Billy Joe Saunders reinforced his threat to pull out of the biggest fight of his life by failing to appear for a contracted face off with Canelo Alvarez.
Saunders insists he will fly home immediately unless Canelo agrees to a ring much larger than the one stipulated here for Saturday night’s world middleweight title unification fight.
An 18-foot ring is customary in Texas but Saunders, whose main hope of defeating the world’s best boxer is to maximise his elusiveness, is demanding a 24-footer.
As the row raged on Saunders made good his threat not not to face off with Alvarez for pre-fight pictures in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium and his father Tom said: ‘As of now the fight’s off.’
Saunders added: ‘I’m doing nothing unless the ring issue is settled.’
Saunders’ dad told iFL TV: ‘I can’t say them coming face to face because the issue with the ring has still not been sorted.
‘There is nothing in the contract about the ring size, it’s all about negotiations and negotiations have broken down big time.
‘Canelo has put an 18-foot ring, which I think is an amateur ring, as the fight ring. His plan was to put an 18-foot ring there, knowing we were going to start [complaining] and he said right, 20-foot ring, that was his game plan.
‘We wanted a 24-foot ring but we’ve come down to a 22-foot inside ring. Basically they are trying to take BJ’s legs away. We’re up against everything here and at the end of the day I’m not going to let my son box in a 20-foot ring against the supposed pound-for-pound king of boxing.
‘We’re up against everything here and we’ve spoken to them this morning. They’ve said it’s either a 20-foot ring or book your flights home.
‘Unfortunately people, we apologise to all the fans, I can’t let my son box in a 20-foot ring against Canelo on Cinco de Mayo weekend.
‘We’ve given into a lot of stuff but this we can’t given in to. The fight will not be fair… the fight’s off.’
Would he really walk away from the mega-fight with Canelo he has been chasing most of his career and the biggest purse of his life.
Not only would he forfeit a reported £7.2million pay night but he would face losing many millions more in law suits for compensation. Perhaps even find himself paying Canelo’s £21.6m loss of a night’s earnings.
When asked about the English absentee Canelo, relaxed and smiling, said:, ‘I’m doing my share of the media work as per our contracts. Me, I will fight anyone, anywhere.’
Saunders has been angered by a number of issues. He won his argument for one English judge to be appointed. He claimed he had been robbed by agreeing to his purse before being told there would be 70,000 paying fans.
As for the latest hiatus, a 24-foot ring would be bigger than any Saunders has fought in before.
The really worry is whether he is becoming unnerved as this huge occasion draws closer.
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Andy Murray is set for a comeback to the tour just in time for the busiest period of the tennis season – and will hit the practice courts with Novak Djokovic on Sunday.
The 33-year-old Scot has his sights set on Wimbledon, but first will fly out to Rome to practice on the clay ahead of a full comeback in the week starting May 17.
Murray also plans to tackle the coming months with some help from former coach and now TV commentator Mark Petchey, who has been on the court with him in London in recent weeks.
The double SW19 champion could be found on Friday hitting on the clay at Roehampton’s National Tennis Centre with British youngster Jack Draper, confounding thoughts that injury issues of the last two months might force him to abandon the clay season.
Murray last played in Rotterdam at the beginning of March and a freak groin strain suffered while sleeping in Miami has kept him out since.
He plans to enter either of the ATP events in Geneva or Lyon the week after next, the former being where Roger Federer is returning. He hopes for a wildcard into the main draw of the French Open at the end of this month, but if not will join the chorus line in the qualifying event at Roland Garros.
‘On Sunday I’ve got a court booked with Diego Schwartzmann and then Novak in the afternoon,’ said Murray, who was able to play full on yesterday against highly promising teenager Draper.
A series of scans showed no serious issues after he returned from Florida, and he was given some local anaesthetic treatment. But the French authorities want to see evidence of his level before giving him a wildcard, which he is relaxed about.
‘They want to see me on the court competing, whether that means I need to win matches I don’t know. I don’t mind if they don’t want to give me a wildcard, that’s fine, they can give them to whoever they want to. It just makes it a bit tricky with planning.’
Petchey, who coached him in his formative years on tour, has been added to his support team to work alongside existing coach Jamie Delgado.
‘Over the last few years my team and I have spent a lot of time together and there have been a lot of difficult moments because of what’s happened with the injuries and uncertainty,’ said Murray.
‘I felt it would be good to have fresh voice some weeks. I thought he was a very good coach and because of his TV work he is very current with his knowledge. A lot of the younger guys he knows them because he’s commentating on them all the time. We are looking at doing something longer term but nothing has been agreed yet.’
Aside from what happened in Miami he was also forced out of the Australian Open after catching Covid in January, making it a difficult year.
‘It has been extremely frustrating – I never expected that things were going to be easy, when I had the operation on the hip I knew it was going to be unbelievably challenging, it just feels that there are a couple of things that have happened this year which have been very unfortunate that have been hard to take.
‘I’m trying to do something that has not been done before. So I knew there would be challenges but things have come up which have made it even more difficult. I’ve been in the NTC for 6 days a week. I’m a bit bored of doing that now, I want to get out there be around the top players and top tournaments.
‘I’m really looking forward to going away and having a good few months this summer, with Wimbledon and the Olympics. I feel good right now, the last five or six days there has been a definite improvement.’
Murray’s coming schedule is fluid. He could play an additional clay court event in Parma, and if his business in Paris finished quickly he might play in Stuttgart in the grass court event there ahead of the Cinch Championships at Queen’s.
Jurgen Klopp has thrown his weight behind out-of-form Liverpool ace Roberto Firmino in the midst of his disappointing campaign.
The forward has scored just six goals from 43 appearances in all competitions this season and been unable to prevent the now-dethroned former Premier League champions from enduring a horror slump.
But boss Klopp was quick to insist that Firmino retains his full support and has tipped the 29-year-old to return to form sooner rather than later.
Speaking to journalists, Klopp attributed Firmino’s sharp decline in front of goal to Liverpool’s wider issues this season.
‘It is a mixture of the season, 100 per cent, but as well, when the boys up front don’t score as often as we’re used to then that doesn’t help,’ Klopp said.
‘But anyway, we are not in dreamland, so you can go through these periods. But, of course, it is temporary and not forever. There is no doubt about that.
‘Bobby is not old or tired or lost everything, not at all. We see everything in training, but we need to make sure we bring that more often on the pitch.
‘That is not only for Bobby either, but you asked about him. That is a general thing for us.’
The Anfield giants are currently embroiled in a fierce battle to qualify for the Champions League – but they are languishing in seventh, seven points off fourth.
Liverpool have been haunted by key injures, a failure to take good chances and sloppy mistakes, all of which brought an early end to their title defence and pushed them out of the top four.
Reflecting back, Klopp rued the absentees in defence, with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez both ruled out long-term, and insisted that the chaos stemming from the issue has taken its toll on the whole of his team.
‘The season is not one where we got into a proper flow and things were clicking game after game,’ Klopp added. ‘We had to work incredibly hard and when you have to work incredibly hard you think about different things.
‘So let me say it like this, when we lost our defence and stability a bit because of injuries, everybody had to play differently to protect the defence.
‘That means you play a yard further back, or two, or five, or 10. That keeps your focus away from an offensive situation because you would think already that when you lose the ball you have to get it back.
‘So there are a lot of complex things that have happened this year and so far it was why this is the season we saw. There are absolutely no excuses, and I hope that is clear, but it is a description.
‘Bobby is a good example of that but he is in a good moment, he trains really well and that is good.’
Neymar has been branded as one of the most irritating players to play against by former Atletico Madrid defender Juanfran.
Juanfran battled often with Neymar during the Brazilian’s spell at Barcelona for four years, before the latter’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record £198million in 2017.
Having left Atletico for Sao Paulo in 2019, the 36-year-old labelled Neymar as ‘unbearable’ when asked by El Larguero at which opponent was his most irksome on the pitch.
Juanfran said: ‘Neymar. Off the pitch they tell me he’s a good kid, but on the pitch, unbearable. He’d provoke you with or without the ball – but I wasn’t a saint either.’
While Neymar is undoubtedly one of the world’s standout players on the ball, his gamesmanship, including a perceived overreaction to being fouled, can often infuriate opponents and fans.
This was never enough to overshadow his talent though, with 105 goals in just 186 games sealing a move to PSG, where despite injuries he has also bagged 85 goals in just 112 games.
Although his contract at the Parc des Princes is due to expire next summer, he could now sign a new deal in the French capital in the next few days worth around £26million a season.
Neymar’s new contract would come as excellent news for manager Mauricio Pochettino who is also hoping to tie down fellow forward Kylian Mbappe to a new deal.
It also reflects well on Pochettino that despite PSG’s Champions League semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Manchester City midweek, his star players are willing to stay in Paris under his tenure.
Michael Page scored his fifth-straight Bellator victory on Friday night after the Briton stopped Derek Anderson after breaking his rival’s nose with a brutal leg kick in the first round.
The silky smooth Hackney-born mixed martial artist met Anderson at Bellator 258 in Uncasville, Connecticut at a catchweight of 175 pounds and all but ended the bout in the opening round after landing a perfect leg kick right on the button.
Anderson, 31, made it until the end of the round before a ringside physician stepped in to insist that the American was in no shape to continue, such was the damage done to the nose.
WARNING – GRAPHIC CONTENT BELOW
Page’s victory moves ‘Venom’ a step closer to a rematch with Bellator’s welterweight champion Douglas Lima, the only man to inflict defeat on the Briton in his 20-fight career.
The 34-year-old is also the first person to defeat Anderson via TKO/KO and his victory on Friday saw him break the record for most knockout wins in Bellator.
‘It is a good one to come back on,’ Page said after his win. ‘Now Bellator have got going again it is a great one to start on to get me going as well and hopefully I am just active.
‘I feel great right now, as soon as I can get back in the cage I am going to be back.’
MMA fans have likened Page’s fighting style to that seen in video games, and the Briton says that he is in his ‘element’ when he is in the Octagon.
‘Fighting genuinely is my home,’ he said. ‘I genuinely feel at peace. I don’t feel stressed, I am in my absolute element when I am fighting.
‘I enjoy combat, it is more of a game for me. I don’t see the brutality in it. You can see by the way I demonstrate my martial arts that that’s what it is for me. I’m just at home.’
Fans took to Twitter to react to Page’s sensational kick, with one social media user comparing the damage sustained by Anderson to that of a crinkled can of Coke.
‘Michael Venom is scary’ one user wrote, while another fan labelled the 34-year-old ‘an absolute savage’.
Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona have released a joint statement slamming ‘unacceptable pressures, threats and offences’ to scrap the Super League project, turning on the nine clubs that have signed a deal with UEFA.
Europe’s biggest clubs are at war amid the fallout of the disastrous £3.5bn plot that threatened the football landscape.
On Friday, nine of the 12 participating clubs agreed a peace deal with UEFA and accepted fines worth millions of pounds for their roles in the scheme, while Aleksander Ceferin threatened heavy punishments for the three clubs still committed to the breakaway league, including a two-year suspension from the Champions League.
But Spanish duo Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Italian giants Juve, are refusing to let the project die and have joined forces to release a statement in which they have hit out at pressure applied to them to back down from their stance.
‘The founding clubs have suffered, and continue to suffer, unacceptable third-party pressures, threats, and offences to abandon the project and therefore desist from their right and duty to provide solutions to the football ecosystem via concrete proposals and constructive dialogue,’ the statement read.
‘This is intolerable under the rule of law and Tribunals have already ruled in favour of the Super League proposal, ordering FIFA and UEFA to, either directly or through their affiliated bodies, refrain from taking any action which may hinder this initiative in any way while court proceedings are pending.’
The statement goes onto explain that the much-maligned Super League was designed to ‘provide solutions to the current unsustainable situation in the football industry’ and that ‘structural reforms are indispensable to ensure our sport stays appealing and survives in the long-term’.
The trio of clubs also condemned UEFA and FIFA for ‘refusing to establish any adequate channel of communication’ while maintaining that all 12 clubs ‘acknowledged that the Super League was a unique opportunity to offer fans around the world the best possible show and to reinforce global interest in the sport, which is not a “given” and is challenged by new generational trends.’
News of the peace agreement between the nine clubs and UEFA has come as a blow to Juventus, Madrid and Barcelona, who also took a swipe at their counterparts’ ‘inconsistent position’.
‘We regret to see that our friends and founding partners of the Super League project have now found themselves in such inconsistent and contradictory position when signing a number of commitments to UEFA yesterday,’ the statement added.
‘However, given that the material issues that led the 12 founding clubs to announce the Super League weeks ago have not gone away, we reiterate that, to honour our history, to comply with our obligations towards our stakeholders and fans, for the good of football and for the financial sustainability of the sector, we have the duty to act in a responsible manner and persevere in the pursuit of adequate solutions, despite the unacceptable and ongoing pressures and threats received from UEFA.’
The three European giants, who are yet to renounce the Super League, have also warned their former partners they will extract millions of dollars in penalties if they walk away from the league, according to the New York Times.
They reported that Madrid, Barca and Juve have threatened legal action and accused the teams that have publicly declared their intention to abandon the League of committing a ‘material breach’ of the founders agreement.
The six Premier League clubs along with Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan this week signed up to a settlement with UEFA to participate only in the existing open European competitions and accepted giving up to five per cent of revenue for one season playing in Europe. It wasn’t specified if that would be this campaign or a future season.
Teams from England and Spain reaching the final can earn more than £100m, meaning £5m would be sacrificed.
The nine clubs will also make a combined payment of €15m (£13m) for what UEFA called a ‘gesture of goodwill’ to benefit children, youth and grassroots football.
In a move to prevent them deploying the Super League threat again, the clubs have also agreed to be fined €100m (£87m) if they seek again to play in an unauthorised competition or €50m (£43m) if they breach any other commitments to UEFA as part of the settlement.
The nine clubs to sign up to UEFA’s ‘club commitment declaration’ will rejoin the European Club Association, which they quit on May 18 when the Super League was announced, and they will terminate their legal involvement with the company.
The English clubs, meanwhile, could yet face separate sanctions from the Premier League and Football Association which is investigating their attempt to split from the established structure. UEFA indicated a desire for the agreement to settle with UEFA to serve as mitigation when domestic punishments are assessed.
UEFA president Ceferin described the three remaining clubs as ‘flat-earthers’ in an exclusive interview with Sportsmail last month, and the Slovenian refused to back down in his statement released on Friday, with the governing body hellbent on getting all 12 clubs to reach an agreement so the whole debacle can be laid to rest.
‘I said at the UEFA Congress two weeks ago that it takes a strong organisation to admit making a mistake especially in these days of trial by social media. These clubs have done just that,’ he said of the nine withdrawn clubs.
‘In accepting their commitments and willingness to repair the disruption they caused, UEFA wants to put this chapter behind it and move forward in a positive spirit.
‘The measures announced are significant, but none of the financial penalties will be retained by UEFA. They will all be reinvested into youth and grassroots football in local communities across Europe, including the UK.’
The tone when discussing Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona was strikingly different, however, and the UEFA chief is prepared to hand the trio heavy sanctions.
‘UEFA has reserved all rights to take whatever action it deems appropriate against those clubs that have so far refused to renounce the so-called ‘Super League’,’ the statement concluded.
‘The matter will promptly be referred to the competent UEFA disciplinary bodies.’
- 7 часов, 40 минут назад 08.05.2021Sport
Burnley have announced that up to 3,500 fans will be allowed to return to Turf Moor free of charge for the Premier League side’s final home game of the season as a gesture of gratitude for fans’ support during the pandemic.
A limited number of supporters will be permitted to return to stadiums from May 17 as a result of the government’s easing of lockdown restrictions in England.
Sean Dyche’s side host Liverpool on May 19 and an online ballot among season ticket holders will determine who can attend the Premier League fixture.
The tickets will be free of charge, with the club encouraging successful ticket holders to make a donation to NHS Charities Together instead.
‘This fixture is opportunity to reward our loyal season ticket holders who have shown incredible support to the club throughout the pandemic,’ Burnley chairman Alan Pace said via the club’s website.
‘We have therefore decided to make tickets for this fixture free of charge. If supporters are able to, the club is encouraging successful applications in the ballot to consider making a donation to the NHS charities.’
Outdoor sports venues in England will be allowed as many as 10,000 spectators or a 25 per cent capacity, whichever figure is lower, from May 17, with final government approval given no later than May 10.
The majority of Premier League games have been behind closed doors since the pandemic hit in March 2020, with a handful of matches played in front of up to 2,000 fans before the UK went back into full lockdown over Christmas.
Pilot events have taken place to assess the safety of hosting events in front of spectators, with Man City and Spurs each taking 2,000 fans to Wembley for the Carabao Cup final.
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