Tuesday, March 20, 2012

McDowell eyes the Irish Open

With 100 days to go until the Irish Open returns to his native Northern Ireland, Graeme McDowell is daring to dream about lifting the trophy at Royal Portrush Golf Club and says it would rank alongside his Major Championship triumph. McDowell spent his youth honing his game on the fairways of Royal Portrush, which hosts the event from June 28 to July 1, and is relishing an “extra special” week as the Irish Open visits his home town – the first time the tournament has been played in Northern Ireland since 1953. The 32 year old has won seven European Tour titles – none more impressive than his victory at the US Open Championship at Pebble Beach in June 2010 – but he believes tasting glory in his own back garden, in front of friends and family, would be up there with the finest moments of his illustrious career. “It’s a dream come true for me to play a tournament of the magnitude of the Irish Open at Royal Portrush,” said the Ryder Cup star. “Having lived and grown up in Portrush all my life, it’s definitely a dream come true and I’m going to be very proud to welcome The European Tour to my neck of the woods. “The Irish Open has always been one that I’ve targeted every year. I’d love to win it. I’d love to compete in front of my home fans and pick up the trophy, but to have that at Royal Portrush is extra special for me and there’s no doubt it will be highlighted on my schedule. “It would definitely be one of the proudest moments of my career. To win the Irish Open at Royal Portrush would be right up there with a Major Championship. “My mum and dad have been there for a couple of the best moments of my golf career – winning the Irish Closed Amateur at Royal Portrush in 2000 and winning the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond. They’ve been a special part of my career and playing the Irish Open in Portrush will make them very proud. It’s big for our family and it’ll be a special week for them.” The current World Number 17 is delighted with the positive reaction to the Irish Open’s relocation north of the border for the 2012 edition, and attributes the level of excitement about the event to the recent success of Northern Irish players. With Rory McIlroy, the current World Number Two and the successor to McDowell as US Open Champion in 2011, and Darren Clarke, the reigning Open Champion, already signed up for the Irish Open, the level of anticipation is reaching fever pitch. McDowell said: “I’ve had amazing feedback via Twitter and friends and family. The people in Ireland, in general, are so excited about Irish golf. Everyone has got behind Northern Irish golf and we’re very proud to have the Irish Open up north of the border for the first time since the 1950s. “The fans in the north are very excited to have a European Tour event that side of the border and they are very proud of what Darren and Rory and I have achieved in the last few years in winning Majors. “The response I’ve had via family, friends and Twitter is that people are going to come in their thousands to support a great venue and a great golf tournament. “As well as Darren, Rory and me winning Majors, you have Michael Hoey winning twice last year and Gareth Maybin playing very well on The European Tour. We do have a huge amount of strength in golf from Northern Irish players and it’s probably got a huge amount to do with the accessibility of golf for young kids growing up in that part of the world. “There are great coaching programmes, great golf club programmes, and we’re very proud of what the guys are achieving. There’s no doubt there’s been a knock-on effect from (Padraig) Harrington to me to Rory to Darren. There really is that kind of knock-on inspiration. It’s a purple patch and we’re enjoying being part of it.” As for the venue itself, McDowell will undoubtedly have the advantage of inside knowledge, having become accustomed to every nuance of the famous course over the years. “Royal Portrush is such a great layout,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to attract a great field and it’ll be an exciting week.
“It features very heavily in the top 50, top 100 courses in the world in most golf polls every year. The north coast is beautiful and the sights and sounds up there are pretty magnificent. The layout at Royal Portrush is one of the best links layouts. “It flows beautifully and the championship tees are fantastic. Of course I’m a little biased, but it really is one of my favourite links courses on the planet and I’m going to be very proud to welcome The European Tour to what I think is a fine golf course. “I feel Royal Portrush is very much a tee-shot course. You’ve really got to position it well and stay out of the bunkers. If you can drive it well you’ve got a chance to score. And, as with all links courses, it’s about the weather. If you get a calm day the boys will score low, there’s no doubt about that. But protection comes in the pin positions. “Links golf is really designed for the elements, and if you don’t get the elements the golf course can be destroyed. The new championship markers are very competitive – 70 to 100 yards off the back – and it’s going to be a great test. Put a great north coast wind across it and it’ll be a great test for the boys.”

Cleverly tops the bill at the Royal Albert Hall

Promoter Frank Warren will stage the first world title show at the Royal Albert Hall in over a decade when British star Nathan Cleverly headlines the legendary venue on Saturday 28th April.Unbeaten Cleverly, who defeated American Tommy Karpency last month, will make the fourth defence of his WBO World Light-Heavyweight title against the number four ranked Robin Krasniqi, subject to confirmation from the WBO. The 25-year-old from Cefn Fforest will be the first Welshman in a championship title fight at the venue since Joe Calzaghe defeated Stephen Wilson in 1995. Serbian Krasniqi, who is based in Germany, has a top record of 37 wins from 39 fights and his only two losses were on points early in his career. He won the European WBO title last October with a fourth round stoppage of Abdelkahim Derghal and defended it against Hakim Zoulikha in January, stopping him in the twelfth round. The show will be televised live and exclusive on the New Home Of Boxing BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546) which will also cover Bernard Hopkins’ highly anticipated WBC World Light-Heavyweight title rematch with Chad Dawson live from Atlantic City later that night.Warren brought boxing back to the Albert Hall last October when he staged the Royal Albert Hall Cup for the charity Tickets For Troops that saw a combined UK Armed Forces team take on their US counterparts in a special Transatlantic amateur tournament. And it was the Hall of Fame promoter who last staged world championship boxing there in 1999 when Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera defended his WBO World Super-Bantamweight title against Paul Lloyd. Some of the biggest names in British boxing have fought at the Royal Albert Hall including Sir Henry Cooper, Frank Bruno, Lennox Lewis and Prince Naseem Hamed and Warren is looking to add one of the biggest names under his banner to the illustrious list. Warren said, “I’m delighted to bring big time world championship boxing back to the Royal Albert Hall next month with one of Britain’s biggest and brightest stars in Nathan,” “We had a tremendous reception for our Tickets For Troops event in October that saw amateurs from the UK and US Armed Forces fight it out for the Royal Albert Hall Cup and the demand is there to see world championship boxing,” “Subject to confirmation from the WBO, Nathan has got a tough defence against Krasniqi who’s never been stopped in 39 fights and is ranked number four so it’s going to be a hard test for him.” Cleverly said, “It’s great to be the first boxer in over 10 years to open up the doors to the famous venue to boxing again,” “I love boxing in London and I’m over the moon that Frank has put on my world title defence at the iconic landmark and it will be the start of many big shows,” “It’s a who’s who of boxing who have fought at the Albert Hall and to add my name alongside greats like Lennox Lewis, Naseem Hamed, Nigel Benn and Joe Calzaghe is a real honour and dream,” “It’s a good omen that Joe was the last Welshman to box there for a title when he beat Stephen Wilson for the British super-middleweight title in 1995 so I’ll be looking to carry on the Welsh winning run there,” “Krasniqi got a good record and he’s bound to be a hard test for me. The better the opponents the better I perform and Krasniqi will bring out the best in me,” “I’ll also be keeping a close eye later that night from the action in Atlantic City between Hopkins and Dawson and will be looking to face the winner,”

Friday, March 16, 2012

Khan vs Peterson the Rematch

On Saturday, May 19, 2012, fans at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev., as well as those watching around the world, will see one of boxing’s most intense grudge matches re-ignited when World Boxing Association (WBA) Super Lightweight Super World Champion and (IBF) Junior Welterweight World Champion Lamont “Havoc” Peterson faces former Two-Time World Champion Amir “King” Khan in the highly anticipated rematch of their December 10, 2011 fight in Washington, DC in which DC native Peterson scored a title winning but controversial split decision victory over the United Kingdom’s Khan. “Peterson vs. Khan II: No Doubt,” a 12-round Unified Super Lightweight World Title Fight for Peterson’s WBA World Super Championship and IBF World Championship taking place Saturday, May 19 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev. is presented by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Khan Promotions and Headbangers Promotions and sponsored by Corona and AT&T. The fight will be telecast live on HBO World Championship Boxing at 10:45 p.m. ET/7:45 p.m. PT in the United States and live on Sky Sports 1 HD in the United Kingdom at 11:00 p.m. GMT (beginning with David Price vs. Sam Sexton for the British Heavyweight title from Liverpool, followed by Peterson vs. Khan II).Both fighters have agreed to be subject to Olympic style drug testing which will include random blood and urine tests. “I feel really good about my decision,” said Peterson. “I went over every option available to me in terms of the fights that were on the table. I weighed each one of them looking at the pros and the cons and at the end of the day this is the one that made the most sense all the way across the board. I want everyone to know that, as champion, it has always been up to me what fight to take next. I was not persuaded by any of the controversy or anything else. I just can’t wait to fight. I told Khan after the press conference when I won that if it was up to me I would fight him on Sunday, but I had to get with my team to look at every option that was out there. I just want to be clear that I never said I wouldn’t fight him, but I wanted to take a look at everything that was out there before I made a decision. I’m happy with the terms of the fight. It’s at a neutral site and, when I beat him this time, he won’t have anything to complain about.” “I’m delighted that I have finally been given the chance to avenge the result of my last fight,” said Khan. “It’s clear I wasn’t happy with what went on in the previous fight, but that takes nothing away from how Lamont Peterson fought. He showed tremendous heart that night, but now I have the chance to prove once and for all that I’m the very best in the division. I’m going to take care of business inside the ring and this fight is going to be just as exciting as the last one. The only difference is going to be in the outcome.” “I said before their first fight that this was an opportunity to see the two best super lightweights in the world compete at the highest level of the sport and neither Amir Khan nor Lamont Peterson disappointed the fans,” said Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. “To see them fight again so soon after their first match on neutral ground in Las Vegas is a treat for boxing fans around the world.” “We are pleased with the decision to fight Khan for the second time,” said Barry Hunter, manager and trainer of Lamont Peterson. “I was extremely proud of Lamont with respect to this process. He took his time and looked at all of his options and he decided this was the best option available. Our preparation for this fight will be the same, it is going to be a hard fight and we will be ready for the challenge.” “The Lamont Peterson-Amir Khan rematch is one of the most anticipated fights of 2012 and we’re delighted that HBO World Championship Boxing will be the television home for this encounter,” said Kery Davis, senior vice president programming, HBO Sports. “These two world class athletes are outstanding examples of perseverance and dedication.” When some people say ‘boxing saved my life,’ it’s nothing more than a cliché. When Lamont “Havoc” Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KO’s) says it, the phrase has a literal meaning. One of 12 children forced to grow up much too fast on the mean streets of Washington, DC, a 10-year old Lamont, along with his eight-year old brother Anthony, dealt with issues no child should have to. Left homeless and to fend for themselves as their father was in prison and their mother battled her own issue s, the brothers found salvation when they met Barry Hunter, a local boxing coach who treated them like they were his own children. Almost immediately, the brothers showed a gift for boxing. With hard work, and eventually a stable living environment, they shined as amateurs with Lamont nearly making the 2004 Olympics. By the end of 2005, the buzz was getting louder about Peterson; not just about his talent in the ring and his 15-0 professional record, but also about Lamont and his brother’s amazing story. A busy schedule of fights, an undefeated record and the compilation of numerous regional titles led to his steady rise in the 140 lb. ratings. Peterson got his shot at a world title in April of 2009 when he took on fellow unbeaten Willy Blain for the WBO Interim Junior Welterweight Title. A dominating performance by Peterson ended with Blain forced to retire due to injury in the seventh round. Peterson finally had a world title belt in his possession. In December of 2009, he got the opportunity to fight for the regular WBO title, but he was decisioned by Timothy Bradley and handed his first pro loss. Peterson would bounce back with a win in his next fight in April of 2010 before fighting to a 10 round draw with future Welterweight World Champion Victor Ortiz in December of 2010 (at Mandalay Bay). He earned his December 2011 world title shot against Khan with a 12th round knockout of Victor Cayo in an IBF elimination bout on July 29 of last year. On December 10, 2011, his title fight against Khan captivated the boxing world and all of Washington, DC. In one of the feel-good stories in all of sports last year, the hometown favorite but underdog Peterson won the unified world championship over the favored World Champion Khan not far from the mean streets that he and his brother had wandered homeless as children. After the struggles he endured to get to the top of the boxing world, taking away the titles that Peterson worked so hard for will be an extremely tall task for Khan. Amir “King” Khan (26-2, 18 KO’s), who despite being just 25 years old, is already a star in the United Kingdom, selling out huge arenas and racking up impressive pay per view numbers. Considered one of the sport’s future stars, Khan has sailed to the heights of the amateur and professional boxing worlds, however he is far from finished on his quest to becoming the best of his era. An accomplished amateur who earned a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens at just 17 years old, the Bolton, England native took the professional game by storm in 2005 and, with the exception of a brief bump in the road in 2008 when he was upset by Breidis Prescott, Khan has since been unstoppable. Khan first became a world champion in 2009 when he defeated WBA Super Lightweight World Champion Andreas Kotelnik in July of that year. Khan defended the crown five times, first knocking out previously undefeated Dmitriy Salita in less than one round. Next, in his United States debut at Madison Square Garden in May of 2010, he dominated the always tough Paul Malignaggi en route to an eleventh round technical knockout win. On December 11, 2010 at Mandalay Bay, Khan battled Marcos Maidana in what was eventually named the Boxing Writers Association of America 2010 Fight of the Year. The fight saw Khan dominate the early rounds, scoring a first round knockdown, but Maidana closed the gap in the later rounds. Khan displayed some extremely impressive fortitude in surviving a vicious tenth round onslaught by Maidana in which the British star looked to be on the brink of being knocked out. Khan made it out of the round on his feet and came out swinging in the eleventh and twelfth rounds, sealing the unanimous decision victory in an instant classic. On April 16, 2011, Khan retained his title by defeating European Champion Paul McCloskey via technical decision in front of a sell-out crowd of over 17,000 at the MEN Arena in Manchester, England. Next came a July 23, 2011 win over then IBF Junior Welterweight Champion Zab Judah, making Khan the unified 140 lb. world champion. Next up was an IBF mandatory bout against Lamont Peterson, leading us to this much anticipated rematch. There’s more on the line than ever before for Khan who wants nothing more than to regain the titles he feels should still be his today.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tomas signs a new Deal

Arsenal Football Club is delighted to confirm that Tomas Rosicky has signed a new contract with the Club. The Czech Republic captain has committed his future to Arsenal, during a time when he is enjoying a great run of form, which has seen him score twice in the last three games, against Tottenham Hotspur and AC Milan. Rosicky joined Arsenal in May 2006 from Borussia Dortmund and has featured 156 times for Arsène Wenger’s side since then, scoring 19 goals. In his 28 appearances so far this season, Rosicky has been a key fixture in the heart of the Gunners’ midfield. On the international stage, the 31 year-old has played 85 times for the Czech Republic, representing his country at the European Championships in 2000 and 2004. He also featured in the 2006 World Cup, taking over the captain’s armband the same year.Commenting on his new deal, Tomas said: “It's a great honour to sign a new deal with Arsenal, I love the Club and am proud to wear the Arsenal shirt. It's felt like home since I arrived six years ago and I couldn't be happier to commit my future to the team. The manager, my team-mates, the staff and the supporters - everyone plays their part in making this a great Club, and I feel privileged to be a part of it. I believe we have a really talented group of players and, together with the manager, the future looks bright. It's always been my goal to win trophies here at Arsenal, and I will fight hard to achieve my dreams here." Manager Arsène Wenger added: “I’ve always been a big admirer of Tomas’ abilities and am delighted he’s chosen to commit his future to the Club. I believe he is an exceptional player, a natural footballer who is technically top class. He plays the style of football we champion here and shares completely our philosophy. He is always ready to work for the sake of the Club, always willing to put the team first. I have huge respect for him.”

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

McIlroy's return to Irish pastures

Northern Ireland’s first World Number One, Rory McIlroy, achieved one lifelong ambition on Sunday. Now he aims to fulfil another boyhood dream by winning the Irish Open, which will be held in front of his home fans at Royal Portrush from June 28 to July 1. McIlroy, who knocked Luke Donald off his perch at the head of the world order by winning the Honda Classic, is hoping to adorn an already glittering CV with victory in his National Open - which will be played at the stunning links in County Antrim for the first time since 1947.The 22 year old reigning US Open Champion from Holywood can now expect a hero’s reception when he tees off at Royal Portrush in June, with his sights firmly trained on succeeding England’s Simon Dyson as champion. And the new World Number One can’t wait to entertain the Northern Irish public on home turf. McIlroy, who is enjoying the view from the top of the world, said: “It would be incredible to win. I haven’t played competitively at Royal Portrush since 2005, so to go back there and have the chance to win my National Open is something that is very, very important to me. Hopefully I can give it a real good go this year. “For the Irish Open to come to Portrush is a huge thing for any golfer from Northern Ireland. So for myself and the likes of Graeme [McDowell], Darren [Clarke] and Michael Hoey to play the Irish Open in Northern Ireland is a dream come true for us.” The chance to see the reigning US Open Champion and his three fellow Irish Major Champions – Clarke, Padraig Harrington and McDowell – has generated huge interest in his homeland, and McIlroy is expecting a bumper turnout in June. He said: “It’s incredible to see the response of the fans so early on, and it just goes to show how popular golf in Northern Ireland has become. Previous Irish Opens have tended to be a bit earlier in the season so the weather might not have been so good, but hopefully this year at Portrush we can get some good weather and everyone can make the most of it. I’m expecting huge crowds and a great atmosphere there, and hopefully we can have a memorable week.“This is going to be one of the biggest events Northern Ireland has ever held, especially as three recent Major Champions will be coming home to play in front of their home fans. Everyone I’ve spoken to is so excited about the Irish Open coming to Portrush, and hopefully it’ll be a great boost for the club as well. Maybe one day they’ll be able to host an Open Championship there.” For now, McIlroy believes Royal Portrush is the perfect venue to host the Irish Open, and he is fully expecting the 6,843 yards, par 72 course – where he once shot 61 as an amateur - to provide a fearsome but fair test when the 57th edition of the historic event unfolds. He said: “I think the word most people use to describe Portrush is probably ‘fair’. It’s such a tough course, but it’s also very fair. It’s very well designed, and there’s some beautiful scenery, especially by the fifth green and sixth tee. Anyone who plays the course falls in love with it, and it’ll be great to get back there in June. “You need to drive the ball well there. You definitely can’t hit it offline, because there’s some long rough, brambles and fern bushes. So you’ve really got to keep your ball in play. There are a few holes, especially the ninth and tenth, which you really need to try to take advantage of. So if you can do that and keep your ball in play, then you’ve got a good chance. I can’t wait to tee it up.”

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Froch to face Bute in Nottingham

Carl Froch will challenge Lucian Bute for the IBF World super middleweight title at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham on May 26. The Nottingham star will fight in his hometown for the first time since October 2009 against the unbeaten Canadian-based Romanian who will defend his belt for the tenth time against The Cobra. Froch comes back home after fighting the best in the business on the road as part of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, facing Mikkel Kessler in Denmark, Arthur Abraham in Finland and a semi-final and final in Atlantic City against Glen Johnson and Andre Ward. The 34 year-old has championed a huge hometown show since teaming up with new promoter Eddie Hearn and he is delighted to be back fighting in front of a home crowd. “It's a dream come true to get this opportunity to become a three-time World Champion in my hometown of Nottingham,” said Froch. “The Super Six was an incredible journey for me but I missed fighting in the UK and it was important that Eddie and I made that happen and for it to be for a World title is the icing on the cake. I'm ready to go to war all over again.” “It’s my goal to fight the best boxers in super middleweight division,” said Bute. “Carl Froch belongs in the elite of the super middleweight division and it will be a great fight. I am very confident and it will not faze me fighting in enemy territory. Supporters of Carl Froch will live their greatest disappointment. The IBF belt will fly roundtrip Montreal-Nottingham and back!” “We are delighted to have agreed terms for what I believe will be the biggest night for British boxing in many years,” said Hearn. “I have to respect Lucian and his team for agreeing to enter the Lion’s Den and face Carl in his hometown of Nottingham but am fully confident that Carl can become a World champion again on this epic night.” “We really wanted to press forward with this fight,” said InterBox’s president, Jean Bedard. “We’ve been insistent, made some concessions, but it was important to realise this is a fight that Lucian, our fans and our partners wanted. Also, I am convinced that Lucian will silence the critics. Lucian is showing great courage in agreeing to defend his title in enemy territory.” “It is great news that Carl has landed this fight as it is one that we have wanted for a long time” said Froch’s trainer Rob McCracken. “I have always been confident that Carl will beat Lucian, and I will have him fully prepared and in the best possible shape on May 26.” “Lucian has already fought outside Canada in his professional career,” said Bute’s trainer, Stephan Larouche. “This is a great challenge ahead for him on May 26 and Lucian will perform to his fullest as he always does. The style of these two incredible fighters will make for an explosive fight that I am sure boxing fans around the world won’t want to miss.”

Lawrie gets the vote for February

Paul Lawrie’s victory at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy – the seventh of an illustrious European Tour career – has earned the Scot The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Month award for February. Lawrie moved back into the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking after cruising to a four shot win over Australian Jason Day and Sweden’s Peter Hanson courtesy of a superb closing round of 65 at Doha Golf Club. It was the second time that Lawrie had lifted the coveted Mother of Pearl trophy, following his triumph at the Qatar Masters in 1999 – the same year he became a Major winner at The Open Championship at Carnoustie. Lawrie’s victory earned him a place in last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he capped a fine month by defeating Justin Rose and Ryo Ishikawa to reach the last 16, before falling to his compatriot Martin Laird. The 43 year old edged out Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello, winner of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, for the monthly award, which is voted for by a panel comprising members of the golfing media. Derek Lawrenson, Golf Correspondent of The Daily Mail newspaper, said: “As ever, it was hard to separate the leading candidates for February. I was torn completely between Rafael Cabrera-Bello’s stirring win against a strong leaderboard in Dubai, and Paul Lawrie’s equally compelling success in Qatar. “What was better, the Spaniard holding his nerve under pressure from Lee Westwood, or Lawrie’s brilliant final round to finish clear of a quality field? By the narrowest of margins I, and the panel, went with Lawrie, and furthermore he followed up his victory with a good showing at the Accenture.” The panel also commended the performances of South African Jbe’ Kruger, winner of the Avantha Masters; his compatriot Keith Horne, who captured the Telkom PGA Championship on the Sunshine Tour; and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who just missed out on becoming the new World Number One after finishing tied fifth in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and runner up in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Lawrie is the second monthly winner of 2012, following January’s Golfer of the Month Branden Grace, of South Africa. Both players will join the subsequent monthly award winners, who will be considered for The 2012 Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year, which was won last year by Englishman Luke Donald.