a showdown between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. Fury appears to be more or less wide open after the trilogy fight with Deontay Wilder seems to have fallen apart as he’ll take a tune-up fight and continue on his intended path to fight Joshua in one of his final handful of bouts before retiring. Just like the risk to Joshua’s legacy against Pulev, the opportunity to receive — and possibly win — a fight with Fury would be an opportunity to stake a claim as a true great.

Getting to a Fury fight is the true story of the bout with Pulev. Any stumble and … well, as Top Rank promoter Bob Arum recently said, “If Pulev beats Joshua, there’s no Joshua fight for Tyson Fury because Joshua has a rematch clause. At that point, Fury is out there looking for opponents and I’d think the best available opponent would be Wilder.” 

Fury vs. Joshua sure sounds more appealing than Joshua vs. Pulev II and Fury vs. Wilder III, especially after Wilder’s increasingly unhinged conspiracy theory-laced excuses for his one-sided loss in the February fight with Fury.

3. Joshua’s legacy is on the line

Joshua is a heavy favorite at -1000 coming into the fight. That’s not quite the -2000 to -3000 odds from when he stepped into the ring for his first fight with Andy Ruiz, but these are some long odds, regardless. Being the guy who loses twice as a massive favorite is a hard thing to live down going forward. Mike Tyson lost two of the biggest upsets in boxing history when he was defeated by Buster Douglas and Evander Holyfield. 

Joshua, even as a massive star in England, is not the kind of cultural force that Tyson was. Joshua suffering those same level of defeats wouldn’t be viewed as an intriguing part of a wild story, but as a reason to wipe Joshua forever from discussions of all-time great heavyweights. Heavyweights run a tremendous risk of losing by knockout simply by the amount of power in the ring. Lennox Lewis has a pair of ugly losses on his record — though the Oliver McCall loss wasn’t quite on the same level of upset as others mentioned. But if Joshua gets knocked out by Pulev, that would be two brutal losses in a short timeframe, and it would be hard to see Joshua being taken seriously as a major player again any time soon.

Will Joshua continue on and claim a place in history as one of the greatest heavyweights of his era (or even all time), or will he become an all-time boxing punchline? That’s a lot of weight to put on a fighter, but fighting is a brutal business not only in physicality but in long-term evaluation.

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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

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  • 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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Boxing schedule for 2021: Canelo Alvarez vs. Avni Yildirim, Angelo Leo vs. Stephen Fulton on tap


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After a tumultuous 2020 that saw many major fights canceled or postponed, boxing is ready to head into 2021. As many champions and pound-for-pound elites hung on the sidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic, boxing missed out on some big-time fights. However, as the year went out, fighters slowly started to trickle back into the ring, albeit not against the competition we would like to see.

But with guys like Anthony Joshua, Terence Crawford, Errol Spence, Canelo Alvarez and GGG all getting in some tune-up fights, things are looking bright for 2021. And things got rolling with a strong start from Ryan Garcia, who rallied from an early knockdown to stop Luke Campbell and claim the interim WBC lightweight title. Garcia, along with Gervonta “Tank” Davis, Teofimo Lopez and Devin Haney are setting up the prospects of some tasty matchups over the next 12 months in the 135-pound division.

Now as we head into the early part of the year, there’s a plethora of big fights on the books already. IBF super middleweight champion Caleb Plant is set to take on Caleb Truax at the close of January in his first action in nearly a year. Plus, Canelo Alvarez will make his return to the ring rather quickly when he takes on mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Alvarez is hoping to fight three times this year and could be on a path to facing Plant down the road now that he’s a promotional free agent.

Below is a running list of boxing main events for the 2021 year.

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

Jan. 23Uncasville, ConnecticutAngelo Leo (c) vs. Stephen FultonWBO junior featherweight titleShowtime
Jan. 30Los AngelesCaleb Plant (c) vs. Caleb TruaxIBF super middleweight titleFOX
Feb. 13Indio, CaliforniaJoseph Diaz (c) vs. Shavkatdzhon RakhimovIBF junior lightweight titleDAZN
Feb. 20TBAAdrien Broner vs. TBAJunior welterweightsTBA
Feb. 20Las VegasMiguel Berchelt (c) vs. Oscar ValdezWBC junior lightweight titleESPN
Feb. 27Miami Gardens, FloridaCanelo Alvarez (c) vs. Avni YildirimWBC super middleweight titleDAZN
Feb. 27LondonJamel Herring (c) vs. Carl FramptonWBO junior lightweight titleESPN+
March 5TBAClaressa Shields (c) vs. Marie-Eve Dicaire (c)Super welterweight unificationPPV
March 6TBAAlexander Povetkin (c) vs. Dillian WhyteWBC “interim” heavyweight titleDAZN
March 13TBAJuan Francisco Estrada vs. ‘Chocolatito’ GonzalezSuper flyweight unificationDAZN
March 20MoscowArtur Beterbiev (c) vs. Adam DeinesWBC, IBF light heavyweight titlesESPN

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