Wednesday, December 31, 2008

European Golfers ste New Year Targets

The potent combination of world-class performances – led by Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington, Robert Karlsson and Lee Westwood – and the lure of the inaugural Race to Dubai sees The European Tour’s current Membership ring in the New Year as the dominant force in the Official World Golf Ranking. Of the 50 leading players in the game, based on the Official Ranking, a record 39 are now plying their trade on The European Tour with eight of the top ten all in Membership as dawn breaks on an exciting new year. These impressive numbers are swollen by several new Full and Affiliate Members, namely Robert Allenby, Stephen Ames, Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Tim Clark, Ben Curtis, Anthony Kim, Geoff Ogilvy, Rory Sabbatini, Camilo Villegas and Mike Weir – with the prospect of further additions early in the New Year as The 2009 Race to Dubai gets into full swing. However, the 2008 season also saw some momentous leaps on the Official World Golf Ranking from the Tour’s established Members. Of those players who plied their trade on a number of platforms around the globe, the breathtaking performances of double Major Champion, Padraig Harrington, and Harry Vardon Trophy winner, Robert Karlsson, plus the ascent to World Number Two by Sergio Garcia, were the highlights of a tremendous year which saw Vijay Singh, Henrik Stenson and Ernie Els consolidate their top ten spots. Harrington’s summer of Major Championship glory in The Open and US PGA Championship helped the Irishman climb from eighth to fourth. Meanwhile Karlsson’s astonishing consistency over the past 12 months, when he won twice individually as well as in tandem with Stenson, representing Sweden in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, finished within the top eight in three of the season’s four Major Championships and racked up a further seven top four finishes, saw him make a staggering climb from 41st position at the beginning of the year to his current career-high ranking of World Number Six. Garcia brought an end to Phil Mickelson’s stranglehold on the World Number Two spot with his win in the recent HSBC Champions to become Tiger Woods’ closest challenger, while Lee Westwood’s impressive level of consistency was such that he climbed from 23rd to ten. Victory in The Players Championship in the United States and a close call behind Harrington in the US PGA Championship launched Garcia on his way to getting closest to breaking Woods’ stranglehold on the Number One position. Another huge success in the HSBC Champions enables the Spaniard to lead the runners in The Race to Dubai going into 2009. He said: “This Race to Dubai is going to bring some different things to the Tour. I know we are looking forward to keep making the Tour stronger and I think it's definitely going in the right direction.” Reflecting on his move to Number Two in the World, Garcia added: “There are always a couple of things that you can improve on. I've been improving on my short game quite a lot this year and that is probably what's going to give you the extra edge. I’ve got got to keep working hard on every single part and on my mental game and see if we can keep moving and taking the right steps towards what we want to achieve.” Looking ahead to the next few weeks, he added: “The tournaments in the Middle East are great. The fields are good and you get a lot of World Ranking points. You're moving in the right direction. That's definitely going to be the case this year for The Race to Dubai and The European Tour for many years to come, and I think that's why you are going to see more good players coming more often and playing in Europe.” The decision of Villegas, Kim and Ogilvy to join The European Tour adds spice and a touch of glamour to The Race to Dubai, with Colombian Villegas now seventh in the world with American Kim and Australian Ogilvy in 11th and 12th respectively. Villegas cannot wait to enter the fray as The Race to Dubai hots up, and he said: “I’m very excited to be joining The European Tour. I’ve always wanted to play world tours, but just had to put myself in a good position in the World Ranking so I can try to work both schedules as best I can. “It just happens that my first year joining The European Tour coincides with the first year of The Race to Dubai. Obviously it’s going to catch a lot of guys’ attention, but I wanted to get myself in a good World Ranking position, like I said, to be able to set both schedules and play both Tours. “It would be nice to see more guys from the US come and play, since golf is a worldwide sport. It’s growing big-time all over the world, and we have to support that. I always wanted to play around the world, so that’s why I made the decision.” Kim, the youngster of Korean heritage who dazzled on his Ryder Cup debut for the United States at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky in September, is another player tingling with anticipation at the prospect of The Race to Dubai. He said: “I am very excited about The Race to Dubai. I got to play my first co-sanctioned event with The European Tour and the Asian Tour at the Ballantine’s Championship and I felt like I could make a name for myself worldwide, not just the United States. “ While Garcia and Co. were scaling the dizziest of heights on the Official World Golf Ranking, Ross Fisher, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell were all bursting into – and cementing their places within – the top 50 with some memorable performances around the globe. Jiménez’s victory at the 2008 UBS Hong Kong Open saw the Spaniard move from 60th to 39th before his brilliant win in the BMW PGA Championship ensured the 44 year old a place among the game’s elite top 50. He is now 22nd on the Official World Golf Ranking. Three places below Jiménez lies Kaymer, whose victories in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and the BMW International Open – coupled with a further six top ten finishes – guaranteed the young German’s place at golf’s top table in 25th place within 12 months of finishing as the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year. Fisher’s seven-stroke success at The European Open took the Englishman to the cusp of the top 50, before a powerful finish to the year saw him climb to 29th on the year-end Ranking. McDowell battled his way back to the top level with thrilling wins at the Ballantine’s Championship and The Barclays Scottish Open to attain his current Ranking of 33rd. Another reason for The European Tour’s record showing on the World Ranking has been the recent additions of Barclays Singapore Open winner Jeev Milkha Singh (35th) and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlory, who is a career high 39th which ensures the teenager a Masters Tournament debut in April. Both broke into the top 50 on the strength of their outstanding end of year performances around the world and were joined at the end of the year by 2008 Volvo Masters champion Søren Kjeldsen, who slipped into 50th position on the back of that stunning victory at Valderrama in November. “It’s been an absolutely great year to qualify to play at Augusta in my second season thanks to making the Top 50 in the world and staying there,” said McIlroy, at 19 the youngest player in the world’s top 50. “It’s going to be great, driving up Magnolia Lane. It’s just going to be absolutely fantastic. I’ll still be a teenager when I’m going up there and I’m obviously looking forward to next year. “All I wanted to do was get into the Volvo Masters and get in the Top 100 in the world, and I’ve done so much more than that this year,” he said. “It’s been absolutely fantastic. I’ve worked hard for it, so I’m thrilled.” With the Tour’s established players being joined by a healthy proportion of the world’s elite– a direct result of The Race to Dubai – The European Tour moves into the New Year at the forefront of world golf.

DeGale awarded an MBE

Olympic gold medallist James DeGale has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list - and says it is the perfect boost ahead of his professional debut next year. DeGale, 22, who won gold in the middleweight division at this summer's Beijing Games, is one of the youngest people to have been awarded the MBE. And he will look to build on that success when he fights for the first time as a professional under promoter Frank Warren in February alongside team mates Frankie Gavin and Billy Joe Saunders. "I was absolutely gob-smacked when I heard the news," said DeGale. "I'm so proud to have received this honour. 'It was a dream come true to represent my country at the Olympics and to have won a gold medal, and this just caps a perfect year for me. "To get this kind of public recognition is amazing, and I can't wait to go the Palace to collect it. "I achieved everything I possibly could have as an amateur, and turning professional made perfect sense. "But everything I did at the Olympics won't mean anything unless I translate it into success as a professional and that means winning a world title, which no British Olympic champion has achieved yet. "I've been back in the gym, training hard for my debut, and now the focus will be on learning my trade in the professional ranks. "My dream was always to win Olympic gold and then lift a world title. I've done half of that - now I've got to start all over again, but I'm relishing the challenge."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bumper year for Frank Warren's fighters

Top promoter Frank Warren is lining up an action packed 2009 with Britain's best young boxers out in recession-busting force. Despite the tough economic times, Warren will be showcasing exciting young talent like Kell Brook, Amir Khan and The Olympians: James DeGale, Frankie Gavin and Billy Joe Saunders, in what could be the sports best year yet. Sheffield hot shot Brook kick starts the new year when he makes the second defence of his British Welterweight title against Stuart Elwell at London's York Hall on Friday 30 January. The 22-year-old shot captured the attention of the public and media last month with a sizzling first round stoppage of former champion Kevin McIntyre. This will be a big year for Brook, who hails from the same Sheffield gym as Naseem Hamed, as he aims to win the Lonsdale belt outright and become a star attraction now that Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe are heading towards the end of their careers.Bolton star Khan, who holds the Commonwealth and WBA International lightweight titles, will return to action in February against a top name. Khan made an explosive return to the ring earlier this month when he stopped Oisin Fagan inside two round, dropping the Irishman three times with his lighting fast combinations. Now trained by Freddie Roach at his gym in Hollywood, Khan is looking at rebuilding his career next year towards a world title opportunity.On the same show dynamite punching Welshman Enzo Maccarinelli takes on Johnathon Banks for the Vacant WBO World Cruiserweight title. The fight was scheduled to take place earlier this month in London, but the American withdrew only a few days before leaving Maccarinelli to face heavyweight Mathew Ellis instead - who he blasted out in two rounds. Olympians DeGale (Gold Medallist), Gavin (2007 World Amateur Champion) and Saunders (GB Olympic representative) make their highly anticipated professional debuts also in February but on a separate show. The trio will then tour the country, fighting on the same show as the public watch their careers develop towards championship honours. DeGale will shortly be announcing who his professional trainer will be, while Gavin is working hard under Anthony Farnell in Manchester, and Saunders has made it into celebrity listings The Red Pages as their Hot 100 for 2009. Warren, who enters his 29th year as a promoter, said, "Although 2009 is going to be a tough economic year, It's going to be full steam ahead for me with developing the future champions of the sport," "In all my time in boxing I can't think of a period when there has been so many talented and potential champions in the sport like Kell, Amir, James, Frankie, Billy plus lads like Nathan Cleverly, Don Broadhurst, Tony Bellew, Kenny Anderson, Anthony Crolla, Thomas Costello, Denton Vassell, Jamie Cox, The Smith brothers (Paul, Stephen and Liam) and Derek Chisora." "Like Arsenal and Manchester United who invest heavily into their youth policy, boxing is very much the same and it's about bringing through the young kids year-after-year and developing their careers," "I've spent a lot of time, effort and money into developing these youngsters and I hope to see the rewards when they become world champions and big attractions like we did with Ricky Hatton, Naseem Hamed, Joe Calzaghe and countless others," He added, "Hatton and Calzaghe are at the end of their careers now and the aim is to get these youngsters into that position so that they are the new stars and the ones that the public and media are talking about."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gavin is a future Star

Hot prospect Frankie Gavin says he is the future of British boxing - and will take up the reigns once the current crop of stars have retired. The 2007 world amateur lightweight champion makes his glittering professional debut early next year after signing terms with top promoter Frank Warren. His career will develop alongside those of fellow 2008 Olympians Billy Joe Saunders and Gold medalist James DeGale. And during a media work out today in Manchester, Gavin said the trio are the next generation of stars. "Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton are fantastic fighters," said Gavin. "But they will be coming to the end of their careers in the next year or so, and the search is already on for the boxers who are going to replace them. "I think that guys like James, Billy Joe and myself can step into their shoes and deliver the fights that the British public want to see. "It's not going to be easy getting to the top, but we've got the talent to get to world level, and we'll all be pushing each other on to get there. "I'm so excited about the next couple of years, because with the backing of Frank Warren, who developed Hatton, Calzaghe and Naseem Hamed into household names, we're going to get lots of publicity and the same kind of recognition that the top name fighters are getting at the moment. Gavin, 23, will be trained by Anthony Farnell in Manchester, and impressed when he was put through his paces today."We've got a great camp here with some quality lads in the gym," he added. "There's no cutting corners, and every day I've got to 110% on top of my game otherwise I get found out. "I've improved so much already, and I can't wait until my first professional fight because people are going to be really impressed by what they see."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Saunders set for Big Time Boxing

Olympian Billy Joe Saunders is aiming to become the first Romany to become a world champion.Saunders, who lives on a travelers camp in Hatfield, Herts, made history when he went to the 2008 Beijing Games in the summer. Although he didn't get among the medals, he became the first Romany to represent team GB at an Olympics. And now he has his sights set on similar history making in the professional ranks, with his long awaited debut planned for early next year along with team mates James DeGale and Frankie Gavin. There have been successful Romany fighters in the UK before - including a number of British champions - but Billy Joe, 19, is aiming to top them all and lift a world title. "It would make me so proud to do it, and I've got the ability to do it if I keep my focus and train hard," said Saunders, who plans to box between welterweight and light-middleweight for his first few fights. "But I'm not just fighting for my people, I'm fighting for all British boxing fans and everyone who supported us at the Olympics. Winning a world title would be my way of saying thank you." Saunders, who is sticking with amateur coach Danny Hoy, says he can't wait to get his career underway in February having signed professional terms with leading promoter Frank Warren. "I'm counting every day," said Billy Joe. "It's been a while since the Olympics and I can't wait to get back into the ring. "It will be better for me being a professional because I think my style is more suited that way of boxing."I'll get a chance to plant my feet and let my shots go, and that's perfect for the way that I fight." "You can just stand there and get on with it and throw more combinations, and that's going to play right into my hands."

Immelman scoops Top Award

Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters Champion, has been awarded Honorary Life Membership of The European Tour in recognition of his outstanding achievement in capturing his first Major title at Augusta National in April. The 29 year old South African was presented with his Membership card as the 32nd Honorary Member by Keith Waters, Director of International Policy for The European Tour, at the South African Open Championship at Pearl Valley Golf Estates as he continued his season-long quest to win The Race to Dubai on The European Tour International Schedule. Immelman has been a strong supporter of The European Tour since his early professional days on the Challenge Tour, where he won the 2000 Tusker Kenya Open before collecting four titles on The European Tour including his tremendous Masters victory earlier this year. Immelman is the fourth South African player to be awarded Honorary Life Membership of The European Tour, following his fellow Major Champions Gary Player, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. “I actually have goosebumps just thinking about this,” said Immelman. “It's a cliché, but it's a dream come true to become an Honorary Life Member of The European Tour. I grew up here in South Africa watching professional golf, watching The European Tour, listening to Renton Laidlaw commentate about Seve and Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam and all those guys. So for me to join them and become an Honorary Life Member of The European Tour is something that's just extremely special for me and that I will cherish for the rest of my life. “I started my professional career on The European Tour ‑ it must be ten years now, so it's exciting for me. It's also exciting to be part of The Race to Dubai. I think it's been an incredible move by The European Tour. They have created a premiere package and made a big spectacle of what the Tour was, and to get this sort of a system going into the big events at the end of the year in Dubai, it's fantastic. “I travel all over the world, and you know, this move by The European Tour has garnered a lot of interest. A lot of people are talking about it and a lot of people are excited about it. It's an exciting time for The European Tour and it's great for me to be part of that.” George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “This award is accorded to very special players who have won Major Championships or contributed significantly to The European Tour. Both of those criteria apply to Trevor, who has been a great ambassador for The European Tour since his early days on the Challenge Tour. “We are delighted to honour a player who has not only played marvellous golf on The European Tour, but displayed considerable fortitude and skill in fending off the challenge from many of the world’s greatest players to capture the Masters Tournament in April.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Weekley to star in Qatar Masters

US Ryder Cup star Boo Weekley will be aiming to become the first American winner of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters, Presented by Dolphin Energy when he tees up at Doha Golf Club from January 22-25, 2009. The colourful star from Florida, a key player in Paul Azinger’s US victory over Europe in this year’s Ryder Cup, will make his Middle East debut at the $2.5 million tournament, organised in co-operation between the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC), the Qatar Golf Association (QGA) and Commercialbank. “Boo Weekley certainly brought something different to the Ryder Cup so we expect him to be a big favourite with the galleries in Qatar,” said QGA President Hassan Al Nuami. “Although the tournament has been staged eleven times, it has never been won by an American player. But Boo has the talent and the game to win in Doha, although I am sure he knows it won’t be easy over a course we believe is the toughest on the ‘desert swing’.” Thomas Brent Weekley may have hit the headlines for colourful admissions that he has wrestled alligators and been the loser in a fight with an orang-utan but he is also a world-class golfer with two US PGA titles under his belt. Currently ranked 40th in the world, Weekley - nicknamed after cartoon character Yogi Bear’s sidekick Boo Boo - claimed his first Tour victory at the Verizon Heritage in April 2007. His good form at the start of 2007 included two other top ten finishes, which helped him climb into the world’s top fifty players. The same year he teamed up with Heath Slocum at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup where they finished as runners-up. This year, Weekley successfully defended his title at the Verizon Heritage but it was as a rookie at the Ryder Cup that he rose to world prominence with a final day 4&2 win over Oliver Wilson and the memorable sight of ‘riding’ his driver down the first fairway. “The Ryder Cup was more than I dreamed of,” said Weekley. “As players, normally we are out there trying to beat each other each and every day. It was pretty neat that we all kind of came together and actually thrived off of one another - it was just an amazing experience.” Growing up in Milton, Florida, Weekley didn’t watch much golf on television and while most successful pros intend to play tournament golf as long as they can, he can't wait to be home in Jay, Florida with wife Karyn and son Thomas. "I want to play ten, twelve years, whatever it takes to get enough money in my bank and I'm done," he said. "I love the game, but I get tired of being away from my family. I get tired of being away from my friends. I love to play the game, but my heart is really with hunting and fishing." Commercialbank Group CEO Andrew Stevens said he is delighted to have the popular American in the 2009 line-up. “Boo Weekley is one of the great characters in world golf and I think we’re all excited about him playing in Doha in January,” he said.

Sutherland sets sights on Dublin

BRIAN LAWRENCE believes the potential blockbuster between Irish star Darren Sutherland and Englishman James DeGale will never ever happen. Sutherland, 26, makes his professional debut at Dublin City University on Thursday when he faces Bulgarian Georgi Iliev. DeGale outpointed'Dazzler' in the Olympic semi-finals, but Sutherland had beaten the Beijing gold medallist four times previously. Sutherland's trainer, Lawrence believes DeGale will stay away just like Riddick Bowe did from Lennox Lewis after winning the world heavyweight title. Lawrence said: "Lennox stopped Bowe in the 1988 Olympics, and it was such a shame they never fought professionally. "Bowe didn't want to know when he became world champion and famously threw the WBC belt in the bin instead of facing Lennox. "I'm not saying DeGale will throw belts in rubbish bins, but I reckon when the chips are down he will come up with excuses to avoid the fight. "There will be other challenges and I'm sure when they both finish their careers Darren will have achieved more." Sutherland's promoter Frank Maloney added: "I have been so impressed with Darren I would put the public out of their misery and make the match with DeGale tomorrow. "Unlike Brian, I think they will meet eventually in what will be one of the biggest fights of all time." Rendall Munroe's European super-bantamweight title defence against Fabrizio Trotta tops the DCU bill which will be televised live in Britain and Ireland by Sky Sports. Manchester's Craig Watson (13-2) defends his Commonwealth welterweight title against Adnan Amar (22-1), a protégé of Dubliner Brendan Ingle. A third title bout on the bill sees Jason Booth (30-5) risks his Commonwealth bantamweight crown against Sean Hughes (15-7-1).Dublin prospect Paul Hyland (12-1) faces Eugene Heagney (7-1) in a local battle where the winner could be lined up to face European bantamweight champion Ian Napa. Kiko Martinez (19-1), who knocked out Bernard Dunne in seconds, boxes a six rounder on the undercard. London based Irishman Martin Power (19-3); the former British bantamweight champion faces a tough test against Gary Davies (7-2-1). Tickets for the big Dublin bill cost 100 Euros and 50 Euros and are available from, To order from Ireland by phone call 08 18 719300, and from UK 0871 226 1508.

Napa to feature in Stoke

IAN NAPA makes the first defence of his European bantamweight title when he faces a selected opponent at Fenton Manor Sports Complex, Stoke on Friday 23rd January. A cracking chief supporting contest sees local hero Chris Edwards (11-13-3) challenge Grimsby's Wayne Bloy (5-3-1) for the vacant British flyweight championship. The show will be promoted by FTM Sports in association with Scott Lawton of Impact boxing. Lawton (25-4-1) will be the busiest man in Britain on the night, having to find time to squeeze in an English lightweight title defence against Henry Castle (19-4) in what promises to be a brilliant ten rounder. The show will be televised live on Sky Sports and Maloney said: "Stoke is an expanding city and there is a big enough fan base there to stage major shows. "Scott and everyone else at Impact have done a lot for boxing in the Potteries and this will hopefully be the first of many shows together. "I was given a tour of the venue last month and it is top class and I'm sure we will get a big crowd." Londoner Napa (18-6) won the European title in October when he captured a unanimous points verdict against defending champion Carmelo Ballone. Edwards, 32, will be attempting to bounce back to winning ways after losing his British super-flyweight title to Andy Bell in March. The undercard will feature the best of the local talent and several of Maloney's prospects. Tickets for 'Stoking the Fire' can be obtained from or by calling the box office 0871 226 1508. Prices are £70 ringside and £35.

European Open back at The London Golf Club

The European Open will be held at The London Golf Club for the second consecutive year from May 28-31, 2009, following its successful return to England last season for the first time since 1994. A world class field, including defending champion Ross Fisher of England, will contest the £2.4 million tournament which can secure precious earnings towards the inaugural Race to Dubai. Fisher profited most from the return of The European Tour to his native country in 2008 by claiming his second European Tour victory by an emphatic seven strokes over Sergio Garcia of Spain last July. The European Open will once again be played over the 7,257 yard, par 72 Jack Nicklaus-designed Signature Heritage Course, which is one of two courses - along with The International - at The London Golf Club, near Brands Hatch in North Kent. The Club has gained considerable recognition on both an international and national scale in recent years since The Bendinat Group acquired the 700 acre venue back in 2004. No stranger to tournament golf, the Club has hosted four European Senior Tour events and, with the forthcoming edition of The European Open next July, two main Tour events since its opening in 1994. George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “Selecting The London Golf Club to host this prestigious event for the second consecutive year demonstrates our absolute confidence in the quality of facilities on and off the course at The London Golf Club.” Charles Fairweather, Chairman of The London Golf Club, said: “Everyone at the Club is delighted that the venue has once again been chosen to host The European Open. We were immensely pleased in 2008 by the reaction of Europe’s finest golfers to both the golf course and the facilities on offer at The London Golf Club and we look forward to an equally successful tournament in 2009.” It will be the 32nd edition of The European Open, which began in 1978 and has previously been won by some of golf’s most iconic names, including Nick Faldo (1992), Retief Goosen (2004), Bernhard Langer (1985 and 1995), Sandy Lyle (1979), Colin Montgomerie (2007), Greg Norman (1986) and Ian Woosnam (1988). Last season was the first time The European Open had been played in England since it was held at East Sussex National in 1994, with The K Club in Ireland hosting the event for 13 successive years from 1995 to 2007.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Time is right for McGuire

Stevie McGuire believes Brian Magee is ready for the taking in Saturday’s Vacant British Super-Middleweight Title showdown at the Brentwood Centre. McGuire (Glenrothes, Scotland) might be the underdog for the fight against Magee (Belfast, Northern Ireland) but he is not lacking confidence after a two-week training camp in Cyprus to get ready for the biggest fight of his life.
Magee will be trying to become British champion at the third attempt after being stopped for the same belt by new WBC super-middleweight champion Carl Froch in 2006 and then held to a controversial draw with Tony Oakey for the British light-heavyweight belt last year. But McGuire is confident of improving his 15-fight unbeaten record on the Hennessy Sports show that will be shown live on ITV4 from 8.40pm. “I’ve never trained like that in my life,” said McGuire. “I was pushed more than I thought I was capable of and it’s the best I’ve ever felt. “When you are in big fights like this and with this being such a massive fight, I couldn’t cut any corners so I’ve had a nutritionist and a coach for southpaws. “I have beaten everybody that has been put in front of me, so I think I can do the same on Magee. He was world class but I think I have got him at the right time.” Also on the same bill, Darren Barker (Barnet, England) defends his Commonwealth Middleweight Title against Jason McKay (Banbridge, Northern Ireland). Unbeaten Lee Purdy (Colchester), Steve O’Meara (Wembley), Gareth Couch (High Wycombe) and Dwayne Lewis (Canning Town) are also in action. Purdy faces Peter McDonagh (Bermondsey) while O’Meara takes on Matt Scriven (Nottingham) and Lewis hopes to continue his run of stoppages against Ryan Walls (Slough). Couch won his last fight a month ago by first round KO and will next face Steve Gethin (Walsall) while Matthew Thirlwall (Bermondsey) makes his comeback versus Manocha Salari (Worksop) after a year out. Tom Glover (Maldon) takes on Leonard Lothian (Northampton) in what promises to be an exciting show.

Hyland aiming for Glory

IRISH prospect Paul Hyland could be in line for a shock crack at European bantamweight champion Ian Napa. Hyland (12-1) is set to challenge the Englishman if he defeats fellow Dubliner Eugene Heagney in their home city on Thursday 18th December. The Irish champion and Heagney settle their differences in a six rounder on the big show at Dublin City University.Promoter Frank Maloney said: "Ian has a defence lined up next month, but after that it could be Paul's chance. "I think Ian is the best bantamweight in Europe by a long way, but Paul is one of the rising contenders and a serious threat. "If Paul keeps improving his chance to challemge for the European title will come sooner rather than later "Napa takes on all comers and what a night it would be if Paul faced Ian and Darren Sutherland box on the same bill." Hyland, 24, was based in England early in his professional career but is settled back in Ireland. He lifted the national super-bantamweight crown in July outpointing tough Marc Callaghan. Heagney, 24 (7-1), was stopped in eight rounds in a Irish bantamweight title fight by Colin Moffett 12 months ago. He got his career back on track in July outpointing Kemal Plavci in a four rounder and is in the mood to cause a big upset. All eyes will be on Irish Olympic bronze medallist Sutherland who faces Georgi Iliev in a six round super-middleweight clash on his eagerly awaited professional debut. Rendell Munroe's European super-bantamweight title defence against Italian champ Fabrizio Trotta tops the DCU bill which will be televised live in Britain and Ireland by Sky Sports. London based Irishman Martin Power (19-3); the former British bantamweight champion faces a tough test against Gary Davies (7-2-1). In a special attraction Craig Watson (13-2) defends his Commonwealth welterweight title against Adnan Amar (22-1), a protégé of Dubliner Brendan Ingle. A third title bout on the bill sees Jason Booth (30-5) risks his Commonwealth bantamweight crown against Sean Hughes (15-7-1). Kiko Martinez (19-1), who knocked out Bernard Dunne in seconds, boxes a six rounder on the undercard. Tickets for the big Dublin bill cost 100 Euros and 50 Euros and are available from, To order from Ireland by phone call 08 18 719300, and from UK 0871 226 1508.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Harrington is best European Golfer for 2008

Padraig Harrington has been named The 2008 European Tour Golfer of the Year, crowning a truly sensational season for the Irishman during which he firmly established himself as one of the top five players in the world. In a glorious three week spell in mid-summer, the 37 year old Dubliner successfully defended The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale – the first European golfer to achieve the feat since Scotland’s James Braid in 1905-06 – before becoming the first European golfer since Scotland’s Tommy Armour in 1930 to win the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills; performances which helped him move into the upper echelons of the Official World Golf Ranking. This notable double led to another as Harrington received The European Tour Golfer of the Year Award – voted for by a panel comprising representatives of the Association of Golf Writers (AGW), Television, Radio and The European Tour – for the second year in succession, having accepted the accolade in 2007 following his first Open Championship victory at Carnoustie. The Irishman moves alongside Bernhard Langer and Lee Westwood as double winners of the award – first presented in 1985 – and joint fifth in the all time list which is topped by Colin Montgomerie with four wins, followed by Severiano Ballesteros, Ernie Els and Nick Faldo with three wins apiece. Joining such illustrious company in the annals of golfing history is something the three time Major Championship winner admitted fills him with a considerable sense of pride and achievement. “When you look at the names of the people who have won The European Tour Golfer of the Year over the past 23 seasons, it certainly shows the standing of the award in the world of golf,” said Harrington. “It is very pleasing to be considered alongside these great players and also a great honour to have been voted ahead of some very fine contenders, not just this year, but last year as well. It has been a very strong couple of years for European golf which makes this achievement all the more memorable. “I am sure that in 20 years time, when I am sitting back at home reflecting on my career, I might hear somebody – perhaps even one of my sons – say they’d heard some player or another had been announced as The European Tour Golfer of the Year. At that moment I’d be able to say to them; ‘Hey, I won that twice you know,’ and I’d be proud to do so.” At Royal Birkdale, Harrington’s steely nerve and precise shot-making – which included a stunning five wood approach from 249 yards to three feet on the 17th hole on Sunday, a shot later voted The European Tour Shot of the Year for 2008 – saw him hold off the respective challenges of Ian Poulter and a resurgent Greg Norman to win by four shots; while, at Oakland Hills, a sensational joust with Sergio Garcia – reminiscent of their tussle at Carnoustie in 2007 – led to him holing crucial putts late on the Sunday afternoon to eventually emerge two shots clear of the Spaniard. “I played very well early in the season, had a bunch of top fives and got in contention a few times, but the week of The Open Championship I went out and played great, I really did,” said Harrington. “I hit the ball superbly, especially on the Sunday, and it was a very, very satisfying win for me because of the quality of my golf. “After you win a Major you get such a high out of it that, not surprisingly, there can be a little bit of a fall off. Therefore, to go out and win the US PGA Championship three weeks later was incredibly exciting. Holing those putts at the end and the way the win came about, I will never forget it – that was one of the most thrilling wins of my entire career.” European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady led the tributes to Harrington. “Padraig’s remarkable accomplishment in successfully defending The Open Championship then, 21 days later, completing a unique double by capturing the US PGA Championship, quite rightly earned him The European Tour Golfer of the Year Award and, from many observers, also the accolade of the greatest sportsman in Ireland’s history.” Emphasising the ever-increasing strength in depth apparent on The European Tour International Schedule, despite his double Major triumph, the one thing Harrington did not win in 2008 was The Harry Vardon Trophy; the accolade for finishing European Number One going to Sweden’s Robert Karlsson who ended the season with €2,732,748 to his name, some €273, 639 ahead of the Irishman who finished second with €2,459,109. However Harrington, who won The Harry Vardon Trophy in 2006 and who has been in the top three an astonishing seven times in the past eight seasons, paid tribute to Karlsson who won the Mercedes-Benz Championship and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in a season where he also recorded a further ten top ten finishes and won the Omega Mission Hills World Cup for Sweden in partnership with Henrik Stenson. “I’m delighted that Robert won The Harry Vardon Trophy and became the first Swedish player to do so,” said Harrington. “He is a nice guy and he played great golf all year. This has shown the quality of his play and how much he has improved over the years and so, as much as I would have liked to have won it, I am thrilled that he did.” Karlsson, for his part, returned the compliment. “It was a long time ago that any European player won two Major Championships in a single season and, for that alone, there is no doubt that Padraig Harrington is the Golfer of the Year,” he said. “Obviously he played fantastic golf and is at the peak of a new and strong generation of European players coming through at the top of the game. There have been many guys expected to win Major Championships but Padraig did it twice in one year – that is fantastic for him and for Europe.” One of the reasons Harrington has enjoyed so much success is his famous work ethic, a factor appreciated by no-one more so than his long-time coach Bob Torrance, who joined up with the Irishman after the US Open Championship at the Olympic Club in San Francisco in 1998 and who has been by his side on the practice ranges of the world ever since. “He’s the hardest worker I have ever been involved with and I love that in a golfer,” said Torrance. “Years ago I said to my wife June that I would love to get a young man who was willing to work hard at his game. After Padraig had been seeing me for about two months, she said to me, ‘You’ve found him.’ That is the reason he has been so successful – his work rate.” Living up to that reputation, the 14 time winner on The European Tour International Schedule admitted he is already looking ahead to the 2009 season and being a strong contender for The Race to Dubai. “I have some serious gym work to do in my winter break and I also have some swing changes to make,” he said. “When I come out next year I will be focused on getting my game ready for every week and building up for the Masters Tournament at Augusta National. I know the Masters will be the hardest Major for me to win because of the attention that will be on me. “It is a lot easier to go into these things with a little less profile and stay patient for two or three days under the radar and finish it off on Sunday. But I won’t have that luxury at Augusta because right from the word go there will be focus on me.” Having won three Major Championships in 13 months, many people might deem the Irishman’s planned winter overhaul as unnecessary, believing he should be more than happy with his game, even to the extent that he might consider it in the perfect state. Harrington, however, had one simple reply to that notion. “The day I think that,” he said. “Is the day I will retire.” The European Tour Golfer of the Year Award was first presented in 1985. Previous winners are: 1985: Bernhard Langer 1997: Colin Montgomerie 1986: Severiano Ballesteros 1998: Lee Westwood 1987: Ian Woosnam 1999: Colin Montgomerie 1988: Severiano Ballesteros 2000: Lee Westwood 1989: Nick Faldo 2001: Retief Goosen 1990: Nick Faldo 2002: Ernie Els 1991: Severiano Ballesteros 2003: Ernie Els 1992: Nick Faldo 2004: Vijay Singh 1993: Bernhard Langer 2005: Michael Campbell 1994: Ernie Els 2006: Paul Casey 1995: Colin Montgomerie 2007: Padraig Harrington 1996: Colin Montgomerie

Boxing bouts back at Brentwood

Darren Barker has been left raring to go in his Commonwealth Middleweight Title defence on Saturday after sparring with new WBC Super-Middleweight Champion Carl Froch. Undefeated Barker (Barnet, England) makes his second defence against Jason McKay (Banbridge, Northern Ireland) at the Brentwood Centre on Saturday 13thDecember 2008. Co feature on the bill, Brian Magee (Belfast, Northern Ireland) challenges Steve Maguire (Glenrothes, Scotland) for the Vacant British Super-Middleweight Title, both fights will be shown live on ITV4 from 8.40pm. The 2002 Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist is confident McKay will not wreck his plans of challenging for the European Title next year after sparring with fellow Hennessy Sports boxer Froch (Nottingham, England), who became the new WBC World Champion on Saturday by unanimously outpointing Jean Pascal (Quebec, Canada) after one of the best global fights of 2008. “I’ve been sparring with Carl Froch ahead of this fight and I sparred with Mikkel Kessler last year,” said Barker. “They are both World Super-Middleweight champions and they were blinding spars, and I know what it takes to get to that level. “It was great working with Carl and there was a great buzz in our training camp at the Breaffy House Hotel in County Mayo, Ireland. I also reckon Carl has got what it takes to be the top man in that division. “McKay is very tall and rangy so he will make it difficult for me. Andy Lee is a very good fighter and he gave Jason a hard time, but it’s hard to judge Jason on that performance because Andy can make anyone look bad. He took the Lee fight at short notice but he has had a long time to prepare for this date. “I believe I’m going to come out on top and then I can go for a European title. Winning the European title is one of my dreams, definitely one of my short term goals.” Barker believes he has what it takes to go all the way to the top, winning a traditional title on route to following his Hennessy Sports stable-mate Froch to world title glory. “My long term goal is to go all the way and this time next year I would like to also have the European title in my possession,” said Barker.

Sutherland set for Pro Debut

DARREN SUTHERLAND will have Georgi Iliev taped when he makes his long awaited professional debut at Dublin City University on December 18. The Olympic bronze medallist faces the Bulgarian who knocked out Castlebar's Keith Cresham on a previous visit to Ireland in a six-round super-middleweight bout. 'Dazzler's' promoter Frank Maloney promised: "As far as his opponent is concerned, we will be getting tapes of him and studying them." Sutherland who is training in London is currently holed up in Kent at Maloney's family home where dinner table talk is boxing, boxing and boxing. Maloney said: "My wife puts her ear plugs in when Darren and I get talking. I don't know who talks the most. "He has the big punch and the charisma to go all the way. He's also a likeable person and the family enjoy having him around. "Being based in England is a big sacrifice because he loves home and his family, particularly him mum. "But it's the only way to do things. Pro boxing requires complete dedication. You've got to give up everything really if you want to make the grade, and Darren is doing this." Rendell Munroe's European super-bantamweight title defence against Fabrizio Trotta tops the DCU bill which will be televised live in Britain and Ireland by Sky Sports. Kiki Martinez (19-1), who knocked out Bernard Dunne in seconds, boxes a six rounder on the undercard. London based Irishman Martin Power (19-3); the former British bantamweight champion faces a tough test against Gary Davies (7-2-1). In a special attraction Craig Watson (13-2) defends his Commonwealth welterweight title against Adnan Amar (22-1), a protégé of Dubliner Brendan Ingle. A third title bout on the bill sees Jason Booth (30-5) risks his Commonwealth bantamweight crown against Sean Hughes (15-7-1). Tickets for the big Dublin bill cost 100 Euros and 50 Euros and are available from, To order from Ireland by phone call 08 18 719300, and from UK 0871 226 1508.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bulgarain Boxer ready for Irish Challenge

GEORGI ILIEV has vowed to make it an Irish double when he faces Darren Sutherland at Dublin City University. The Bulgarian is the new opponent for the Olympic bronze medallist who makes his professional debut at Dublin City University on December 18. Iliev, might have a patchy record but caused a stunning upset when he travelled to Limerick in July and knocked out Castlebar's Keith Cresham inside round. Iliev's respected manager Philippe Fondu warned that Sutherland will be up against it when he performs in front of his many friends who study at DCU. Fondu said: "Sutherland will quickly learn that get hitting by a professional is different from the amateur code. "Iliev is a rough, tough kid from one of the worst areas of Bulgaria and cannot believe this opportunity has come. "He can make a name for himself by beating Sutherland and is coming to win. "If Sutherland wants to know about his power, he should call Cresham. Iliev has told me to expect another Irishman to be on the floor in seconds."
Iliev has stepped in for countryman Merdjitin Iuseinov who pulled out earlier this week with a shoulder injury. Top of the bill is Rendall Munroe's (16-1) European super-bantamweight title defence against Italy's Fabricio Trotta (13-4-2). Irish light-middleweight champion Jamie Moore (30-3) boxes a six rounder ahead of his crack at the vacant European light-middleweight early next year. London based Irishman Martin Power (19-3), the former British bantamweight champion faces a tough test against Gary Davies (7-2-1). In a special attraction Craig Watson (13-2) defends his Commonwealth welterweight title against Adnan Amar (22-1), a protégé of Dubliner Brendan Ingle. A third title bout on the bill sees Jason Booth (30-5) risks his Commonwealth bantamweight crown against Sean Hughes (15-7-1). Tickets for the big Dublin bill cost 100 Euros and 40 Euros and are available from
To order from Ireland by phone call 08 18 719300, and from UK 0871 226 1508.

Olympic Trio join Warren's Stable

Frank Warren, the British Boxing Board of Control licensed promoter and manager, has guided the careers of many British world champion boxers in his time including Frank Bruno, Naseem Hamed, Nigel Benn and more recently Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe. In advance of today’s announcement, Frank Warren commented: “These guys are the future of British boxing – James, Billy and Frankie are all fantastic lads, determined to prove themselves in the professional boxing arena.” “They all have a great pedigree at amateur level and are under no illusions of the hard work and commitment required to succeed. Their amateur records are second to none and I have no doubt that these boys are British world champion boxers in the making.” The three young boxers will embark on a national tour in 2009 with fights scheduled to take place in six major cities across Great Britain with them all appearing on the same bill. Details for the tour are yet to be confirmed but their debut professional outing is likely to take place in February. Prior to today’s unveiling, 2008 Olympic gold medallist James DeGale said: “My first aim was to win Olympic gold and the second is to become a professional world champion. Frank has a proven track record of nurturing young British talent and I can’t wait to get started with him. I have seen British boxers win world titles and think ‘that's me all over' – the big stadiums, the crowds, the lights!” The youngest member of the trio, 19-year-old Billy Joe Saunders continued: “Boxing has always been in my blood and the opportunity to turn professional under Frank is a dream come true. I know I’m young and have a lot to learn but feel I have what it takes to make it to the top and the sooner I start, the sooner I’ll achieve my ultimate goal of becoming world champion.” Britain’s first ever World Amateur Champion, Frankie Gavin commented: “I’m had an amazing amateur career and making the British Olympic team was great even if it did not turn out as planned. The fight game is not without its ups and downs and I look forward to the challenges ahead as a I turn professional with Frank Warren and his team in my corner.” With a busy 2009 in store for the three young British hopefuls, further announcements will be made in January regarding the tour venues, dates and boxers’ opposition.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Boxers go to school at Dublin City University

BERNARD DUNNE and manager Brian Peters will be men looking in from the outside later this month. Bitter Bernard and Bitterer Brian have come up with non-stop excuses about the super-bantamweight's defeat in seconds to Kiko Martinez and accused European champion Rendall Munroe of running scared. 'The Bitters' big rivals invade Dunne's home city, Dublin on Thursday December 18 and have vowed to show who the best super-bantamweights in Europe really are.Munroe (16-1) defends his title against Italy's Fabricio Trotta (13-4-2) on the brilliant bill at Dublin City University, while Martinez boxes a six rounder. Martinez (19-1) flattened Dunne quicker than it takes to pull in a pint in one of the pubs owned by Peters who doubles as a boxing promoter. The Spaniard then lost his title to Munroe, but Dunne and Peters somehow feel hard done by. Promoter Frank Maloney said: "We have no problem fighting Dunne even in his own front room. What I have a problem with is someone who can't make up their mind. "There have been three different offers on the table at three different times for Dunne to fight Munroe."Dunne's people don't seem to know left from right. One minute they want to fight Rendall and the next talking about world titles. "If you get knocked out by the Martinez, the second best super-bantamweight in Europe you are not world class. "Instead of dreaming, Team Dunne should start living in the real world." Munroe's cracking defence will top the bill, but Irish eyes will be on Olympic bronze medallist Darren Sutherland who boxes a six round super middleweight contest on his professional debut at the university where he studied. Irish light-middleweight champion Jamie Moore (30-3) boxes a six rounder ahead of his crack at the vacant European light-middleweight early next year. London based Irishman Martin Power (19-3), the former British bantamweight champion faces a tough test against Gary Davies (7-2-1). In a special attraction Craig Watson (13-2) defends his Commonwealth welterweight title against Adnan Amar (22-1), a protégé of Dubliner Brendan Ingle. A third title bout on the bill sees Jason Booth (30-5) risks his Commonwealth bantamweight crown against Sean Hughes (15-7-1). Tickets for the big Dublin bill cost 100 Euros and 40 Euros and are available from To order from Ireland by phone call 08 18 719300, and from UK 0871 226 1508.

Froch out to make a Name

Carl Froch believes he can become a household name by winning the WBC Super-Middleweight Title live on ITV1 on Saturday night. ‘The Cobra’ feels he is in the “shape of my life” for his world title showdown against Jean Pascal at the Trent FM Arena Nottingham on Saturday. Froch is back in his home city of Nottingham after last week returning from his training camp at the Breaffy House Resort Hotel in Castlebar, Ireland, where he spent five weeks with trainer Rob McCracken and the Hennessy Sports team. Pascal (Canada) has prepared for the fight by training in the warmer climate of Arizona, USA, but Carl claims he could not have had a better training camp. “This is a massive fight and I know that winning this belt will set up more big fights for me and make me a household name,” said ‘The Cobra’. “ITV1 are showing the fight live at 10.45pm on December 6th and with their help, I know that I can become a household name by winning the WBC title, which is the most prestigious world title belt out there. Once I win this belt, people all over the country will get behind me and I'm ready to do the business on Pascal.“When you get to the very top level, like this fight, you have got to make sure you are in absolutely top condition so we haven’t taken any short cuts with the training. “This is the biggest fight of my life and I’ve been waiting for this moment since I had my first fight as an amateur so I wanted the best preparation possible, and that’s what I got. I’m in the shape of my life, things couldn’t have gone better. “I wanted to get away from home and the Breaffy House Resort had everything that I needed to get myself in the perfect condition to do a number on Pascal. “The quality of air in County Mayo was superb, perfect for my runs and there were no distractions so I could just keep my mind on the job at hand. Pascal has the fight of his life on his hands, this is trench warfare.” Big Fight Live starts at 8.45pm on ITV4 & Carl’s WBC title fight is live on ITV1 at 10.45pm. Tickets are available from the 24 hour Box Office at the Trent FM Arena on 08444 124 624 or via

Harrington hits the High Spot

Padraig Harrington’s stunning five wood approach to the 17th hole on the final day of The 137th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale has been voted The European Tour Shot of the Year for 2008. Harrington’s stupendous shot from 249 yards landed just three feet from the pin at the penultimate hole of the Championship and he converted the eagle putt to secure a four shot victory in a brilliant defence of the Claret Jug. The 37 year old Dubliner, who was two strokes clear of the field at the time, closed the door on his playing partner, Greg Norman of Australia and England’s Ian Poulter, who was already in the clubhouse on 287. Harrington finished with a round of 69 for a 72 hole total of 283. Harrington, who went on to win the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills in August, later reflected on his thinking behind that precisely struck five wood which effectively sealed his second Major victory. He said: “On the 17th, I hit my five wood off the tee and hit it really solid. It was good to hit the fairway. I had 220 yards to the front of the green and 249 yards to the pin. The five wood is my favourite club and I knew I could make birdie if I hit that club. “I was anxious that Greg could make eagle going down there, and if I laid up and I made par, all of a sudden it was very close. I wasn't so much worried about the guy that was two holes ahead of me and finished (Ian Poulter). I was worried if I laid up and made par, I was giving Greg a great chance to get within one shot of me, and one shot is not comfortable in any shape or form going down the 18th. “So I wanted to take it on although there was obviously trouble on the right and left. A low shot, I felt, was always going to be an advantage. So I used the down slope in my favour and the ball came out nice and low. Once I hit it, it was perfect. It's one of the few times I think I've ever heard my caddie say good shot to me before the ball is finished. Normally he waits until the ball has actually stopped before he says anything. “Obviously he was comfortable with what we had taken, but it was a worrying shot. It was a real bonus to finish three feet away. I would have been quite happy with it on the green and take my chances with two putts. Once it was three feet away I made sure I holed it. You can’t have enough of a lead going down the 18th in a Major.” Runner-up was Graeme McDowell’s seven iron at the third hole of a play-off with Jeev Milkha Singh which helped him claim the inaugural Ballantine’s Championship in Korea while Harrington also collected third place with his tee shot to eight feet for a birdie two at the penultimate hole of the US PGA Championship.The European Tour Shot of the Month Award is presented to the Tour Member for the shot judged to be the most outstanding played during each calendar month on The European Tour International Schedule. The winning shots from each month are entered into The European Tour Shot of the Year Award. The full list of monthly winners in 2008 were: South Africa’s Richard Sterne (January), New Zealand’s Mark Brown (February), the Northern Irish duo of Graeme McDowell (March) and Darren Clarke (April), England’s Richard Finch (May), Martin Kaymer of Germany (June), Padraig Harrington of Ireland (July and August), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño of Spain (September) and his compatriot Sergio Garcia (October).