First 11: Bid For Chelsea Continues + Other Top Sports Stories Last Week

top sports stories
First 11 captures some of the top sports stories for the week.

 

With just one week to the first leg of the 2022 World Cup playoff showdown with Ghana, there has been so much noise about the encounter. While Nigeria have unveiled their squad, Ghana are yet to do so.

The match venue has also been a major talking point. The draws for the Champions League quarter-finals and the Europa League were also held. Manchester United earlier lost to Atletico Madrid, piling more pressure on a struggling team.

These and other top sports stories this week are captured in First Eleven.


Injury Scare

(Top L-R) Nigeria’s goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, defender Kenneth Omeruo, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, forward Taiwo Awoniyi, midfielder Joe Aribo, defender William Troost-Ekong, (bottom L-R) forward Kelechi Iheanacho, defender Ola Aina, defender Zaidu Sanusi, forward Samuel Chukwueze and forward Moses Simon pose prior to the Group D Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Nigeria and Sudan at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 15, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

Nigeria may have reasons to worry ahead of the tie with Ghana following injuries to midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and defender Kenneth Omeruo. Ndidi was taken off the pitch in his side’s loss to Rennes in a Europa Conference League tie on Thursday.

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers in a post-game interview said the injury was disappointing but it is unclear when he would recover.


Omeruo Doubtful

Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah (R) fights for the ball with Nigeria's defender Kenneth Omeruo during the Group D Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Nigeria and Egypt at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 11, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP
In this file photo, Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah (R) fights for the ball with Nigeria’s defender Kenneth Omeruo during the Group D Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Nigeria and Egypt at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 11, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

His compatriot has not played for Leganes in the last four league games following a groin injury but is expected to make a return this Sunday. The 28-year-old was a mainstay in the heart of Nigeria’s defence at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations earlier in the year.

Nigeria will now play the waiting game to know if the duo will be fit for the double-legged tie.


Amuneke Backs Okoye

maduka okoye
Maduka Okoye made his debut for Nigeria in 2019 in a friendly game against Brazil. Photo: Sparta Rotterdam

 

And ahead of the clash, Super Eagles chief coach Emmanuel Amuneke has backed Maduka Okoye to retain his place in the team. The youngster came under fire following his performance at the AFCON, especially in the game against Tunisia where the three-time African champions slumped to a shocking defeat.

Amuneke told Brila FM that the German-born goalkeeper may have made a mistake but believes it is not enough to sideline him.


Venue Changed, Ghana Squad Awaited

(Top L-R) Nigeria’s goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, defender Kenneth Omeruo, forward Taiwo Awoniyi, midfielder Joe Aribo, defender William Troost-Ekong, (bottom L-R) forward Kelechi Iheanacho, defender Ola Aina, defender Zaidu Sanusi, forward Moses Simon and forward Samuel Chukwueze pose prior to the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 23, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

Nigeria’s foes Ghana are yet to announce their squad for the double-legged tie.  Earlier in the week, Ghanaian football authorities confirmed that the venue for the first leg of the encounter has been changed. A Ghana Football Association (GFA) statement said the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi will now host the playoff.  The approval came after a CAF inspection.


Draws for Champions League

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization's headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
This file photo taken on February 28, 2020, shows the UEFA logo at the organization’s headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

A day after Leicester City advanced to the next phase of the Europa Conference League, draws for the competition, the Europa League, and the Champions League were held. In one of the most mouth-watering ties in the Champions League, Spanish giants Real Madrid square off against holders Chelsea in the last eight. Manchester City battle Atletico Madrid.

Ndidi’s club will tackle Dutch power house PSV Eindhoven.


Europa League Fixtures

In the Europa League, Barcelona face Eintracht Frankfurt, and Scottish giants, Rangers take on Braga. Other fixtures are West Ham vs Lyon and RB Leipzig vs Atalanta.


Man United Crash Out

Manchester United's English defender Harry Maguire (C) looks to play a pass during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Manchester United and Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north west England on March 15, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Manchester United’s English defender Harry Maguire (C) looks to play a pass during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Manchester United and Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north west England on March 15, 2022.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Before the draws, Manchester United were one of the biggest casualties in the Champions League round of 16. They lost to Atletico 2-1 on aggregate to pile more pressure on a struggling squad.  On the home front, the former European champions are fourth on the league table, one point behind Arsenal who have two games at hand.


Bid For Chelsea Continues

In this file photo taken on August 15, 2016, Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich takes his seat ahead of the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and West Ham United at Stamford Bridge in London.  Justin TALLIS / AFP

 

As top European teams know their foes in various continental competitions, Chelsea are facing issues off the pitch. On Wednesday, reports emerged that Chicago Cubs owners, the Ricketts family, have confirmed they are leading a consortium to bid to buy English club.

Already, New York merchant bank Raine Group has set a Friday deadline for bids, with Roman Abramovich’s 19-year tenure as owner of the Stamford Bridge club ending.


Clause Activated!

In this file photo, British heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua leaves the arena after losing to Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk during their heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London on September 25, 2021. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

 

Away from football, Joe Joyce’s manager says Anthony Joshua has been contacted but questioned the Nigerian-born boxer’s readiness to take the fight as he waits for a rematch with Oleksandr Usyk.

Joshua activated the clause for a rematch to vie for the WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight titles after Usyk defeated him in September. It is, however, uncertain when Usyk will be ready to make a comeback to the ring as his country has been invaded by Russian forces.


Yusuf Eyes Mitchell 

 

Earlier in the week, Sodiq Yusuff defeated Alex Caceres at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, winning by a unanimous decision. Following the win, he expressed eagerness to face Bryce Mitchell in the next fight

“I really want to test myself against Arkansas’ finest,” the Nigerian said. “I’d really like to fight Bryce Mitchell.”


Brume Eyes History

Bronze medallist, Nigeria’s Ese Brume poses on the podium after the women’s long jump event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

 

Going to athletics, Nigeria’s Ese Brume is eyeing a historic medal as the World Indoors Championship begins.

The Olympics long jump bronze medalist wants to become the only third Nigerian to win medals in all three global athletics championships including the Olympics.

She has clinched bronze at the World Outdoor Championships in 2019 and is hoping to join Glory Alozie and late Sunday Bada as athletes who have won medals at the World Athletics Championships indoors and out and the Olympics.

First 11: Nigeria’s AFCON Crash + This Week’s Biggest Sports Stories

First-Eleven

 

It’s been a week of drama at the Africa Cup of Nations. Nigeria’s shocking loss to Tunisia, and the red cards that marred the competition, were major talking points in the last seven days. Heartbroken fans trolled Maduka Okoye and Alex Iwobi following the defeat which sent out one of the tournament favourites.

These stories, FIFA’s linking of plans for a biennial World Cup to migration tragedies in the Mediterranean and others, headline First Eleven which gives a recap of the biggest sports gist for the week.

Tunisia Clip Eagles’ Wings

Tunisia’s players celebrate after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 23, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

The week began on a sad note for football fans in Nigeria after the Super Eagles’ early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Nigeria, three-time continental champions, were stunned 0-1 by Tunisia in a Round of 16 game in Cameroon.

Austine Eguavoen’s men went into the game as favourites having won all three group stage matches, the only team to do so. But a 47th-minute strike was enough for the North Africans to break the hearts of millions of fans in Nigeria. Although Nigeria battled to get the equaliser, a red card for former Arsenal star, Alex Iwobi, compounded the Super Eagles’ woes.

Fans Troll Okoye, Iwobi

A photo combination of Maduka Okoye and Alex Iwobi.

 

Iwobi’s sending off triggered a barrage of cyberattacks, not just on the midfielder but goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye. The Sparta Rotterdam man was faulted for not doing enough to stop the 2004 champions from scoring the lone goal in the match. Both were subjects of hate messages from fans who blamed the duo for the Super Eagles’ exit. Their names trended for days on social media, prompting them to disable comments on their Instagram accounts. Okoye, some of the fans claimed, was distracted by praises from female admirers.

Following the defeat, President Muhammadu Buhari had told Nigerians not to write off the team. In a short message on Monday, he asked fans to encourage the side, believing that they can do better in subsequent games.

“They gave everyone the confidence that they were up to it, and I am sure it was something they could have achieved,” a statement from a presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, read. “Nonetheless, we should not write them off”.

Red Cards Mar AFCON

The AFCON was tagged by many as a “tournament of red cards” following the number of players that were sent off in the competition.

 

Nigeria’s loss wasn’t the only thing that made headlines from the AFCON. In the first round of knockout fixtures, seven red cards were issued in eight games.  The development drew condemnation from several quarters. Fans on social media even dubbed the competition “AFCON of Red Cards”, throwing up further debates about the quality of officiating at Africa’s premier championship.

Coach Eguavoen was critical of centre referee, Maguette Ndiaye’s dismissal of the Everton star, describing the officiating as unfair. Aside from the former defender, Ghanaian ex-international, Mikel Essien, also questioned the number of red cards in the tournament. The former Chelsea player while lamenting the situation said it was “shocking” and wondered if the game had become soft.

Tragedy Rocks Tournament 

Supporters of the Comoros national soccer team celebrate their team goal during the match Cameroon vs Comoros in Moroni on Jan 24, 2022. Ibrahim YOUSSOUF / AFP

 

The red car controversy came amid a stampede that killed eight persons and wounded dozens of others before a match between the host nation, Cameroon, and Comoros.  The incident took place at the gates where final tickets checks are made. This prompted an investigation by Cameroonian authorities. The health ministry said the victims were immediately transported in ambulances but traffic slowed down their movement.

In a swift response to the tragedy, CAF blamed the incident on the closure of an entry gate at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde.

“If that gate was open as it was supposed to, we wouldn’t have had this problem we have now, this loss of life,” African football supremo, Patrice Motsepe, said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Who closed that gate? Who is responsible for that gate?”

A Case For Biennial World Cup

File photo: FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during the inauguration of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) new headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on October 30, 2018. Mohd RASFAN / AFP

 

The stampede happened days before FIFA tried to link migration tragedies in the Mediterranean to plans for a World Cup every two years.  Head of the football governing body, Gianni Infantino, said the move can give hope to migrants.

“I understand in Europe the World Cup takes place twice per week because the best players are playing in Europe,” he told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg.

“But if we think about the rest of the world… which doesn’t see the best players, which doesn’t participate in the top competitions, then we have to think about what football brings, which goes beyond the sport.”

Nadal Chases Record In Australia

 

Just as FIFA continues to make a case for a biennial World Cup, tennis stars are in Australia battling for one of the game’s biggest prizes. In a tempestuous match on Friday, Daniil Medvedev powered to a win over Stefanos Tsitsipas to book a date with Rafael Nadal in the final of the Australian Open.  The world number two beat Tsitsipas 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, the same day Nadal defeated Matteo Berrettini to reach his sixth Australian Open final in Melbourne. The Spaniard, pushing to become the all-all time men’s Grand Slam leader – 21 titles – claimed a 3-6 2-6 6-3 3-6 win.

The women’s category saw a ruthless Ashleigh Barty book a spot in the final. She won in straight-sets, demolishing Madison Keys, and will now face hard-hitting Danielle Collins in Sunday’s game.

Djokovic Still In The Court

In this file photo, Novak Djokovic of Serbia takes part in a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 13, 2022. Mike FREY / AFP

 

Although he is not in Australia, a leaked entry list, which made its way to social media, has indicated that Novak Djokovic would be playing at next month’s ATP Dubai tennis tournament. The Serb was in the news weeks ago after a COVID-19 vaccination row. But the list shared by tennis journalists showed that Djokovic was named as the top seed for the event.

This is coming weeks after he was deported by Australian authorities following a legal tussle. The unvaccinated player’s next move had become a subject of speculation since he landed at home in Belgrade, via Dubai. He was initially given an exemption to play at the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated but the Australian government later revoked his visa, a move upheld by the Federal Court.

Ranieri Fired 

In this file photo taken on April 01, 2018, ex-Nantes’ Italian head coach Claudio Ranieri attends the French L1 football match between Nantes and Saint-Etienne at The La Beaujoire Stadium in Nantes. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Earlier in the week, the English Premier League “sack race” continued. This time, Italian manager, Claudio Ranieri, was the latest casualty following his dismissal by Watford. He was sacked just after 14 games in charge as the Hornets’ boss, the club said in a statement earlier in the week. Ranieri was dismissed, just about three months after he got the job.

“The Hornets’ Board recognises Claudio as a man of great integrity and honour, who will always be respected here at Vicarage Road for his efforts in leading the team with dignity,” Watford said about the Italian.

The 70-year-old was brought on to stabilise the team which is battling relegation. But a string of poor results have left them in the murky waters of England’s elite league. The Hornets have only managed seven points since he arrived at the Vicarage Road. Ranieri’s last game in charge was a 3-0 loss to relegation rivals, Norwich, just last week. They are second bottom on the league log, following a loss of seven out of their last eight domestic matches.

Joshua Denies Pay Off Claims

In this file photo, Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk (L) fights British heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua at the end of their heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London on September 25, 2021. Usyk defeated Joshua on points. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

In boxing, Anthony Joshua has refuted reports claiming he agreed to a ($20 million deal to step aside from his heavyweight title re-match with Oleksandr Usyk. The reports had suggested that the Nigerian was ready to let the Ukrainian fight Tyson Fury in the unification title bout. But Joshua insisted the stories were false.

“I’m hearing people saying: ‘AJ accepts £15million to step aside’. I ain’t signed no contract; I ain’t seen no contract,” he was quoted as saying in a Talksport online video posted on Twitter. “So, as it stands, stop listening to the bullshit until it comes from me. I’m the man in control of my own destiny; I’m the man that handles my business.”

Usyk had defeated Joshua in September to deprive the 32-year-old of his World Boxing Association (WBA), International Boxing Federation (IBF), and World Boxing Organization (WBO) belts.

Buhari’s Message To Olympians

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

And as the Winter Olympics inches closer, President Buhari has urged Nigerian athletes to make the country proud in the games. A statement from the presidency on Tuesday quoted Buhari as telling the nation’s representatives of his trust in their ability to deliver.

“The President trusts that Nigerian athletes participating in different events will excel at the competition, surpassing the previous record in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018, when the nation competed for the first time,”  the Nigerian leader told the athletes, according to a statement from Femi Adesina.

Buhari said the Olympic Games is an avenue to foster friendship among countries. This is as he hoped that athletes will put the core values of the event –  excellence, friendship, and respect – on display.

Joshua Denies £15m Pay-Off To Step Aside For Fury-Usyk

A photo combination of Tyson Fury and AJ.

 

Anthony Joshua said Monday “I’m in control of my own destiny” as he insisted reports he had agreed a £15 million ($20 million, 18 million euros) deal step aside from his world heavyweight title re-match with Oleksandr Usyk were false.

Several stories in the UK national press suggested that Joshua was willing to allow Ukraine’s Usyk to fight Tyson Fury in a unification title bout.

But Joshua, speaking in a Talksport online video posted on Twitter, said: “You know what’s mad about all these interviews I see?

“I see certain interviews that quote what I said and I think to myself, ‘I haven’t done no interviews’.”

The 32-year-old added: “I’m hearing people saying: ‘AJ accepts £15million to step aside’. I ain’t signed no contract; I ain’t seen no contract.

READ ALSO: Don’t Write Off Super Eagles, Buhari Tells Nigerians After AFCON Exit

“So as it stands, stop listening to the bullshit until it comes from me. I’m the man in control of my own destiny, I’m the man that handles my business.”

Usyk gave a boxing masterclass in recording a unanimous points victory to deprive Joshua of his World Boxing Association (WBA), International Boxing Federation (IBF) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) belts in front of the dethroned champion’s home crowd at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September.

By extending his unbeaten professional record, Usyk also delayed the prospects of an all-British unification bout between Joshua and Fury.

In October, Fury defeated Deontay Wilder to retain his World Boxing Council belt.

The WBC have since said Fury must face mandatory challenger Dillian Whyte in his next title defence, although boxing history indicates that such objections need not get in the way of a bout with Usyk instead if the financial terms are agreeable to all concerned.

Joshua, who has a rematch clause in his contract with Usyk, said: “I’m a smart individual and I make calculated decisions every step of the way…If I tell you something then you know it’s real.”

AFP

EFCC Arraigns Suspected Impostors Of Anthony Joshua Over £15,000 Fraud

British boxer Anthony Joshua speaks during the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London on March 09, 2020. Ben STANSALL / POOL / AFP

 

Two suspected Internet fraudsters – Ukhuriegbe Irekpitan and Onyekwa Chinedum – have been arraigned for the alleged impersonation of Nigerian-British heavyweight boxer, Anthony Joshua.

The duo was arraigned on Monday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice S. M. Shuaibu of the Federal High Court in Benin, Edo State on a two-count charge each of impersonation.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, spokesman for the anti-graft agency Wilson Uwujaren said each of the defendants faces two counts.

The defendants were accused of allegedly sending electronic messages to two ladies and defrauding them of the sums of £10,000 and £5,491,23 respectively in London, the capital of England sometime in 2019.

Their offences are said to be punishable under section 14 (2) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention, Etc) Act 2015.

Charges

One of the charges against one of Joshua’s alleged impostors reads, “that you Onyekwe Joshua Chinedum (a.k.a Anthony Joshua) sometime in 2019 did with intent to defraud sent electronic messages which materially misrepresent facts to Samantha Johnson, a lady in London which messages she relied upon and which made her suffer financial loss in the sum of £10,000 thereby committing an offence punishable under section 14 (2) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention, Etc) Act 2015.”

One of the charges against Ukhuriegbe Glory Irekpitan reads: “That you Ukhuriegbe Glory Irekpitan sometime in 2018 did with intent to defraud sent electronic messages which materially misrepresent facts to Mrs Zahra  Bagun, a lady in London which messages she relied on and which caused her to suffer the financial loss in the sum of £5,491.23 pounds, the equivalent of N2,306,220 and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14(2) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention, Etc) Act 2015.”

Not Guilty

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.

On his part, the prosecution counsel, I.M. Elody, asked for a trial date and for the defendants to be remanded in the custody of the Correctional Service.

The counsel to the defendants pleaded with the court to remand them in EFCC custody, a move that was opposed by the EFCC counsel.

Justice Shuaibu thereafter adjourned the matter till October 21 and ordered that the defendants be remanded at the Nigerian Correctional Centre in Benin City.

Joshua Admits He Has ‘Learnt His Lesson’ After Usyk Defeat

British heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua leaves the arena after losing to Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk during their heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London on September 25, 2021. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

 

Anthony Joshua says he has learnt his lesson after losing his world heavyweight titles to Oleksandr Usyk in London at the weekend.

Usyk outpointed Joshua on all three judges’ scorecards as he wrested the WBA, IBF and WBO titles away from the British boxer in front of a crowd of more than 66,000 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Joshua cut a surprisingly relaxed figure in the early hours of Sunday as he gave his initial thoughts on just the second defeat of his 26-fight professional career despite having greater height, reach and weight than his Ukrainian opponent.

In a social media post on Thursday, the 31-year-old said: “I’ve watched the fight, analysed my preparations and identified my mistakes. I’ve learnt my lesson.

“Thanks for sending love & checking in. Don’t worry about me. My spirit is strong!”

Both camps are keen to activate a rematch clause, with Usyk hoping to take on Joshua in front of his home crowd in Kiev, although Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, suggested a second fight would likely take place in Britain again on economic grounds.

Joshua’s defeat has scuppered hopes of a “Battle of Britain” unification heavyweight title clash with Tyson Fury.

Fellow British heavyweight Fury defends his WBC title when he meets Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas on October 9 — the third meeting between the boxers following a split-decision draw and a victory for Fury.

“My advice to Joshua in the rematch is, get stuck in the best way he knows how, put his best foot forward and swing away, Jack, swing away,” Fury said on Wednesday.

“Was I absolutely wounded that (Usyk) won? Yes, I was. I was hoping Joshua could win the fight, but he couldn’t — and that’s none of my business.

“The only thing I’m bothered about is beating Deontay Wilder, and that’s the most dangerous heavyweight out there. In my opinion, Wilder beats Joshua, Usyk, all the rest of the division, comfortably — but he cannot beat me.”

AFP

‘110 Percent’: Anthony Joshua Wants Rematch With Usyk

Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk (L) fights British heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua at the end of their heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London on September 25, 2021. Usyk defeated Joshua on points. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Anthony Joshua said he was “110 percent” likely to activate a rematch clause with Oleksandr Usyk after losing his world heavyweight titles to the Ukrainian in stunning fashion in London on Saturday

Usyk gave a boxing masterclass in recording a unanimous points victory to deprive Joshua of his World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organization belts in front of the dethroned champion’s home crowd of more than 66,000 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

His victory extended Usyk’s unbeaten professional record to 19 wins and scuppered the prospects of an all-British world heavyweight title unification bout between Joshua and Tyson Fury.

It also meant Usyk became just the third cruiserweight world champion after Evander Holyfield of the United States and Britain’s David Haye to also take a heavyweight title, with the 34-year-old achieving the feat in just his third professional contest in the heavyweight ranks.

The contract for this bout, however, contained a rematch clause.

And Joshua, who previously lost his belts when beaten by Andy Ruiz in New York in June 2019 before regaining the titles in a rematch in Saudi Arabia six months later, is determined to face Usyk again.

“A hundred percent, 110 percent,” he told a post-fight press conference. “I’m ready to get back to training.

“There’s an old saying ‘If you want to go down as a great fighter, don’t fight southpaws’, especially good ones. He (Usyk) is a good fighter.”

Joshua suffered a badly swollen right eye which required medical attention in a fight where only the bell appeared to save him from a last-round knockout.

“I couldn’t see in the ninth round,” explained Joshua. “My eye was shut, but it was a good experience, because in adversity, you’ve just got to learn to control yourself… it’s the first time it’s happened in a fight.”

Joshua, sounding remarkably upbeat despite a convincing loss, insisted: “I’m a different kind of animal. I’m not a sulker, this is a blessed opportunity to be able to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world.

“Straight away I’ve already been watching the fight and figuring out what I could have done better.”

Joshua’s defeat put paid to a fight anytime soon with Fury, who defends his World Boxing Council heavyweight title against Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas next month — the third time the pair have met after a split-decision draw and a win for Fury.

Joshua, however, insisted: “I’ll fight Tyson Fury, Wilder, without the belts. It’s great, it’s legacy but with or without the belts I’ll fight whoever.”

READ ALSO: Usyk Ends Anthony Joshua’s Reign As World Heavyweight Champion

‘Lucky City’

Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk (L) fights British heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua at the end of their heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London on September 25, 2021.  Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Usyk, three years older than Joshua, also made light of giving away three inches (7.62 centimetres) in height as well as nearly 20lbs (nine kilogrammes) in weight during his latest triumph in London following a heavyweight gold medal at the 2012 Olympics — a Games where Joshua took the super-heavyweight title.

“London is a really lucky city for me but not a single professional victory can be above an Olympic gold,” said Usyk via a translator.

“At this point it is the biggest fight in my career but it wasn’t the hardest one. I cannot say (who was) but, most likely, it’s ahead of us.”

Most of Usyk’s wins have come outside Ukraine, with the new champion — who spent three months in a preparation camp away from his wife and family — adding: “I would love to have the rematch at Olympiyskiy Stadium in Kiev.”

But Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, suggested any rematch would be in Britain, in February or March.

Hearn said a defeat by the “outstanding” Usyk was easier to accept than the “bolt from the blue” that was the first Ruiz fight.

“I think in a strange way he (Joshua) enjoyed the fight because I think he knows he learnt so much and, deep down he knows he was beaten by the better man tonight,” he said.

“I think you need to credit him (Joshua) because he could have swerved that fight easy and maybe we should have, but that’s not really what he’s about.”

Hearn, who questioned whether Usyk could hit the same heights again after a “perfect fight”, added: “Anything can happen, but AJ will, I promise you, be much, much better than that in the re-match.”

AFP

Usyk Ends Anthony Joshua’s Reign As World Heavyweight Champion


Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk (L) fights British heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua at the end of their heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London on September 25, 2021. Usyk defeated Joshua on points. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Oleksandr Usyk ended Anthony Joshua’s reign as world heavyweight champion in front of the Londoner’s home crowd with a stunning unanimous points decision victory on Saturday, scuppering hopes of a ‘Battle of Britain’ unification bout with fellow world title-holder Tyson Fury.

Joshua ended the 12th and final round of the contest backed up on the ropes, with the cheers of a crowd of more than 66,000 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium no match for the skills of his challenger.

The impressive Ukrainian triumphed 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113 on the scorecards of the three judges in just the former undisputed cruiserweight world champion’s third bout as a heavyweight.

His victory, which extended Usyk’s perfect record as a professional to 19 wins from as many fights, saw him become just the third boxer after Evander Holyfield of the United States and Britain’s David Haye to win both the cruiserweight and heavyweight world titles.

Boxing fans have long looked forward to a clash between Joshua and British compatriot Fury, who defends his World Boxing Council heavyweight title against Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas next month — the third time the pair have fought each other following a split-decision draw and a win for Fury.

But Joshua had to get past Usyk, the 2012 Olympic heavyweight champion at the London Games where Joshua won the super-heavyweight gold medal.

“This means a lot for me. The fight went the way I expected it to go. There were moments when Anthony pushed me hard but it was nothing special,” said Usyk, who now follows brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko in becoming a Ukrainian world heavyweight champion, via a translator.

“I had no objective to knock him out because my corner pushed me not to do that. In the beginning, I tried to hit him hard, but then I stuck to my job.”

There is a rematch clause, with Joshua — who has now won 24 and lost two of his professional bouts — having previously lost his belts when beaten by Andy Ruiz in New York in June 2019 only to regain the titles in a rematch in Saudi Arabia six months later.

Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, told Sky: “I have spoken to him (Joshua) and it was a tough fight. He is devastated.

“Congratulations to Oleksandr Usyk… He put in a great performance and the better man won.

“(Joshua) never really got going, he will go to hospital now, I don’t know if he has broken his eye socket, it doesn’t look great.”

But Hearn added: “The fighter in AJ is already talking about winning the rematch.”

Joshua later tweeted, writing: “Keep positive even if the world’s crumbling in front of you! London, I love you & thank you each and every time!”

And despite defeat, he was backed to bounce back by Lennox Lewis, a former three-time world heavyweight champion.

READ ALSO: Fury-Wilder Reach Tentative Agreement For Third Fight: Report

 ‘Learn from This’ 


Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk celebrates and greets the crowd as he leaves the arena after defeating British heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua during their heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London on September 25, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

“Gotta give it up to @usykaa on a great tactical performance tonight. For @anthonyjoshua it’s not the end of the road, but u can’t be so tentative or wait till the 8th round to turn it on. Learn from this and improve,” Lewis tweeted.

At 34, Usyk is three years older than Joshua and he was also giving away three inches in height as well as nearly 20lbs (nine kilogrammes) in weight.

Joshua appeared relaxed during a protracted ring walk that saw him shaking hands with fans.

But Usyk moved well right from the opening bell and the southpaw staggered Joshua with a powerful left-hand punch to the head in the third round.

Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk (L) fights British heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua at the end of their heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London on September 25, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Usyk’s left hand continued to prove potent throughout a contest where a slimmed down Joshua did not appear to gain much resulting benefit in ring speed while at the same time lacking power in his punches.

By the end of the tenth round, there was swelling under Joshua’s right eye.

Usyk backed Joshua onto the ropes late on and appeared poised for a knockout when the final bell sounded.

AFP

Joshua Faces ‘Toughest-Ever Fight’ Against Usyk, Warns Hearn

 

Anthony Joshua could face his “toughest-ever fight” when he defends the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles against Oleksandr Usyk in London on Saturday, the British boxer’s promoter Eddie Hearn has said.

Joshua, 31, has height and reach advantages and will almost certainly be heavier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but Hearn said he was nervous ahead of the bout.

“This is probably AJ’s toughest-ever fight and I think he’s going to prove to the world how good he is,” Hearn told the PA news agency. “He’s ready for this fight but it’s the ultimate challenge with someone that’s very strong mentally.

“Mentally it will be draining (for Joshua) because he’s going to have to think a lot, there will be a lot of feints from both men and reactions are going to be key.

“I just can’t wait to watch it unfold. It’s a real, real high-end heavyweight fight. (Usyk is) going to be a tough, tough nut to crack. AJ’s got to break him down, beat him up and hopefully take him out.”

Usyk, 34, a former undisputed cruiserweight world champion, won heavyweight gold at the London 2012 Olympics while Joshua triumphed in the super-heavyweight division.

Despite the stiff test offered by Usyk, Hearn has been impressed by Joshua’s confident demeanour in the build-up the fight, expected to draw a crowd of more than 60,000.

“I’ve never seen him so assured about a fight, which is ironic because technically this is his toughest fight,” said the promoter. “He knows how tough this fight is, he wants to prove to the world that he’s the best heavyweight in the world.”

Joshua is taking on his WBO mandatory challenger after a potential bout with Tyson Fury, the British WBC champion, fell through.

It was announced on Tuesday that Joshua had signed a “career-long” promotional deal with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing organisation.

Joshua’s career has been overseen by Hearn since he turned professional eight years ago and although the Usyk fight was understood to be the last on the existing contract, the two parties have come to a new arrangement.

“We’ve never had one argument, we’ve never had one dispute, in eight brilliant years,” said Hearn. “So if it’s not broke then don’t fix it and we’re very proud that he’s extended his contract with us for the rest of his career.”

AFP

Joshua To Defend Heavyweight Titles Against Usyk In London

In this file photo taken on December 12, 2020 Britain’s Anthony Joshua (R) lands a punch on Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev (L) during their heavyweight world title boxing match at Wembley Arena in northwest London on December 12, 2020.  ANDREW COULDRIDGE / POOL / AFP

 

British-Nigerian boxer, Anthony Joshua, will defend his World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organisation heavyweight titles against Oleksandr Usyk at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on September 25, his promoter announced on Tuesday.

Joshua was set to fight compatriot Tyson Fury in a unification bout in Saudi Arabia in August but that contest was scuppered when a United States arbitrator ruled World Boxing Council champion Fury must defend his title against Deontay Wilder.

That trilogy contest was scheduled to take place this weekend but has instead been delayed to October 9 in Las Vegas after Fury tested positive for the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Joshua will now fulfill his mandatory WBO title defence in London, in what will be the first boxing event staged at the new home of Tottenham Hotspur football club.

Victory could pave the way for a ‘super-fight with Fury, provided his compatriot sees off American boxer Wilder in their third meeting after a December 2018 draw was followed by a February 2020 seventh-round technical knockout for the Briton.

By taking on Ukraine’s Usyk, a former undisputed world cruiserweight champion, Joshua will be facing a fellow London 2012 gold medallist.

Joshua was the Olympic champion in the super-heavyweight category at those Games, with Usyk topping the podium in the heavyweight division.

“The date is set and we are fully locked in,” said Joshua in a statement issued by Matchroom Sport.

“I put it all on the line again and it’s time to defend my crown. We are two Olympic gold medallists who have fought our way to the top and never avoided challenges.”

Usyk has won all 18 of his professional contests, 13 inside the distance, but only two of those bouts have been as a heavyweight.

“The path will be mastered by the walking one,” said Usyk, who at 34 is three years older than Joshua.

The British boxer, defeated just once in 25 professional contests, had been scheduled to fight Kubrat Pulev at Spurs’ home ground in June of last year but the Covid-19 pandemic saw the contest switched to Wembley Arena in December 2020, with Joshua enjoying a ninth-round knockout win.

Only some 1,000 fans were able to witness that fight live but Matchroom supremo Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, said he was expecting a crowd of more than 60,000 at the 62,850 capacity Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“Olympic gold vs Olympic gold, unified world heavyweight champion vs undisputed cruiserweight world champion this one has it all,” said Hearn.

Usyk’s most recent bout came in a points decision win over another British boxer Derek Chisora in October last year.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy welcomed the fight coming to the north London club’s home.

“Anthony Joshua is an icon in the world of sport and to have him fight here in London N17, against a top opponent in Oleksandr Usyk, will be amazing for the area of Tottenham,” he said.

“This event will once again showcase the stadium’s ability to take the hosting of world-class sporting occasions to the next level — we cannot wait for September 25.”

Fury-Wilder Reach Tentative Agreement For Third Fight: Report

(FILES) In this file photo Boxers Deontay Wilder (L) and Tyson Fury (R) face-off during a press conference in Los Angeles, California on January 25, 2020, ahead of their re-match fight in Las Vegas on February 22. World heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder ridiculed Tyson Fury’s punching power on February 11 as the two unbeaten fighters prepare for their eagerly anticipated rematch in Las Vegas.
RINGO CHIU / AFP

 

 

Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder have verbally committed to a third fight, ESPN reported Thursday night, days after an arbitration ruling halted fight talks between Fury and British champ Anthony Joshua.

After the independent arbitrator ruled Monday that WBC heavyweight champ Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) must face Wilder, plans for a unification fight between Fury and Joshua were put on hold, said ESPN citing multiple sources.

The Wilder and Fury fight could be held as early as July 24 in Las Vegas, the American sports broadcaster said, adding that August 14 has been set aside as a backup date.

Boxing promoter Bob Arum told ESPN he expects the contracts could be signed in the coming days. Fury would get 60 percent of the purse with Wilder receiving the lower sum.

The heavyweights fought to a draw in 2018 and Fury earned a TKO victory to win the WBC heavyweight title in 2020.

The arbitrator ruled that Fury was contractually obligated to give Wilder a rematch, with retired judge Daniel Weinstein upholding a claim lodged by Wilder that Fury must face him in a third fight by September 15.

While the arbitrator’s ruling is not a formal court order, it will be deemed enforceable by courts if Wilder and Fury are unable to reach agreement.

Monday’s ruling came just a day after Fury announced he had agreed to fight Joshua on August 14 in Saudi Arabia, where the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight belts will be up for grabs.

Wilder’s camp had also argued their fighter had a contractual right to a third match.

But after delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic led to last July’s contest being postponed, Wilder’s team sought to move the bout to 2021.

Fury refused the 2021 date and said he would move on, prompting the mediation.

Neither Fury nor Wilder have fought since clashing in  February 2020, when Fury outclassed the previously unbeaten American to win via a seventh-round technical knockout.

The two fighters had previously battled to an epic draw in 2018 at Staples Center Arena in Los Angeles after Fury survived a 12th round knockdown.

Fury-Joshua Fight In Jeopardy Over Wilder Rematch Order

 

Tyson Fury’s heavyweight unification fight with Anthony Joshua could be put on hold after an independent arbitrator ruled that the WBC heavyweight champion must face former champion Deontay Wilder in a rematch.

Retired judge Daniel Weinstein upheld a claim lodged by Wilder that Fury must face him in a third fight by September 15 following their February 2020 title battle.

While the arbitrator’s ruling is not a formal court order, it would be deemed enforceable by courts if Wilder and Fury are unable to reach agreement.

Fury’s promoter Frank Warren told the BBC on Tuesday he hoped Wilder would, for a lucrative fee, agree to step aside and allow the bout to go ahead.

“Until we can reach an accommodation with Deontay Wilder’s people, I can’t say that (Fury’s fight with Joshua) will definitely happen,” said Warren.

“But we are working hard to get that over the line.

“We were talking last night and hopefully we can do that.

“If not then Tyson, if he wishes, will go to the fight with Wilder. They’re the only two options.”

Monday’s ruling comes just a day after Fury announced he had agreed to fight Joshua in Saudi Arabia on August 14 where the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight belts will be up for grabs.

“Massive announcement FURY VS JOSHUA IS ON AUGUST 14 in The kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The worlds (sic) biggest sporting event all eyes on us,” Fury wrote on Twitter, describing the bout as “100 percent on”.

Weinstein’s ruling on Monday did not grant Wilder any monetary damages and also said an extension to the September 15 deadline was permissible if both the Wilder and Fury camps could reach agreement.

Wilder’s camp had argued their fighter had a contractual right to a third fight with Fury.

But after delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic led to last July’s contest being postponed, Wilder’s team sought to move the bout to 2021.

Fury refused the 2021 date and said he would move on which  prompted the mediation.

Neither Fury nor Wilder have fought since clashing in Las Vegas in February last year, where Fury outclassed the previously unbeaten American to win via a seventh-round technical knockout.

The two fighters had previously clashed at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2018, battling to an epic draw after Fury survived a 12th round knockdown.

I Look Forward To Working With Anthony Joshua, Says Mayweather

 

Floyd Mayweather has hinted at his intention to work with the two-time unified world heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua in his coming fight against Tyson Fury. 

The duo appears to have a strong bond after Mayweather was seen showing support for Joshua in his title fight against Pulev, with the British-born Nigerian boxer claiming that the Former welterweight champion gave him some tips to ensure victory against the Bulgarian.

In a podcast interview with Rob Moore, Mayweather revealed he was in regular contact with the champion and was thrilled at the prospect of they working together

“I look forward to working with Anthony Joshua real soon, we communicate all the time, we talk all the time,” he said.

He maintained that Joshua’s loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019 was instrumental to the Nigerian becoming better.

“But I think with Anthony Joshua losing a fight, that helped him become stronger,” he also said.

 

 

With both fighters having reached an agreement on a title unification fight on Monday, they are expected to earn £100 million ($139 million) each, with the purse split 50-50 for the first fight and 60-40 for the rematch in favour of the defending champion.

Still speaking on the matchup, the 41-year-old admitted it could go either way while showing respect for both fighters boxing prowess.

“It’s a very intriguing match-up, you can never say what’s going to happen in the sport of boxing. Both guys are great competitors. Like I say, me and Anthony Joshua talk on the regular, so I look forward to working with Anthony Joshua.”

While a date and venue are yet to be confirmed for the title fight, late June or early July looks highly likely for the opening showdown.