Canelo Alvarez is ready for his next challenge. The unified super middleweight champion is expected to take on Avni Yildirim — the WBC mandatory challenger — on Feb. 27 from Guadalajara, Mexico, Canelo’s trainer and manager, Eddy Reynoso, told Boxing Scene.
Alvarez claimed the WBA and vacant WBC super middleweight titles on Dec. 19 with a decision win over Callum Smith in Texas. The pound-for-pound great had been out of action for nearly a year due to the pandemic as well as contractual disputes with Golden Boy Promotions and streaming partner DAZN. Alvarez reached a deal with both in the fall to become a free agent and open up the possibility of fighting whomever he wants.
Yildirim, the 29-year-old from Turkey, has only lost twice as a pro. That includes his most recent bout against Anthony Dirrell in February 2019 when an accident headbutt in the 10th round ended the fight and sent it to the judges’ scorecards. Yilidirim lost on points. His only other loss came in his only other bout against higher-level competition when he was knocked out by Chris Eubank Jr. in 2017.
Reynoso said the fight will take place in Guadalajara, Mexico, which is where Canelo was born. It would be Alvarez’s first fight in Mexico since 2011.
Negotiations have resumed between players union, ECB and counties over potential pay cuts
James Harris has admitted that the English game still faces “a huge challenge” in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic upon his election to the role of chair at the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA), but said that he is confident that he will be able to steer the organisation through choppy waters.
The PCA resumed its negotiations with the ECB and the first-class counties on Monday afternoon as they continue to discuss collective solutions including the possibility of further temporary salary cuts, but hopes that with the prospect of a full domestic schedule and fans returning to grounds this summer, such measures will soon no longer be necessary.
Harris, the Middlesex seamer, was confirmed as Daryl Mitchell’s successor on Monday, after serving as vice-chair alongside Heather Knight since last June and as Middlesex’s player representative before that, and described his election as a “huge honour” in his first media interaction in the position.
“I’ve got some big shoes to fill in those of Daryl Mitchell, who has done a brilliant job,” Harris said. “I was always keen if the role came up and thankfully I’ve had the support of lots of my colleagues around the country. It’s great that I can lean on Mitch – he’s got another month in the post and hopefully I can get up to speed and make sure I’m as clued up as I can be.
“No doubt, there’s a huge challenge in front of us. Everyone involved in the game did brilliantly last year, playing as much cricket as we did – at the start of last summer, it would have looked a long way off.
“It’s about seeing us through to the end of this pandemic [and building on] the work that Daryl did, getting the players’ committee together and coming up with everything that they have to see us through with collective agreements. There may be more of that required, but we hope there isn’t too much more. We want to be as responsible towards the game as we can be, so that we can build as strong a game as possible around the country.”
Harris also gave his endorsement for the Hundred, describing it as a “fantastic concept” which will be a “massive showpiece for cricket in this country”. The PCA’s initial response to the Hundred was lukewarm in 2018 when the ECB unveiled its new competition, with concerns raised over the 100-ball format and possible conflicts of interest, but has since thrown its support behind it.
“It’s just another part of a cricketer’s career,” Harris said. “Guys will try and make their way into Hundred teams, and it’s going to provide a lot of opportunities for guys in county cricket, perhaps who wouldn’t have necessarily got a look-in at certain times or for younger guys who might get pushed into the first team a bit earlier.
“It’s a different concept. It’s exciting. It’s something that’s going to bring a lot of eyes from around the world onto English cricket, which can only be a good thing.”
Harris becomes chair at a time when the PCA’s active playing membership is bigger than ever before, with 41 new members following the ratification of women’s domestic contracts at the end of last year. While he admitted that he has “a lot of learning to do across all areas of the game, both men’s and women’s”, Harris said that he had already reached out to Knight – who will continue as vice-chair – and Kate Cross, the England women’s representative in recent days.
“I’m going to support everybody as well as I can,” he said. “We’re building up relationships as much as we can already, and it’s a really exciting time in the women’s game as well, having those new members join the PCA and become full-time professionals. It’s a great time for everyone involved in the game whether male or female.”
One relationship that Harris will already feel secure in is that with the PCA’s chief executive, Rob Lynch, who was previously Middlesex’s commercial director and chief operating officer, and took over from Tony Irish on a full-time basis in October. Lynch, who had no say in Harris’ election, said that he had been “thrilled” to hear he had been chosen for the post.
“I’ve known him for four or five years and he was always one of my favourite guys to work with at Middlesex,” Lynch said. “We have to put some stability inside the PCA which has been one of the challenges over the last couple of years through some changes in leadership at the top. This year is about rebuilding and being clear about our purpose and our role in the game.
“Our job is to find the line between playing a responsible stakeholder role and also pushing tooth and nail for the rights that the players have, because we recognise that we’ll need to continue with that we’ve done. We’re all hoping to get back to a more normal set-up as soon as we can.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98
And for his new team, the Buccaneers, a first-of-its-kind home game, but without the usual home-field advantage.
To put a bow on this make-it-up-as-we-go NFL season — a campaign upended but never fully undone by the coronavirus pandemic — it comes as no surprise that there is no such thing as a straightforward storyline.
Because of restrictions in place due to COVID-19, Tampa Bay’s home stadium will only be about a quarter full when the Buccaneers host the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 7 in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs opened as a 3.5-point favorite.
The 43-year-old Brady will expand on his record by playing in his 10th Super Bowl, hoping to expand on another record by winning a seventh title, but the first one in his new home of Tampa Bay.
And 25-year-old Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs will be trying for back-to-back titles, something no quarterback has done since — who else? — Brady, back in his 2003-04 heyday with the New England Patriots.
The showdown will take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, where Brady’s Bucs will be the first team in the 55-year history of the Super Bowl to play on home turf.
“Whoever would’ve thought a home Super Bowl for us? But we did it,” said Brady, who led the wild-card Buccaneers to a 31-26 win over Green Bay on Sunday to make it three straight road playoff wins on the way back home for the Super Bowl.
But home-field advantage won’t mean as much as it normally might. This will be the first Super Bowl not played in front of a capacity crowd since the first one — Kansas City vs. Green Bay at the LA Coliseum — in 1967.
In a nod to how the pandemic has changed everything, the crowd for America’s No. 1 sports spectacle will be limited to 22,000 in the 75,000-seat stadium, with vaccinated health-care workers getting 7,500 of those precious tickets.
And even the visiting team — the Chiefs — won’t be staying in a hotel all week, the way both conference champions usually do for the Super Bowl. ESPN reported that Kansas City doesn’t plan to arrive in Tampa until the day before the game.
Most interview availabilities, as they have all season, will take place on Zoom from the teams’ hometown practice facilities. The farce that has become the Super Bowl’s “Opening Night” media session will be a virtual affair, as well. In short, teams will basically treat this like a regular road game (or, in the case of the Bucs, a regular home game), and the Super Bowl city will not much resemble the overflowing party hub it usually does as the big game approaches.
Despite all that, this has the makings of a good matchup, featuring the league’s top (Chiefs) and seventh-rated (Bucs) offenses, each with multiple ways to strike: Receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce are standouts for KC and former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is on Brady’s long list of options for Tampa.
It is a rematch of Kansas City’s 27-24 win on Thanksgiving weekend in Tampa. In that one, Mahomes threw for 462 yards — 269 of them to Hill — to help the Chiefs build an early 17-point lead.
This will be the second high-stakes postseason matchup between Brady and Mahomes. Brady was surgeon-like, leading New England to 524 yards in offense in a 37-31 overtime win over the Chiefs in the AFC title game in January 2019.
It gave New England its third straight trip to the Super Bowl, and Brady’s last of nine as a member of the Patriots.
In the two seasons since, Kansas City has represented the AFC.
The Chiefs have done it largely on the arm of Mahomes, though it’s his head and his foot that have been making more news of late. He threw for 325 yards and led the Chiefs to a 38-24 victory over Buffalo on Sunday. He did it despite a bout with turf toe that flared up at the end of a week he spent in the NFL’s concussion protocol following a hard hit in KC’s previous playoff win over Cleveland. (Also a concern now: Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher left Sunday’s game with an Achilles injury.)
Mahomes could join Bart Starr, Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, John Elway and, of course, Brady on the list of QBs to win two in a row.
As for Brady? He’s leading the Buccaneers to only their second Super Bowl; the Bucs won on their first trip, back in 2002. Brad Johnson was the quarterback then. But nobody would mistake Johnson for Brady, who could join Peyton Manning as the only other quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two franchises.
It could happen the day after Manning gets the call from the Hall of Fame; Manning is newly eligible this year and is a shoo-in to get in the night before the game.
Soon enough, Brady will be there, as well.
Clearly, though, he still feels his home is on the football field.
“The belief he gave everybody in this organization, that this could be done,” said Bucs coach Bruce Arians, when asked to explain what Brady’s arrival meant to the franchise. “It only took one man.”
FIFA Club World Cup 2020 – News – Mosimane: Al Ahly believe we can do big things
Al Ahly face hosts Al Duhail in their Qatar 2020 opener
Coach Pitso Mosimane hails Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy
He discusses a potential showdown against Bayern Munich
Egypt’s Al Ahly Sporting Club are back at the FIFA Club World Cup after a seven-year absence. The Red Devils are aiming to go as far as they can in a tournament in which they have previously struggled to make an impact.
The reigning African champions found out who they would be facing when the tournament draw was made at FIFA headquarters in Zurich on 19 January. Pitted against host team Al Duhail Sports Club in the second round, the Egyptians have their sights set on a meeting with German giants Bayern Munich in the semi-finals.
“Al Duhail are a good side,” Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane told FIFA.com. “They won the Stars League in Qatar, which is very competitive, with good sides like Al Sadd, who are coached by Xavi and who have a great Algerian forward too (Baghdad Bounedjah).
“Al Duhail won the Qatari league because they’ve got some excellent players who’ve shown what they can do. [Mario] Mandzukic played for them until recently too. Now that we know they’re our opponents, we’ll have a good look at them.
“We can’t choose the opposition in the Club World Cup draw. We have to be ready to play who we’re drawn against.
“Every team and every coach believe they have the ability to win the trophy, but the fact is that it won’t be easy against opponents of the calibre of Bayern Munich and the Copa Libertadores winners. You look at them and you realise how big a job we’ve got.
“We’ve got excellent players and everyone speaks about Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy. That’s maybe because he got us to the Club World Cup with his goals, though he couldn’t have done it without his team-mates. He’s an Egypt international and we’re delighted to have a player of his quality and goalscoring ability. He’s a playmaker and helps us create space too.”
“It was a tough tournament,” he recalled. “The first obstacle we had to overcome was the six-hour time difference between the two countries. Then there was the cold winter weather in Osaka. To be honest, our opponents handled it better than we did.
“We lost 4-1 to Jeonbuk of Korea Republic and 3-0 to Kashima Antlers of Japan. We just had to deal with it and we were sorry we couldn’t give a better account of ourselves and that we came away goalless against Kashima Antlers.
“It was our first Club World Cup experience and I think stage fright got the better of us. We didn’t do well and that just shows the level of competition here. I think TP Mazembe are the only African side to have reached the final [Raja Club Athletic of Morocco also made the final, in 2013], so it won’t be easy.”
Bayern dream, Mazembe inspiration
Every side in the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020 is dreaming of taking on the mighty Bayern, Al Ahly among them.
“If we beat Al Duhail, the tournament hosts, we’ll face Bayern Munich, which won’t be easy,” said Mosimane. “That said, we won’t have anything to lose if we get that far. We need to be at our best and fly the flag for the continent, the country and all the fans, so that they can be proud of us. If we give it our all on the pitch and we lose, we can go away satisfied because the level is so high.
“We’re a good side and we believe we can do big things. We’ve got the Qatari team in our first match and then we’ll see what happens. We hope we get the chance to face Bayern. We’d be delighted to play them and it would be an honour for us. There wouldn’t be any pressure on us either, because they’re the team who beat Barcelona.
“Al Ahly have played in the Club World Cup, but not with this generation of players. They did it when Mohamed Aboutrika was around but they couldn’t make the final. It’s a different team now, a different time, and it’s been seven years since they last took part in the Club World Cup.
“Every team has a chance. It’s 90 minutes and we can spring a surprise if we give it all we’ve got on matchday. Football is a wonderful sport in which the unexpected can happen and we should take inspiration from what TP Mazembe did.”
🇪🇬 The Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, has long been the most breathtaking attraction in Egypt. Aside from the 17 years a Giza God was wowing on grass
Turning his attention to the other sides in the competition, Mosimane said: “Brazilian teams are always strong. I’ve seen a few Ulsan Hyundai games. They’re a good side as well. The standard’s going to be high.”
The Al Ahly coach is in no doubt about the importance of the FIFA Club World Cup: “I was here with my coaching staff from the Sundowns and I remember just how tough the competition is. It’s a FIFA tournament and in terms of organisation you can’t compare it with any other competition. Everything is amazing: the hotels, the travel arrangements, everything.
“Qatar is a great country too. When we played in 2016, the team from South America didn’t even make it to the final.”
Wrapping things up, the Mosimane sent a message to the Ahly fans: “Our supporters believe we’ve got a chance. They always back us and push us on and we’ll give our all for them.”
The philosophy is slowly sinking in,and we will get there. We still have a lot of work to do to be at the level we want to be.Rome was not built in one day. pic.twitter.com/G0DvamztDX