Monday, June 25, 2007

Harrington Hoping to Create More History in Ireland

Having delighted a nation by becoming the first home winner of the Irish Open for 25 years, Padraig Harrington will turn his attentions to writing another piece of Irish golfing history at the Smurfit Kappa European Open, which will be played at The K Club, County Kildare, from July 5-8. No player has won the coveted double of the Irish Open and Smurfit Kappa European Open titles in Ireland during the same season and Harrington will unquestionably enjoy huge public support as he aims to right that statistic when tournament golf returns to The K Club for the first time since last year’s Ryder Cup. Former US Open winner Michael Campbell (Smurfit Kappa European Open 2002 and Irish Open 2003) and Stephen Dodd (Irish Open 2005 and Smurfit Kappa European Open 2006) have both missed out on the ‘Irish double’ by just 12 months, while World Number Ten Harrington has twice gone close to winning the Smurfit Kappa European Open, finishing in a tie for second place in 2001 and 2002. Last year it was the turn of another Irishman, Paul McGinley, to feature strongly. McGinley had left for Dublin Airport on the Friday afternoon convinced he had missed the cut on two over par. In fact, he ended up making it on the mark and dashed back to The K Club to produce rounds of 67 and 69 for a share of fourth place overall – a result that helped him make the 2006 European Ryder Cup Team. Both men will headline this year’s Irish challenge, which also includes Michael Hoey, Peter Lawrie, Graeme McDowell, the best Irish performer in last week’s US Open, Damien McGrane, Gary Murphy and 1995 Ryder Cup star Philip Walton.

Howell and Westwood Back to Ryder Cup Venue

Englishmen David Howell and Lee Westwood will return to The K Club for the first time since playing their part in Europe’s record-equalling victory in The 2006 Ryder Cup when they tee up in the Smurfit Kappa European Open from July 5-8. Last September, both players were unbeaten over the Palmer Course, with Westwood winning four points out of a possible five, with three wins and two halved matches, and Howell winning two and a half points out of three, as Europe raced to an 18 ½ - 9 ½ point victory. Attention switches to the Smurfit Course for the first tournament at The K Club since that magnificent week last September with Westwood looking for his third victory in the Smurfit Kappa European Open following his back-to-back victories in 1999 and 2000. Having won for the first time in over three years when he captured the Valle Romano Open de Andalucia in May, Westwood will be chasing a second victory of the season and his 18th European Tour title. Howell has struggled with injury this year after finishing third on The European Tour Order of Merit in 2006, and is eager to get his season going again having not completed a tournament since the Masters in April. The inclusion of Westwood in the field brings to nine the number of past champions lining up at The K Club with Stephen Dodd of Wales defending the title. Michael Campbell (2002), Kenneth Ferrie (2005), Per-Ulrik Johnsson (1996 & 1997) and Philip Price (2004), have also tasted victory at The K Club while Sandy Lyle (1979), Peter Senior (1990) and Ian Woosnam (1988) all won the title prior to Smurfit Kappa’s sponsorship.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Boxers Collide in Bridgeport

Legendary boxing promoter Don King will present a boxing event with three world championships on Saturday, July 7 at Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The main event will feature Norwalk's own undefeated World Boxing Association super welterweight champion 'Tremendous' Travis Simms (25-0, 19 KOs) defending his crown against undefeated WBA No. 1-ranked mandatory challenger Joachim "Ti-Joa" Alcine (28-0, 18 KOs), from Montreal.The two additional world championships will showcase undefeated knockout machine Vic "Raging Bull" Darchinyan (28-0, 22 KOs), an Armenian now living in Sydney, Australia, defending his International Boxing Federation and International Boxing Organization championships against once-beaten Filipino Nonito "Flash" Donaire (17-1, 10 KOs) and former IBF super flyweight champion Luis "El Demoledor" Perez (24-1, 15 KOs) of Managua, Nicaragua, stepping up a notch in weight to tangle with Genaro "Poblanito" Garcia (35-5, 20 KOs) of Puebla, Mexico, for the vacant IBF bantamweight championship. "I am so happy to be coming to Connecticut for our nation's birthday followed by Fistic Fireworks of our own at Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport on July 7," the Only in America promoter, King, said. "This is a stellar card that already features three world titles and I will be adding many more great fights."

Sprott and Skelton at the O2

It's already a heavyweight card with a staggering seven titles on the line but the 02 Arena show on Saturday 14th July is now a real heavyweight show with the addition of big boys Matt Skelton and Michael Sprott. The pair were due to meet last month at the Excel but Sprott withdrew from the fight due to an injury and they will now clash on the mega show alongside WBO World title challenger Nicky Cook and Olympic Silver Medallist Amir Khan. Skelton will put his Commonwealth title on the line against Sprott and is raring to go having had more time to prepare. He said "I've been out of the ring for a while and I'm now desperate to get back into action. The delay has worked out better for me as I'm meaner, fitter and stronger than before and I feel like I could break down a brick wall with my punching power. Sprott will get himself into great shape as well and I'm looking forward to having a good tear up with him. Whatever happens this fight isn't going the distance." Reading puncher Sprott, who KO'd former Olympic Champion Audley Harrison in his last fight, is out for revenge over Skelton who defeated him in a bruising scrap three years ago. "I was ready to be let of the leash last time and was busting to get stuck into Skelton but picked up the injury which ruled me out. However, I'm now back and ready to rock Skelton's boots. When he beat me three years ago it was hard to swallow and I've been waiting for my chance for revenge. The fight delay has only made my hunger and desire stronger and I'm going to dish out some sweet long awaited revenge on the night." Said Sprott.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Casey and Hansen Okay for K Club

England’s Paul Casey and newly-crowned BMW PGA Champion Anders Hansen of Denmark will lead no fewer than 17 champions from The 2007 European Tour International Schedule into action at The K Club for the Smurfit Kappa European Open from July 5-8.Casey was imperious on his last visit to The K Club for The Ryder Cup as he was unbeaten in Europe’s record-equalling 18 ½ - 9 ½ victory over the United States. Along the way he produced a shot that would later be voted The European Tour Shot of the Year when he holed-in-one on the 14th hole of the Palmer Course in the Saturday afternoon foursomes with David Howell to close out their match against Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson.Casey won three titles during 2006 on his way to being voted The European Tour Player of the Year and he got his 2007 season off to a winning start when he captured the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in January. The World Number 16 and winner of eight European Tour titles will be looking for his first Irish victory.Hansen won The European Tour’s flagship event for the second time last month when he captured the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club after beating England’s Justin Rose at the first hole of a sudden-death play-off. That triumph followed his previous success five years earlier and he will be aiming to follow in the illustrious footsteps of Bernhard Langer (1995) and Ian Woosnam (1988) by completing the coveted double of the BMW PGA Championship and Smurfit Kappa European Open titles in the same season.The 2007 Smurfit Kappa European Open will be played over the Smurfit Course with a prize fund of £2,400,000.

Harrington's Pride of Place for May

Ireland’s Padraig Harrington has been named as The European Tour Golfer of the Month for May after ending a 25 year wait for a home winner of the Irish Open.

Amid emotional scenes at Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort in Co. Limerick, Harrington became the first Irishman to win his national title since John O’Leary in 1982, claiming the title after a tense play-off with Welshman Bradley Dredge.

Rounds of 73-68-71-71 left him tied with Dredge on 283, five under par, before Harrington won in extra holes. It was his 11th European Tour title and in the process he became only the fourth player to take his career earnings through the €15 million mark.

Harrington won the vote ahead of Dane Anders Hansen, who overcame a world-class to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club for a second time when he too prevailed in a play-off against England’s Justin Rose.

Also considered by the panel, comprising members of the broadcast and print golfing media, were Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, winner of the Telecom Italia Open, Richard Sterne of South Africa, who followed his third place in the BMW PGA Championship with a stunning victory in the Celtic Manor Wales Open a week later, and Lee Westwood, who won the Valle Romano Open de Andalucia three years and 227 days after his previous victory.

The Golfer of the Month Award is presented to a European Tour Member each month for his performance on The European Tour International Schedule and in worldwide competition.

Winners so far in 2007 have been Retief Goosen of South Africa (January), Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (February), South Africa’s Anton Haig (March) and Austria’s Markus Brier (April). At the end of the year, a panel will select The European Tour Golfer of the Year.

Froch Set To Ignite Boxing

The path to the summit is clearly mapped out for Carl Froch, the future face of world boxing. The Nottingham ‘Cobra’ has three Championship fights in the pipeline, including a challenge for the WBC Title currently held by Mikkel Kessler.
First up for the 29-year-old is a mandatory defence of the British Title he has already won outright, against former WBC champion Robin Reid. A purse bid for the Championship had been scheduled for today, but has been delayed in light of the recent surgery Froch has undergone on the Anterior Cruciate Ligament in his right knee.
Whilst the Hennessy Sports boxer is making faster than expected progress, the recovery period he requires has also prompted him to vacate the Commonwealth Title he has held for over three years and defended six times.
Given his operation, Froch could have applied for a postponement of his upcoming Commonwealth defence against Charles Adamu, initially scheduled for September 22nd.
This, however, could have caused a potential fixture pile up given the Reid clash and it was clear to the former history making amateur that his fans would prefer to see him move forwards rather than backwards, having already beaten Adamu in March 2004 in just his 12th fight.
Other opportunities also await Froch, including a challenge for the European Title. The standout undefeated puncher now has the opportunity to complete the traditional route to genuine world honours following the EBU’s decision to install him as their mandatory contender to current champion Cristian Sanavia at their convention in Kiev at the weekend.
Courtesy of his standout rankings, (WBC #1, WBO #3 and IBF #4), a direct move to world honours was a possibility given that the European title has been congested, but the path is now clear for Froch to fulfil a long-standing ambition after Hennessy Sports’ latest requests for their charge to be given his entitlement were met.
“I have said from day one that I want to do things the proper way,” said Froch. “That means winning English, British, Commonwealth and European titles before moving on to win genuine world honours.
“Now the way is clear for me to achieve that. What other fighter coming through has done it? It’s excellent news. I want to thank my promoter Mick Hennessy for continually fighting my corner, the British Boxing Board of Control for supporting my case and the EBU for recognising it.
“I would have gone straight into a world title fight if it came to it, but it has always been important for me to go into the ring to challenge for a world title having won all three of the traditional titles on this side of the pond. I have always done things the old-school way. Now I can continue that by knocking Sanavia out.”
Defeating the Italian will only assist Froch in his world title assault, particularly as the clock is ticking on another champion – WBC kingpin Mikkel Kessler.
“Kessler’s last mandatory defence was in March,” Froch explained. “That means he should have until next March to make another - which will tie in nicely. It seems everything has fallen just right for me; everything is mapped out.
“By the time Kessler’s mandatory should be due, I will have had the time to KO the only other fighter with a reasonable claim to my British Title and to take out Sanavia. I can walk to the ring against Kessler as a European champion having cleared up business in the old-fashioned manner. Then I can take care of him.
“Should this mooted fight between Kessler and Calzaghe actually come off and Calzaghe manages to somehow win, I will happily knock him out instead.
“When I am the champion, you won’t see me hanging around for 10 years and having only one defining fight like I think Calzaghe has. I’m going to prove to fight fans that some fighters still want to do things the proper way. Other fighters talk the talk, but people are starting to realise that I actually walk the walk

Calzaghe Eyes Up Kessler

Record-breaking WBO World Super-Middleweight Champion Joe Calzaghe says he wants his 21st title defence to be against top target Mikkel Kessle. 35-year-old Calzaghe made a landmark 20th title defence against Peter Manfredo last month and has dominated the 168lb division since ripping the title from British great Chris Eubank in 1997. The unbeaten Welshman reckons he can continue into his 40's like rival Bernard Hopkins the former undisputed middleweight king. "I have proudly held the WBO title for nearly 10 years since my great win over Chris Eubank way back in 1997. I've made 20 defences and I would love my 21st to be against Kessler," said Calzaghe. "Tiger Woods and Roger Federer have dominated their sports for the last few years but boxing is the hardest sport out there and to remain at the top for the last 10 years as a WBO World Champion is an achievement I am very proud of," "I'm in fantastic shape and I'm beating the younger lads in our gym when we are in training. I'm 35 but I feel like I'm 21 and I've still got a few good years ahead of me and I don't see why I can't carry on into my 40's like Hopkins has done."

Big Mac Takes On Big Truck

Dynamite punching Enzo Maccarinelli has promised to puncture 'Big Truck' Wayne Braithwaite when they meet at the Cardiff International Arena on July 21.It is now confirmed that the 25-year-old from Swansea will make the third and hardest defence of his WBO World Cruiserweight title against the power-punching Guyanan who has knocked-out 18 of his 24 opponents.Big Mac is relishing the opportunity to match Braithwaite's firepower with his own - that has sparked out 16 of 27 opponents inside the first three rounds - and is confident of making him blow-out." The man left standing will be the one who hits first and hits hardest and that will be me," said Maccarinelli." I'm looking forward to feeling his power and seeing if he is able to take mine.I've been dropped in the past against Bruce Scott and got back up to win and there is a real danger it could happen here but I aim to put a puncture into Big Truck before he does that," " I reckon the fans will see a real toe-to-toe war that could be like Joe Calzaghe's two round blockbuster against Byron Mitchell a few years back."Braithwaite, who is based in New York and is promoted by Don King, is ranked #3 in the WBO and #5 by the WBA.He won the WBC crown with a win over Vincenzo Cantatore in the Italian's backyard in October 2002 and will not be worried about tackling Maccarinelli in front of a partisan Welsh crowd. Maccarinelli added, "The better the opponent the better I perform and Braithwaite is an experienced boxer and a dangerous puncher who will give me the extra edge in training to prepare,"" He has a record littered with knockout wins and is a former world champion so I hold him in high regard but I don't see anything other than a win for me,"Promoter Frank Warren said, "Enzo is one of the hardest punchers in the world and he's taking on a guy who can certainly punch himself so we could be in for fireworks on the night. This is great fight for Enzo and we could really see him in the trenches and pulling out his big guns to stop Braithwaite," " It's a fantastic main event and we have a top quality card to support it with Alex Arthur and Gavin Rees challenging for World titles backed up with Welsh stars Gary Lockett, Tony Doherty, Kerry Hope, Nathan Cleverley and Barrie Jones."

Limond in Torture Camp

Amir Khan may have taken to the sunny climes of Tenerife ahead of his clash with Willie Limond - but the Scotsman is hoping home comforts can set him up for an against-the-odds win. The Commonwealth lightweight champion, who fights Khan on July 14 at the O2 Arena, London, has set up training camp at Fort William as he attempts to successfully defend his belt. The rural retreat was much loved by former WBO World Featherweight champion Scott Harrison, who would regularly take to the surrounding mountains in a grueling fitness regime. A former garrison town, Fort William is overshadowed by the UK's highest peak, Ben Nevis. "It's like a torture camp up but I wouldn't want it anyway else," Said Limond. He added, "I'm not underestimating Amir one bit and I know that this is going to be a very hard fight so to prepare for it I've gone to the hardest place in Britain," "It's brilliant here because it's in the middle of nowhere with no distractions so I can just fully concentrate on training three times a day," "I am out every morning doing hard mountain runs with a weighted vest and I've got a fell-runner to set the pace and we are in the gym for the rest of the day," "I will finish off my training in Glasgow for the last few weeks with sparring and I'm putting in a lot of rounds for strength work against super-middleweight Kenny Anderson."

Galaxy Banks Big Bucks On Beckham

David Beckham has already earned the Los Angeles Galaxy nearly £7 million - before he has even kicked a ball for the Major League Soccer (MLS) team. The Real Madrid midfielder will join the Galaxy in July after his contract with the Spanish club ends. Galaxy has sold an additional 7,000 season tickets on the back of Beckham's arrival, which translates into around £2.5 million. The franchise has also increased the price of premium seats by 48% and is expecting revenue to double this coming season to around £5 million.
To add to the coffers, Herbalife Ltd, which sells nutritional and weight-loss products, has signed a five-year £10 million agreement to have its name on club shirts. That equates to another £2 million a year. In all, Beckham's arrival should bring in an additional £7 million in his first season - around £4.5 million more than his annual playing contract with the club. Tim Leiweke, chief executive officer of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the Los Angeles-based company that owns Galaxy, said: "We were never worried about our financial commitment. We've already made our money back." Beckham's contract with Madrid ends on June 30 and the former England captain is expected to join the club in July after a break with his family.

Faldo Nominates McGinley and Olazábal as Vice-Captains

European Ryder Cup Captain Nick Faldo has named Paul McGinley and José Maria Olazábal as his two Vice-Captains Designate for The 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla, Louisville, Kentucky, where Europe will seek a fourth consecutive victory in the biennial contest.

Spaniard Olazábal, 41, has played in seven Ryder Cup Teams, having made his debut in 1987, and formed a record partnership with his fellow countryman Severiano Ballesteros, winning 11 of their 15 matches together and halving two more. In The 2006 Ryder Cup, Olazábal was unbeaten after teaming up with another Spaniard in Sergio Garcia at The K Club and winning both their matches, and then winning his singles tie as Europe claimed a record-equalling 18 ½ - 9 ½ victory.

Irishman McGinley, 40, has appeared in the last three European Ryder Cup Teams and sensationally holed the winning putt in 2002 at The Belfry. He has been on the winning team on all three occasions with the last two victories secured by record margins.

Speaking ahead of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, Faldo said: “I've decided to have two Vice Captains Designate. Two guys that I feel I have good chemistry with. And one is mainly based and playing in America and one is mainly based and playing in Europe. That was very important for me to have good eyes and ears close to the ground, good feedback so we can discuss things and we'll start opening up communication lines with the players. But to have two players of their character and playing stature, I think is very important for me.

“The first is one man who has an incredible record and brings to the team great passion for The Ryder Cup and incredible determination, and I don't know where he got that passion and determination from. It may have had something to do with his incredible record he had playing with Seve Ballesteros, in their 15 matches he won 11 times, losing only twice, halving two. José Maria Olazábal.

“And Number Two is more in the vein of my diplomat as part of the team. I have already had a couple of chats with this fellow to get some good inside information. When I was thinking of who I wanted as my Vice-Captain, the players today look to very much this era, rather than the eras from the captains of past, he's a three time Ryder Cup player and holed an unbelievable magnificent putt at The Belfry: In the green corner Paul McGinley.”

Whilst both players’ first priority is to make The 2008 European Ryder Cup Team, both will play an important role in the next few months.

“Obviously it's a great feeling but he knows that my intentions are to be part of the team as a player,” said Olazábal. “But always it's nice to be named by Nick to help him in any area that he needs me to. I'm pretty sure that we'll be keeping all of our eyes and ears open just to hear things from the players and try to give Nick some information about possibilities or what players are thinking. That's pretty much going to be our job I think.”

McGinley added: “The thing is, obviously, what a great honour it is to be picked by Nick. We all know his record and how much in high esteem he's held and how much he thinks about the game, and to be picked as part of this team is a great honour.

“But obviously the main thing I want to do, I've played the last three matches and I want to play in this one, just as Ollie does. I've been very fortunate, I've played three Ryder Cups, won all three, two by record margins, under three great captains. I've learned a hell of a lot, but I still feel I've got a few more Ryder Cups in me and my first objective is to make the team. That's what I've will be endeavouring to do but I'm obviously thrilled that I'm going to be involved one way or the other and I'm obviously there to help in any way I can.”