Monday, July 30, 2007

Olly's Chinese Adventure

Spaniard José Maria Olazábal has enjoyed the exquisite thrill of representing his country and continent in team competitions, but the 41 year old from Fuenterrabia expects to puff out his chest with pride at Mission Hills Golf Club in November. The course for the 2007 Omega Mission Hills World Cup carries the famous Olazábal signature and the man who helped sculpt the 7,400 yard masterpiece in China, is excited at the prospect of 28 nations assembling from across the globe from November 22-25 to sample his creation. As well as winning two Masters titles, Olazábal has been on three victorious European Ryder Cup Teams (1987, 1997, 2006), two Alfred Dunhill Cup sides (1999, 2000) under the red and yellow flag of Spain and helped his great friend, Seve Ballesteros, to success in the inaugural Seve Trophy in 2000. He also partnered José Maria Cañizares to finish runners-up behind Australia at Las Brisas, Marbella, in his native Spain in the 1989 World Cup of Golf, while teaming up with Miguel Angel Jiménez to share seventh place behind the United States in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2000. Now, as the driving force behind the Olazábal Course at Mission Hills, the man popularly known the world over as ‘Olly’ believes that the 2007 Omega Mission Hills World Cup will rubber stamp China’s Olympic credentials. He said: “I remember going to Mission Hills in 2002 to check out the course routing and being told that my course and four others had to be finished within one year. I thought: ‘Five courses in a year? No way!’ But it happened, which made me realise why China could handle the task of staging the Olympic Games. “They brought in about 3000 workers and 600 machines to move the earth and, sure enough, the courses were completed on time. I have to say I was impressed!” Olazábal believes that his course will deliver a fair but stern challenge to the nations seeking to win the 2007 Omega Mission Hills World Cup. He added: “I hope the players enjoy the course and the challenges facing them. For example, the change in elevation is one of the key factors. “There are many shots where you find yourself driving off elevated tees or playing approaches to elevated greens. The bunkering is another feature of the course and there is a little bit of water, especially to the left of the 18th which is a little left to right dog-leg with a bale out collection area to the right of the green.“The fairways are generous and the par threes are all strong holes – not too long but challenging. Look at the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon – par threes don’t need to be over 200 yards to test your skills. A smallish green, a little elevation and some bunkering can make you think!” Olazábal continued: “I think you are going to see a bunch of birdies. The par threes, as I say, are not too long and the par fives are reachable in two. You can attack the pins and there should be loads of birdie opportunities.”
Spain came agonisingly close to winning the World Cup in 2004, when Sergio Garcia and Jiménez finished one shot behind England’s Paul Casey and Luke Donald in Seville – coincidentally at the Olazábal-designed Real Club de Golf de Sevilla. However the country has an outstanding record in the World Cup, having won four times between 1976 and 1984. It was Olazábal’s old mentor and friend, Seve Ballesteros, who set the ball rolling in 1976 when he and Antonio Garrido secured Spain’s first title in the Philippines while Manuel Piñero partnered Ballesteros to a repeat performance in California the following year. Olazábal revealed: “I was only ten years old at the time and knew Seve and Manuel slightly, but to be honest I didn’t have a clue that Spain had won! I was more interested in learning to play the game and didn’t pay much attention to the news.” Piñero and José Maria Cañizares triumphed in Mexico in 1982 and the latter teamed up with José Rivero to win in Italy two years later. Olazábal added: “It’s a great event, fantastic crowds and a lot of fun. You are there to win for your partner and your country. “I love representing my country. I’ve had some wonderful experiences in The Ryder Cup and playing for Spain. In 1989, I played with Cañizares and the event was cut to 36 holes due to the torrential rain, but that didn’t diminish the element of fun. You can chat away to your partner and enjoy the experience.” The Spaniard enjoys his visits to China and added: “More and more courses are being built and more people are playing the game. With a population of 1.3 billion, the game is taking off in a big way. It will take time, but I believe that some day a real champion will emerge from China, capable of winning a Major Championship.”

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Witter ready for Harris

Junior Witter will be "living the dream" when he defends the WBC light-welterweight title against Vivian Harris in his home city of Doncaster on Friday, September 7. The former European, Commonwealth and British champion faces the New York-based mandatory challenger on a Hennessy Sports show to be televised live by Sky Sports at The Dome at Doncaster Lakeside, Yorkshire. Witter hopes victory over Harris will alert more people to his ability and set up even bigger fights against marquee names. And in Harris, Witter gets the chance to show what he can do with another fighter at the top of the world rankings. Harris is a former world champion who was linked with a fight against Witter’s long-term rival Ricky Hatton three years ago. "I've just got to thank my promoter Mick Hennessy for bringing this fight to Doncaster and I'm absolutely thrilled by the prospect of putting on a show for my local fans," said 'The Hitter'. "Doncaster is my home and I only live five minutes away from the venue so it's convenient and will be handy on the night. It's also easy for my fans from Sheffield and Bradford to get here and it’s a wonderful venue for boxing, so it will be a great night. "I've had to box away from home to get where I am but this will be a chance for my friends, family and fans in Yorkshire to come and see me in the flesh. “I'm from Bradford, but I've been living in Doncaster for a year a now. Fighting for the world title in Doncaster was something I had hoped to do for a while, and now I'm living the dream. "This is a high quality fight against one of the biggest names in world boxing in recent years, so it has made me train just that little bit more for it. "The noise from my supporters will give me a lift no doubt and it will help on the night and that will raise my performance. But I won't be taking anything for granted against him because he twice went to Germany to defend the WBA title and won, stopping Oktay Urkal the second time. "He can also bang a bit, so it's going to be a great fight. In America he might even be seen as the favourite by some people, so this is a big fight for me and I have to do a good job. "Beating Harris will make a few more people in the States sit up and take notice of me. He is dangerous but this is my chance to stamp my authority on this division." The fight was originally set for the St George’s Concert Hall in Bradford, but promoter Mick Hennessy switched the event to The Dome at Doncaster Lakeside. Witter and Hatton fought at the Doncaster Dome in 1999 and Witter will publicise his return to the venue with an appearance on the pitch at the Doncaster Rovers pre-season friendly against Manchester United on August 3. "My girlfriend has got me into following Doncaster Rovers and it will be good to go out on the pitch at the game against Manchester United on August 3," said Junior. Guyana-born Harris, 29, has just two defeats in 31 fights and made three defences of the WBA crown before he was stopped in a shock defeat to Carlos Maussa. Since then, he notched up three wins on the trot against the likes of top ten ranked Juan Lazcano and former world champion Stevie Johnston, who he stopped in seven. Witter's promoter Mick Hennessy sees Harris as the perfect defence for his boxer to make the step up to super-fights. "I know Junior is the best in this division and if he can do the job in style that will go some way to proving that," said Hennessy. "Harris has mixed in world class for over five years and is a name well known to the American audience. We want to get Junior more well known in the States, and this fight is ideal for doing that. He can make a real global name for himself in this fight. "Harris wasn't himself when he lost to Carlos Maussa and that is well documented but he has come back from that and he is a dangerous fighter when he's on top of his game. "Junior deserves his chance to box in Doncaster. We were going to the St George’s Concert Hall but a few complications made it impossible. It's worked out very well going to the Doncaster Dome because we now have a larger capacity, where they have had big title fights before. "We wanted to show Junior off in Yorkshire and this is a rare chance for the boxing fans in Doncaster and surrounding areas to see a world title fight involving one their boys in their own back yard. "We are certainly not underestimating Vivian Harris, he is a top drawer fighter, but I also have every faith in Junior to come through this and do the business. This is a huge fight for him, and hopefully there could be bigger ones to follow."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vargas and Mayorga Square Up

Don King from Don King Productions and Kathy Duva from Main Events formally announced the showdown between two-time world champion "Ferocious" Fernando Vargas and three-time world champion Ricardo "El Matador" Mayorga in the Chick Hearn Press Room at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.The room was packed with media, and all went well until the trash-talking Mayorga approached the podium and Vargas immediately removed his sunglasses. Vargas initially maintained his composure while Mayorga repeatedly referred to him as "fatty" as well as other terms not normally deemed acceptable in public company.Vargas grabbed his crotch and gestured to Mayorga and said, "Here's your fatty."The breaking point came when Mayorga said he was going to do Vargas's family a favor by retiring him and not allow his family to suffer every time he steps in the ring.Vargas and members of his camp stood up and went after Mayorga, and a melee ensued. Order was restored when Mayorga left the press conference and Vargas was allowed to address the media.RICARDO MAYORGA: "I'm very dedicated and focused. Believe it or not, I want everyone to know in this moment even if nobody believes me I have already been training for two months. I have the same hunger and strength I had when I won my first world title. Take a look at my two first world title fights-that's the Mayorga you're going to see on Sept. 8.I'm going to finish you [Vargas] but you're finished already."I'm going to give Vargas the chance to cash his last pension check. I would like to say publicly that 'fatty' over here [Vargas] has always feared me. When I was crowned junior middleweight world champion most recently against Michele Piccirillo, Vargas tried to have the World Boxing Council strip me of the title so it could be handed to him."I conceded to take this fight at 162 pounds because fatty couldn't lose any more weight. After this fight I'm going back to 147. I want Mayweather, Mosley, all of them."I will do Vargas a favor by retiring him in this fight so his family doesn't have to suffer every time he steps in the ring. I'm going to do your wife a favor and not let her cry anymore after I disfigure you. [while translator is repeating Mayorga's comments in English press conference fight begins after Mayorga slaps Vargas, and Vargas lands two blows before order can be restored.]"FERNANDO VARGAS: "This will be my last fight for one reason only. It's for pride. I can't leave my career after a loss."I called [longtime trainer and mentor] Eduardo Garcia and asked him if we would train me for one last fight. He said with a chuckle, 'You still want to fight?' I said told him just one more, Garcia. It's for pride."Mayorga can disrespect me all he wants but not my queens [his mother, wife and daughter]. He says he's been training for this fight for two months. I've been training since January. I'm already down to 183."We should have sold tickets to this press conference. We had a little fireworks here today. There will definitely be fireworks in the ring at Staples Center on September 8."

Calzaghe takes a pop at Hopkins

Unbeaten WBO and Ring Magazine Super-Middleweight champion of the World Joe Calzaghe has hit back at Bernard Hopkins - and told him he must get in the queue if he wants to fight him. Following his laboured points win over Ronald "Winky" Wright on Saturday night, Hopkins was vocal in calling out the hard-hitting Welshman. "I want Joe Calzaghe next," Hopkins said. "Tell him to come over here, and I'm going to beat him, too." But Calzaghe, who faces undefeated WBC and WBA World Champion Mikkel Kessler in a massive unification clash on November 3 at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, says Hopkins has already had his chance - and passed it up. "Hopkins can just get in the line and wait for me because of all the messing around he has caused me. I was all set to fight him a couple of years ago, and he doubled his financial demands after at first agreeing to the fight," said Calzaghe. "If he was really that keen to fight me, he would have signed up there and then but he got cold feet and then tried to save face. "It's convenient to call someone out when they already have a fight lined up, but right now I'm focusing on a real fight against Kessler. Once that is done I will look at Ol' Popkins but judging by his performance against Wright there isn't much competition there for me anyway," Hopkins said he wanted to fight Calzaghe in the Yankees Stadium, New York - but undefeated Calzaghe, 43-0, has questioned the level of support the American has. "Why go to America and fight in front of a half empty arena? There's no atmosphere there. Hopkins and Wright are supposed to be two of the top pound-for-pound fighters yet their fight didn't even sell out the Mandalay Bay, it drew something like 9,000 people and the majority of them will be given away by the hotel and casinos. My fight with Kessler is on course to sell 60,000 tickets and my last fight against Peter Manfredo drew 35,000," added Calzaghe. "Mind you, my fight against Kessler will be a real fight unlike the dancing and holding that the pair of them did on Saturday night. Hopkins is just a name that would look good on my record if we fought now," "The Americans go about me not fighting in the States but they have never questioned why Hopkins or Roy Jones have never left the comfort of their own backyard. Why should I go to America when if we do the fight in the UK we can make far more money in front of a bigger crowd? "But I'm willing to go to the States if that is where the best deal is. I've defended my title in Denmark and Germany, and I even agreed to fight Kessler in his own backyard."

Calzaghe set for Kessler

In arguably the biggest world title unification fight between non-heavyweight world champions since the Sugar Ray Leonard-Tommy Hearns rumble of 1981, undefeated super middleweight champions JOE CALZAGHE (43-0, 32 KOs), from Newbridge, Wales, and MIKKEL KESSLER (39-0, 29 KOs), from Copenhagen, Denmark, will finally step into the same ring to determine the undisputed world champion! Promoted by Frank Warren's Sports Network, in association with Team Palle, the Calzaghe-Kessler world title unification fight will take place Saturday, November 3, at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. "This is the only fight I want because a victory over Kessler will mean the most to my career at this point. More than the beating I gave Jeff Lacy when we unified our titles, and even more than my win over Chris Eubank, which began my world title reign 10 years ago," said an excited Calzaghe. "I'm No. 1 in the division today and I'll be No. 1 in the division after we fight. November 3 can't come quick enough." "I'm delighted that Joe will make his historic 21st World Super-Middleweight title defence against Mikkel Kessler," stated Warren. "It's a landmark occasion for Joe and the history of British boxing where he can tie the consecutive super middleweight title defence record by beating the most worthy opponent on the planet. This is a true world title fight." Calzaghe, boxing's current longest-reigning world champion, will make his landmark 21st consecutive title defense -- tops among active world champions -- which would tie him with super middleweight champion Sven Ottke at fourth place on boxing's all-time list, behind heavyweight champion Joe Louis (25), light heavyweight champion Dariusz Michalczewski (23) and strawweight champion Ricardo López (23) Calzaghe celebrates the 10th anniversary of winning his title just a few weeks before his battle with Kessler. "The Pride of Wales" captured the vacant WBO title, October 11, 1997, knocking down two-time world champion and British boxing legend Chris Eubank twice en route to a dominating unanimous decision on scores of 118-109, 118-111 and 116-111. Though his résumé boasts victories over former world champions Charles Brewer, Byron Mitchell, Robin Reid and Richie Woodhall, nothing compares to his victory over IBF/IBO champion Jeff Lacy, where he unified the title fighting a masterclass against previously undefeated champion who was the first 2000 U.S. Olympian to win a world title. The victory was so emphatic -- Calzaghe won every round of the fight -- and so important to the division, The Ring magazine conferred its prestigious championship belt upon the new unified champion, the first time in the division's 22-year history that The Ring has ever recognized a super middleweight as its world champion. Calzaghe, 35, returns to the ring after successfully defending his title on April 7 for the 20th consecutive time, stopping top-five contender Peter Manfredo Jr., in the third round, at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. With over 35,000 fans in attendance, the Calzaghe-Manfredo fight shattered the indoor European record for a boxing event. The victory elevated Calzaghe into a fifth-place tie with former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes and former middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins on the all-time list for successful consecutive title defenses. Kessler, 28, has steamrolled and plundered the division much like his Viking ancestors did during the dawn of the New World. The "Viking King" captured the WBA super middleweight title November 12, 2004 by destroying defending champion Manny Siaca. Leading on scores of 70-62, 70-63 and 69-64, Siaca retired in his corner after the seventh round. Kessler has successfully defended his title four times since, two against former world champions Anthony Mundine and Eric Lucas, followed by a sensational third-round knockout of defending WBC champion Markus Beyer, last October, to unify the titles. In his last fight, on March 24, in his first defense of his WBC/WBA titles, he schooled undefeated No. 1 contender and mandatory challenger Librado Andrade (24-0, 18 KOs), winning on scores of 120-108 on all three judges' cards.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Khan clambers up to lift title

Amir Khan climbed off the canvas to claim the Commonwealth lightweight title with a stop-page victory over defending champion Willie Limond on Saturday night.

Limond failed to emerge for the ninth round with a broken jaw and his corner had do option but to pull him out of a brutal contest at the O2 arena. A stream of quickfire combinations from Khan overwhelmed his opponent in the seventh and eigth rounds. But the 20-year-old from Bolton had to survive the first major scare of his professional career, which now reads 13 straight victories, when he was knocked down in the sixth round and weathered a major pummelling. The standard of Khan's previous 12 opponents had drawn criticism, but there could be no doubting Limond's pedigree. Onle one defeat sustained the Glaswegian's 29-fight record and that was against world title contender Alex Arthur in 2003. The 28-year-old, a durable opponent with a solid chin, presented a significant step up in class and gave Khan a real test.

Looking significantly bigger than his opponent, Khan started the fight on the back foot and connected with a series of lefts and rights. A grin greeted an accurate flurry from Limond, with Khan eager to show that he had not been hurt by the ever-aggresive Scot, but the Bolton favourite knew that he was in a real fight. He consistently landed with straight, combinations in the fourth, but he staggered slightly after a right hand from Limond connected cleanly in a warning that he could not lose concentrationagainst the cagey Scot. Khan threw a series of rapid combinations in the sixth, but the tables turned dramatically in a thrilling round that brought the O2 arena to its feet. Two right hands and a left hook sent Khan sprawling and Limond continued to batter his opponent as he fell towards the canvas. The count was completed and he continued to pile on the pressure, chasing him around the ring as the Scot looked to finish the fight early. But Khan held on and began unleashing some telling shots of his own.

The seventh was far more one-sided, however, as Khan backed Limond against the ropes with more hurtful combinations and the champion went down himself. It was Limond who was in full retreatnow, with his bloody face eviident of Khan's handiwork. By the eighth round, Limond was in trouble, but the brave Scot refused to give in and had to be withdrawn by his corner, handing Khan the toughest victory of his career.