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Let’s face it, 2020 was an exploding dumpster fire for just about everyone’s best-laid plans. 

Rare is the person or entity that actually thrived this calendar year outside of possibly mask manufacturers, the creators of Zoom and UFC president Dana White. 

It’s the latter reference that is most appropriate by comparison for the purpose of this column. UFC, thanks to the boldness of White and the control the promotion has on matchmaking and its participants, was able to produce a year for the ages despite a steady stream of hurdles along the way. 

What White and company were able to do was impressive and, in many ways, set a blueprint for things such as safety protocols and quarantine bubbles, which were copied and modeled by many of the team sports after UFC led the way. 

The sport of boxing, however, was much slower in its reaction time as far as returning to business as usual, which has gone a long way in making 2020 largely a lost year for the sport despite the small number (countable on one hand) of super fights that were consummated both before and after the initial coronavirus outbreak wreaked havoc on day-to-day life. 

Unlike the UFC’s business model, which benefitted greatly from a lucrative broadcasting deal with ESPN and a wealthy partner in Abu Dhabi to make “Fight Island” a reality, boxing is far more dependent upon a live gate and paying crowd to survive. Much of that has to do with the sport’s lack of organization or a monopolistic promoter able to shoulder much of the risk. 

Thankfully, the sweet science figured things out the best it could initially thanks to Top Rank’s Las Vegas bubble, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport’s backyard summer series and, later, the PBC’s use of limited crowds in large venues to help offset the risk of staging pay-per-view fights during such unprecedented times. 

Still, as we enter award season in boxing for 2020, it’s hard to overlook just how little actually took place. Most big-name fighters competed just one time, which has made typical debates like Fighter of the Year much more difficult to narrow down. 

The list of prominent boxers who were ultimately shut out of stepping through the ropes this year was more staggering than you might think, whether that was due to COVID-19 restrictions or a mixture of injury and poor luck: Manny Pacquiao, Keith Thurman, Artur Beterbiev, Dmitry Bivol, Andy Ruiz Jr., Sergey Kovalev, Adrien Broner, Chris Eubank Jr., Tony Harrison, Maurice Hooker, Luke Campbell, Josh Warrington and Nonito Donaire.  

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.

Adding to that list were the names of must-see fighters who did return once but took part in forgettable stay-busy fights that felt much more like a tease: Gennadiy Golovkin, Shawn Porter, Caleb Plant, Josh Taylor, Luis Ortiz, Demetrius Andrade, Jarrett Hurd and Erislandy Lara.

It’s not that boxing’s missed opportunities this year were unavoidable or without justification. It’s just that given how infrequent star boxers actually appear in the ring these days and how short their elite shelf life becomes, it’s hard not to look at 2020 as largely a wasted year. 

Don’t agree? Ask yourself how much closer we actually are to the two fights boxing fans covet the most: a Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua bout for the undisputed heavyweight championship and a welterweight title unification between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. 

Yes, Fury was able to stop Deontay Wilder in their rematch shortly before the pandemic broke out and Joshua passed his mandatory test against Kubrat Pulev to close the year. But both still have one more mandatory title defense to navigate before Hearn and Bob Arum’s confidence that a 2021 showdown is imminent can be manifested. 

In some ways, the same can be said about Crawford and Spence. Both passed varying levels of tests in their lone appearance this year but like Fury-Joshua, the lengthy pause in the action caused by the pandemic simply extended the soap opera of having to wait and hope whether boxing politics can figure itself out in time to avoid a Floyd Mayweather-Pacquiao scenario where a super fight comes a bit too late. 

Speaking of Pacquiao, the untimely pandemic put a major detour on what had been a remarkable renaissance in 2019 when the Filipino senator scored resounding victories over Broner and Thurman at the age of 40. Suddenly back in the driver’s seat as a PPV draw, there was no shortage of huge fights to make for the PacMan in 2020, including against Crawford or Spence. 

Instead, Pacquiao could be pushing towards a two-year layoff when he finally returns next year at the age of 42. 

Now, let’s not fall victim completely to doom and gloom here by affixing a Scarlet Letter on 2020 boxing as the year will very likely be remembered for unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez Jr.’s breakout campaign and Gervonta Davis’ one-punch dismantling of Leo Santa Cruz. Yet the lament for what could’ve been still lingers just the same. 

The best fix moving forward is that the powers that be learn from the chaos created by the pandemic and figure out a way to work together more in order to reward both fans and fighters alike with the matchups that are most coveted now rather than waiting for them to “marinate,” as Arum so infamously found out the hard way with Yuriorkis Gamboa-Juan Manuel Lopez nearly a decade ago. 

But then again, this is boxing, the most beautiful/tragic, amazing/ridiculous and exciting/depressing sport that we keep coming back to for more. So, good luck with that. 

Legendary journalist and broadcaster Larry Merchant’s timeless description of the sport — “boxing: you can’t kill it and you can’t fix it” — tends to historically ring true. The semi-forgettable year of 2020 notwithstanding. 



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FIFA Club World Cup 2020 – News – Lee: My European experience would be a weapon against Bayern

  • Lee Chungyong one of Ulsan Hyundai’s most experienced players
  • The winger starred in Europe and played at two FIFA World Cups
  • Lee: “We can compete with Bayern”

Few South Koreans have enjoyed as long a stay in Europe as Lee Chungyong. The 32-year-old spent 11 years between Bolton Wanders, Crystal Palace and Bochum before joining Ulsan Hyundai last year.

Lee helped the Tigers win the AFC Champions League in December and consequently book a trip to the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™, which will begin next month. And he believes his experience on the Old Continent will be an asset if Ulsan can secure a dream match-up against the mighty Bayern Munich.

“My experiences in Europe are perhaps the biggest weapon,” the winger told FIFA.com. “They are one of the best clubs in the world. We may not be on the same level as them, but I played in Europe for years and I am pretty sure we can compete against them if we make the best of our strengths.”

Lee has reason to be confident. Upon the resumption of the AFC Champions League in September, Ulsan won seven straight matches to reach the semi-finals. There, they battled from behind to see off Andres Iniesta and Vissel Kobe, before another fightback victory, this time over Persepolis, in the final. The winner came from a penalty earned when Lee’s cross was handled.

“I’m proud of my team for this achievement,” said Lee. “Our journey proved tough and the campaign was hard-fought throughout. But our players maintained a relaxed mindset during the competition, and this was the reason why we enjoyed this campaign and won it.

“Every team participating in the AFC Champions League is of a high standard. But Vissel Kobe and Persepolis proved harder to play against. Against both of them we conceded the first goal and had to fight back.

“But we trusted each other and believed that we could reverse the match, and we made it. The bond between us team-mates is solid.”

Ulsan will travel to Doha under a new coach – none other than Korea Republic legend Hong Myungbo. Lee, having helped his side finish K League runners-up and become Asian champions, wants to continue being an example to his team-mates.

“Perhaps my place in the team is not fixed yet, but I want to share my experience with our youngsters,” he said. “I want to be a role model both on and off the pitch. Maybe this is what the coach is expecting me to be.”







© Getty Images


Lee is no stranger on global scene, having figured prominently for Korea Republic at two FIFA World Cups™: South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. The Seoul native is now excited to play in his first Club World Cup.

“Of course I’m looking forward to playing in the Club World Cup,” he said. “It’s been quite a while [since my last FIFA tournament]. All the clubs in the competition are world-class and I can’t wait to play against them.”

Lee got his country’s goal in a 4-1 loss to Lionel Messi and Argentina at South Africa 2010, and his second of the tournament against Uruguay in the Round of 16. Is he dreaming about finding the target at Qatar 2020?

“It would be truly wonderful if I can score goals,” he said. “But for me, the team always comes first. I have to do whatever I can to help my team win.”



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Recent Match Report – Australia vs India 4th Test 2020

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Report

Updates, analysis and colour from the third day of the fourth Test

Welcome to our live report of the third day of the Australia-India Test from Brisbane. Join us for updates, analysis and colour. You can find our traditional ball-by-ball commentary here

5.34pm: Stumps

David Warner’s counterpunch at the end remining us that Australia have still finished the day with a handy lead and two days to go. But the rain forecast for the last two days is sure to play on their minds as they seek a 2-1 scoreline for the series, the only one that guarantees the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for them. Perhaps only Josh Hazlewood goes back feeling like he had a good day today, another incisive day of Test match bowling for him, finishing with a five-for.

For the second innings in a row, India found resistance from their last recognised batting pair to deny Australia a strong push for a win. On this occasion, it was debutant Washington Sundar and bowler Shardul Thakur batting together for 36 overs, across sessions, and making maiden Test fifties to help India post 336 after they were reduced to 6 for 186 just after lunch.

Full report to follow…

5.01pm

4.59pm



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Newly acquired LeVert out indefinitely for Pacers with mass on kidney

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers will be without newly acquired Caris LeVert indefinitely after an MRI showed a mass on his left kidney during a physical to complete this week’s blockbuster four-team trade.

Team officials made the announcement Saturday on Twitter. They say he will undergo more tests and additional details will be released at a later date.

“On behalf of my family and myself, we want to thank the Indiana Pacers for their support and guidance,” LeVert said in a statement. “We are grateful for their extreme thoroughness during the physical process and I am looking forward to joining the team and being part of this great organization as soon as possible.”

The 26-year-old LeVert was acquired Wednesday in the deal that sent Harden to the Brooklyn Nets and two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo to Houston.

LeVert was expected to replace Oladipo and help replace forward T.J. Warren, who is out indefinitely after having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot.

It’s unclear what the Pacers will do without LeVert.

“We acquired Caris because of who he is as a young man first and foremost,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said. “His basketball skill and on-court play speaks for itself and we know he has a great career ahead of him. We will support Caris through this time and know that he will join us on the court as soon as he is able.”

The Pacers expected to get several advantages from the acquisition.

LeVert’s contract is $4.8 million cheaper this season and likely cheaper than it would have been to re-sign Oladipo after this season.

Plus, LeVert is signed through 2022-23, as are three other Pacers starters. And while the 28-year-old Oladipo continues his comeback from a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee, LeVert looked like a player on the rise.

His scoring totals improved each of his first four seasons in the league and despite largely coming off the bench, this has been his best all-around season. He’s averaging 18.5 points and a career-best 6.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds.



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