Sunday, December 9, 2007

Deans joins Wallabies job chase

New Zealander Robbie Deans has been granted a late interview for the vacant Australia coaching job after failing to land the same role with the All Blacks.

Deans missed out when the NZ Rugby Union opted to stick with Graham Henry despite his team's World Cup failure.

Australian Rugby Union chairman Peter McGrath said the Canterbury Crusaders coach will be interviewed this week.

"This in no way derails or affects the timing of the process already underway," said McGrath.

"If late in the day a coach with a record worth considering comes forward, then we should interview him and include him in the process along with the other candidates.

"The direction from the board to the selection panel was to find the best person and the ARU remains committed to that position."

The panel has so far interviewed Laurie Fisher, Alan Jones, Ewen McKenzie, John Muggleton and David Nucifora.

Deans had been tipped as the favourite for the New Zealand position after the NZRU advertised the job after the All Blacks' World Cup quarter-final loss to France.

The former All Blacks full-back has built up an impressive coaching CV with the Crusaders, guiding them to four Super titles, two other finals and a semi-final in eight seasons.

He was also an assistant All Blacks coach from 2001-2003.

Source: BBC Sport

Dominant Mayweather stops Hatton

Brave Ricky Hatton lost his bid for the WBC welterwight title after being stopped in the 10th round against Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas.

Champion Mayweather landed a stunning left hook to end Hatton's brave tilt at the MGM Grand after withstanding a the Briton's early onslaught.

Source: BBC Sport

Mayweather v Hatton photos

Source: BBC Sport

Live - Sri Lanka v England

Colombo, 9-13 December 2007
Second Test, Colombo: Sri Lanka v England

Stuart Broad has been handed his Test debut and Steve Harmison has been recalled by England for the second Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo.

Matthew Hoggard was not considered because he has a back injury while James Anderson has been dropped.

Hoggard was plagued by a back injury in the first-Test defeat earlier this week and has barely bowled in training.

Upul Tharanga replaces retired opener Sanath Jayasuriya for Sri Lanka, while Jehan Mubarak keeps his place.



Source: BBC Sport

Tebow makes history with Heisman Trophy win

NEW YORK -- Tim Tebow needed only two years of college to graduate to Heisman Trophy winner, putting the sophomore in a class by himself.

Florida's folk-hero quarterback with the rugged running style and magnetic personality won the Heisman on Saturday night to become the first sophomore or freshman to take college football's most prestigious award.

Since 1935, when Jay Berwanger of Chicago won the first Heisman, every winner had been a junior or senior -- until Tebow, who picked up quite a souvenir on his first trip to New York.

"I am fortunate, fortunate for a lot of things," Tebow said. "God truly blessed me and this just adds on. It's an honor. I'm so happy to be here."

He beat out Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, the first player since 1949 to finish second in consecutive seasons. Tebow received 1,957 points and 462 first-place votes to McFadden's 1,703 points and 291 first-place votes.

Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan was third, and Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel fourth.

Off And Running

Florida QB Tim Tebow is the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy in the 72 years of the award. Tebow's 22 rushing touchdowns are tied for the FBS record for rushing touchdowns in a season by a quarterback. (Air Force's Chase Harridge also had 22 in 2002.)

Most Rushing TDs in 2007
Bowl Subdivision QBs
QB, School TDs
Tim Tebow, Florida 22
Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan 17
Pat White, West Virginia 14

A year after Tebow helped Florida win a national title, and in his first season as the Gators' starter, the chiseled 235-pound quarterback in a fullback's body put together a historic campaign. He's the first major college player to run for 20 touchdowns and throw 20 TD passes in the same season.

"When I get back to the University of Florida, we're going to have fun," Tebow said.

In an unpredictable college football season, the Heisman race was as unsettled as the national title chase. Tebow emerged as the front-runner even though Florida (9-3) stumbled early.

Six of the last seven Heisman winners picked up their bronze statues on the way to playing in the national championship game. Tebow won't get that chance this season, but Heisman voters didn't hold Florida's failure to defend its national title against him.

McFadden slumped in October before finishing with a huge November, capping his season with a spectacular performance -- 206 yards rushing, three touchdowns and a TD pass -- in the Razorbacks' 50-48 triple-overtime win over No. 1 LSU. It seems doubtful the junior with sprinter's speed will return to Arkansas next year to make another run at the Heisman. Not with some NFL team likely to make him a top-10 draft pick.

Brennan and Daniel each passed for over 4,000 yards and led their teams to breakout seasons.

But no player was more important to his team than Tebow.

Tim Tebow

AP Photo/Kelly Kline, Pool

Tim Tebow is Florida's third Heisman Trophy winner, joining Steve Spurrier (1966) and Danny Wuerffel (1996).

The closest he came to a bad game came in a 28-24 loss at LSU, when he completed 12 of 26 passes for 158 yards, throwing for two scores and running for another. He finished with a school-record 3,970 yards of total offense and accounted for 51 touchdowns.

Simply put, he's the perfect quarterback for coach Urban Meyer's spread-option offense.

Florida fans might argue Tebow is just plain perfect.

Tebowisms have become all the rage with Gators fans on the Internet. A sampling: Superman wears Tim Tebow pajamas. Tim Tebow has counted to infinity ... twice. Tim Tebow ordered a Big Mac at Burger King, and got one.

And if joining Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel as the only Florida players to win the Heisman Trophy wasn't enough to make Tebow the most popular man in Gainesville, there's one more reason for Gators fans to be excited: the promise of two more years of Tebow, who has said he has no plans to leave school after his junior season.

The legend of Tebow started at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where he once finished a game playing on a broken leg.

Homeschooled by missionary parents who run an orphanage in the Philippines, Tebow took advantage of a Florida state law to play

Heisman Voting
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Tim Tebow, Florida 462 229 113 1,957
Darren McFadden, Arkansas 291 355 120 1,703
Colt Brennan, Hawaii 54 114 242 632
Chase Daniel, Missouri 25 84 182 425

for Nease, about 90 miles from the University of Florida campus.

Tebow has worked and preached at his parents' orphanage since he was 15. He regularly speaks at schools and delivered his message of faith at a prison in Florida earlier this year.

He arrived in Gainesville with superstar status, and Gators fans could hardly wait to see their quarterback of the future.

In a part-time role as a complement to Chris Leak, Tebow played with a fiery passion. He bowled over defenders and bounced around the field, fists pumping and arms waving.

He ran for 469 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman, throwing only enough to take advantage of defenses stacked to stop him from running.

This season, the Gators became Tebow's team and at times he was a one-man offense.

He completed 68 percent of his attempts for 3,132 yards and 29 touchdowns and continued to run with reckless abandon, even while playing the second half of the season with a very sore shoulder.

Compensating for the Gators' lack of a reliable tailback, Tebow led Florida with 838 yards rushing and set a Southeastern Conference record with 22 touchdowns. With speed and a strong arm to go with his power and grit, Tebow is part throwback to the days of single-wing football and part 21st century prototype for the position.

Add winning the Heisman as a sophomore, and Tebow is truly one of a kind.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Report: Brewers confirm pending deal for Gagne

Eric Gagne might be a Brewer after all.

Eric Gagne


Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin confirmed on Saturday that a pending deal is in place for the free-agent reliever, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Web site.

While Melvin was mum on the terms, the newspaper is reporting the one-year deal is worth upwards of $10 million. Melvin said he couldn't discuss details because MLB has told all teams physicals must be performed on all players involved in signings and trades before an announcement can be made.

"It's one of those things where you've got to wait a few days," Melvin told the Journal Sentinel.

The Brewers were one of two teams vying for Gagne's services prior to the trade deadline in July. They lost out as the Texas Rangers traded the righty reliever to the Boston Red Sox.

Moved from his normal closer role to a setup position, Gagne had a rough run in Boston. The former NL Cy Young winner posted a 6.75 ERA in 20 games for the Red Sox. Gagne declined Boston's offer of salary arbitration on Friday.

Gagne is 29-23 with 177 saves and a 3.31 ERA lifetime.


Janyk rules Aspen downhill for first World Cup win

ASPEN, Colo. -- All it took was a morning walk and Britt Janyk knew the day held promise. The snow was just right, and so was the result.

The Canadian raced to her first World Cup victory Saturday, winning a downhill in which about half the field was unable to complete their runs on a snowy, foggy day.

"I walked the course to inspect and started smiling," Janyk said. "It was just like I was used to -- West Coast snow, wet with powder mixed in. I knew I would have a good time and looked forward to pushing out of the start gate."

The winner was followed by Austrians Marlies Schild and Renate Goetschl. Lindsey Vonn of the United States was fourth.

"I'm really bummed out," said Vonn, who had the best training times the previous two days. "I'm skiing so well and I feel really bad that I couldn't show my stuff to a home crowd. Unfortunately, I'm not good on powder. I am from Minnesota."

Janyk, who trains in Whistler, British Columbia, finished third at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Dec. 1. She leads the downhill standings.

"This certainly changes the goals I set before the season," Janyk said. "It's fun to win a World Cup race, but to win globe at the end of the season shows true strength and a true champion."

Janyk covered the Ruthie's Run course in 1 minute, 14.17 seconds. Schild, the World Cup points leader, was second in 1:14.59, while Goetschl was timed in 1:14.63, and Vonn finished in 1:14.68.

"I don't know if I had any advantage skiing first and in these conditions," Schild said. "I didn't have any tips from my coaches because they can't compare the run to anything, and I had to judge the course for myself."

The race was held under a light snowfall and only 30 of the 56 skiers were able to finish.

"I would have done better if it hadn't snowed," Vonn said.

Race officials called off the race before 19 skiers were able to ski the course because of fog and poor visibility. Four other skiers chose not to start.

"It was pretty soft and you couldn't see anything," Schild said. "If you fall, that's really dangerous because it's so soft and if you push too much your skis don't react to you."

Austria's Alexandra Meissnitzer and France's Anne-Sophie Barthet took spills and did not finish. Barthet dislocated a knee cap. Meissnitzer, competing in her 300th World Cup race, sustained a bone bruise.

"We have to deal with a ton of conditions," Janyk said.

American Julia Mancuso was 16th in 1:15.63, Stacey Cook finished 20th in 1:15.81, and Resi Stiegler was 24th in 1:16.35.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Live - Hatton v Mayweather

Hatton v Mayweather weigh-in Archive: Hatton as a young boxer Hatton v Mayweather war of words
Follow the fight live on this website and BBC Radio 5 Live (starts at approximately 0400 GMT on 9 December)

ALL THE BUILD-UP (all times GMT)

Source: BBC Sport

Khan floors Earl in first round

Amir Khan celebrated his 21st birthday by demolishing Graham Earl in 72 seconds to retain his Commonwealth lightweight title in Bolton.

Khan floored Earl with a sweeping left inside the first minute and again after unleashing a barrage of blows when the challenger got to his feet.

The referee stepped in with just one minute 12 seconds on the clock.

"I wasn't surprised, I trained very hard. He was number one in Britain and I wanted to beat him," said Khan.

Interview: Amir Khan

"I knew he was under pressure after the first knockdown and I just went for it. I was fighting the best fighter of my career. I knew I had it in the tank."

It was the second defence for Khan in only his 15th professional fight.

Earl, 29, was returning to the ring for the first time since a brutal WBO interim world title defeat at the hands of Australian Michael Katsidis in February.

"I felt alright," said the fighter from Luton. "They shouldn't have stopped that fight.

"My head was clear. It's boxing, you've got to take shots, you don't just jump in and stop it straight away.

"(Khan's) good but it weren't deserved, it weren't earned."

Khan claimed he would fight for a world title "tomorrow" if he had the chance, and said: "It's up to (promoter) Frank Warren - but I'll fight for a world title tomorrow and prove everyone wrong."

Source: BBC Sport

Gordon starts on Hoosiers bench

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- No. 15 Indiana opened Saturday's game against Kentucky without starting guards Eric Gordon and Armon Bassett.

Coach Kelvin Sampson had said Thursday that Gordon, who bruised his lower back in a hard fall Monday night, would play. Gordon, a freshman, was in uniform but was not expected to play against Kentucky.

Bassett, a sophomore, was suspended before the game but Indiana officials gave no details on the suspension. Sampson was expected to address the suspension after the game.

Gordon entered the week as the nation's No. 2 scorer, an average that dropped to 24.3 points after he left Monday night's game 84-72 victory over Tennessee State in the first half. Bassett was averaging 11.3 points for the Hoosiers (7-1).

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Liverpool slump to Reading defeat

Reading handed Liverpool their first league defeat of the season as they claimed a richly deserved home win.

Stephen Hunt's penalty put Reading in front after Jamie Carragher fouled Brynjar Gunnarsson, but Steven Gerrard soon equalised with a cool finish.

Liverpool hit the bar through Gerrard, but Kevin Doyle's glancing header on 58 minutes put Reading back in front.

James Harper scored a fine third and Reading, with the help of the post, kept the Reds at bay for the remainder.

In the build-up to the match, Reading boss Steve Coppell had asked the home fans to make more noise and his players certainly gave the supporters something to shout about with a committed and energetic team performance.

It was end-to-end stuff in the early stages, with the emphasis on speed rather than quality, and it took a defensive mistake to break the deadlock.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez gave young centre-back Jack Hobbs his first Premier League start, but it was a foul by the vastly experienced Carragher which led to the Reds falling behind on 15 minutes.

Carragher brought Gunnarsson down as the Reading midfielder burst forward and referee Andre Marriner, despite vehement Liverpool protests, decided the offence was inside the box, giving Hunt the chance to convert from the spot.

The goal sparked a brief purple patch for the home side as they began to stretch Liverpool from flank to flank, with Bobby Convey's screamer from the edge of the box going agonisingly close after a precise passing move.

Reading's lead did not last long though, as their porous defence crumbled to concede their 33rd Premier League goal of the season.

Torres controlled Pepe Reina's punt upfield under no pressure from Ibrahima Sonko before squaring the ball to Gerrard, and the England midfielder eased past Hunt and passed the ball into the net for his ninth goal in 10 games.

Sonko's questionable challenge on Torres soon after led to half-hearted appeals for a Liverpool penalty, but replays suggested the centre-back had got a touch of the ball.

The half ended with Liverpool well on top, dominating possession and territory, but they were unable to fashion a clear-cut chance despite a couple of decent self-made efforts from Andriy Voronin.

Liverpool started the second period purposefully, with Torres flashing a diving header just wide from Peter Crouch's cross.

A comical piece of defending from Gunnarsson, who played the entire Liverpool team onside from a free-kick before belatedly rushing out, gave Hobbs the chance to mark his full league debut with a goal but the 19-year-old smashed the ball into the stands.

John Arne Riise's trademark swerving free-kick drew a fine save from Hahnemann as Liverpool pressed hard for a second goal.

Gerrard went even closer with a brilliant strike from distance which rattled off the bar, and the near miss proved a decisive moment as 60 seconds later Doyle got a faint touch with his forehead to Nicky Shorey's dangerous ball into the box.

If there was a hint of fortune about Doyle's effort, there was no doubt whatsoever about the quality of Harper's goal soon after.

The midfielder took a clever pass back inside from Convey and outstripped Riise before clinically rounding Reina and slotting home on 66 minutes.

Benitez's decision to bring Gerrard off with 20 minutes to go seemed strange given the captain's influence on proceedings, but Liverpool did continue to create chances.

Substitute Harry Kewell went close, and Crouch just missed making contact with a low Carragher ball into the box.

Crouch went even closer moments later as he hit the post with a well-struck effort from outside the box, but Reading were good value for a win that takes them up to 12th in the table.

Source: BBC Sport

Thrashers claim Recchi off waivers from Pittsburgh

Mark Recchi


ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Thrashers claimed veteran forward Mark Recchi off waivers on Saturday.

The Pittsburgh Penguins assigned the 39-year-old Recchi to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Thursday, and Recchi was placed on re-entry waivers Friday, meaning any team making a claim to him was only responsible for half of the remaining portion of his $1.75 million contract.

Thrashers spokesman Rob Koch said Saturday that the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Recchi is expected to join the team in Atlanta on Sunday. The Thrashers play at Washington on Saturday.

Recchi will probably have his first practice with the team on Tuesday.

Recchi played on Stanley Cup champion teams in 1991 with Pittsburgh and 2006 with Carolina. He also has had two stints with Philadelphia and played five years for Montreal.

Recchi had two goals and six assists in 19 appearances this season. He has 510 goals and 1,341 points in 1,357 games during his 19-year NHL career.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Navy promotes Niumatalolo to replace Johnson

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Navy wasted little time finding a new football coach, promoting assistant Ken Niumatalolo on Saturday to replace Paul Johnson, who left Friday to take over at Georgia Tech.

The 42-year-old Niumatalolo is believed to be the NCAA's first Polynesian head coach.

"I have observed our program over the past six years and I attribute a large part of our success to the invaluable role Ken has played as the assistant head coach," athletic director Chet Gladchuk said.

Niumatalolo had two coaching stints at the Naval Academy for a total of 10 seasons, including the last six, when he was assistant head coach and offensive line coach.

The Midshipmen went 45-29 in six seasons under Johnson, including 43-19 over the last five years, and became the first Navy team to record six straight wins over Army.

Niumatalolo played a major role in installing the triple option attack that enabled Navy to set the school's single-season scoring record this year. He will coach the Midshipmen against Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20.

"It's an honor and a privilege to be named head football coach at the Naval Academy," Niumatalolo said. "I am in the process of putting together a coaching staff that will give us every opportunity to continue the winning tradition at the Naval Academy."

Niumatalolo's work with the offense helped the Midshipmen lead the nation in rushing in four of the last five years, including each of the past three seasons, a first in NCAA history. Navy is averaging a school-record 351.5 yards rushing per game this year.

A 1989 graduate of Hawaii, he lettered three years as a quarterback and led the Rainbow Warriors to their first postseason bowl appearance in 1989. He was hired as a full-time assistant by his alma mater in 1992 and spent three seasons as an offensive assistant coach.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Leicester 14-9 Toulouse

Leicester (8) 14
Tries: Smith
Pens: Goode 3

Toulouse (6) 9
Pens: Courrent 2
Drop-goals: Courrent

Leicester ground out an important victory against French giants Toulouse at a boggy Welford Road to keep their Heineken Cup Pool Six hopes alive.

Valentin Courrent landed a penalty to put Toulouse ahead before the Tigers hit back through Ollie Smith's try.

Two Andy Goode penalties to a penalty and a drop-goal from Courrent meant Leicester led 11-9 after 55 minutes.

Goode made sure of victory with a 72nd minute penalty, but Toulouse went home with an important losing bonus point.

With Leicester having lost away to Leinster in their opening match in the competition they can ill-afford to lose any of their home games and they needed all their traditional grit to see off Pool Six leaders Toulouse.

The French side may have an impressive pack but what they are really renowned for is their free-flowing style, while Leicester's traditional gameplan is more robust.

With heavy rain having made the Welford Road pitch very boggy it suggested the visitors might take a more conservative approach than usual but there was no sign of that when the game started.

The visitors, the only three-time winners of the competition, launched two scything counter attacks in the first five minutes and their early pressure paid off when Courrent edged them into the lead with a penalty.

The French giants were trying to play the game at pace but it cost them dear when Clement Poitrenaud panicked when he was tackled in his 22 after the visitors took a quick throw-in.

Smith, playing out of position on the wing, picked up the full-back's loose pass superbly on the run and had the pace to beat the cover and cross out wide, with Goode narrowly unable to add the conversion.

As the half wore on Leicester's power game saw them secure the upper hand in the territorial battle and they gained their reward through a Goode penalty.

But when the French visitors managed to establish a beachhead in the Tigers' half Courrent popped over a drop-goal to ensure they only trailed 8-6 at the break.

With the pitch cutting up and the ball very greasy the match had become increasingly attritional as the half wore on but Toulouse sparked back into life immediately after the restart.

When a cheeky pass from replacement Tigers scum-half Ben Youngs failed to go to hand the French side countered with a superb flowing attack.

Leicester had to infringe to bring it to a halt and Courrent made no mistake to put the visitors back into the lead.

However, Toulouse kept playing themselves into trouble and when Vincent Clerc threw a suicidal pass Courrent held on at the resulting ruck and Goode kicked the Tigers back into the lead.

The fly-half added another penalty inside the final 10 minutes but the hosts had a huge scare when Clerc was called back for a forward pass as he cruised round under the posts.

They might not have sneaked victory at the death but Toulouse did manage to stay within seven points to claim what could be a vital losing bonus point in a very tight group.

Leicester travel to Toulouse next week for a rematch which will go a long way to deciding who qualifies for the knock-out stages.

  • Leicester coach Marcelo Loffreda:

    "It was really important to have a win, and we are pleased with that.

    "Sometimes, you have to manage the conditions, and it was difficult to play fast rugby in those conditions.

    "We needed to be more consistent when we had opportunities to score."

  • Toulouse scrum-half Byron Kelleher:

    "We are feeling pretty fatigued. They probably just played smarter than us. We will go back to the drawing board.

    "Our lineout was dominated, and their forwards competed very well against us. We know it will take a strong performance to beat them."

    Leicester: Vesty; O Smith, Hipkiss, Mauger, Varndell; Goode, F Murphy; Ayerza, Kayser, White, L Deacon, Wentzel, Corry, Abraham, Crane.
    Replacements: Chuter, Castrogiovanni, Hamilton, Croft, B Youngs, J Murphy, Rabeni.

    Toulouse: Poitrenaud; Clerc, Jauzion, Fritz, Heymans; Courrent, Kelleher; Human, Servat, Poux, Pelous, Albacete, Nyanga, Dusatoir, Sowerby.
    Replacements: Lacombe, Hasan, Millochlusky, Lamboley, Elissalde, Kunavore, Medard.

  • Source: BBC Sport

    Pucker up: Patriots' Harrison fined for taunting

    Brian Billick isn't a kiss-and-tell guy, so fans who watched the exchange between the Baltimore Ravens' coach and Rodney Harrison Monday night may never know exactly what the Patriots veteran strong safety said to provoke one of the funniest moments of the season.

    Rodney Harrison


    Brian Billick


    But league officials apparently have some idea.

    Lost amid the $70,000 in fines levied against four Ravens players for their actions and comments during and after the Monday night loss to the Patriots -- including a fine of $25,000 for linebacker Bart Scott, who drew two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls, and heaved an official's penalty flag into the stands -- was a fine of $5,000 levied against Harrison.

    The 14-year veteran was cited by the NFL for taunting the Ravens following a fourth-quarter interception by Patriots free safety James Sanders on a deep pass by Kyle Boller that quashed a Baltimore scoring drive.

    On Sanders' return to near-midfield, Harrison was blocking. When the play ended, he was near the Ravens sideline. Television cameras did not show Harrison saying anything, but they did catch the reaction from Billick, who sarcastically blew three kisses in the direction of the safety.

    The replay of Billick was shown repeatedly in the days following the game.

    "He said a few things about me, Kyle [Boller], and my team and I just want him to know first, we love you Rodney, and secondly you can kiss my back side," Billick said. "But, I don't take offense to what Rodney did and I hope he doesn't misinterpret my gestures, because he's not that good-looking a guy."

    One of the most heavily sanctioned players in recent league history, Harrison has been fined more than a quarter-million dollars in his career. He also forfeited $470,588 of his $2 million base salary this season when he was suspended for the first four games of the year for a violation of the league's steroid and related-substances policy.

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for


    Newcastle 2-1 Birmingham

    Habib Beye's stoppage-time goal handed Newcastle victory against a spirited Birmingham side at St James' Park.

    Cameron Jerome gave the visitors the lead when he collected a long ball from Mathew Sadler, rounded keeper Shay Given and slotted into the empty net.

    Obafemi Martins equalised for Newcastle from the spot after he was judged to have been brought down by Sadler.

    And with seconds remaining, right-back Beye eluded his markers to head in Emre's corner at the near post.

    Interview: Newcastle assistant Nigel Pearson Interview: Birmingham manager Alex McLeish

    606: DEBATE

    Source: BBC Sport

    Chelsea 2-0 Sunderland

    Goals from Andriy Shevchenko and Frank Lampard helped Chelsea see off a hard-working Sunderland.

    The unmarked Shevchenko stretched to head home Salomon Kalou's cross from close in for Chelsea's first.

    The Black Cats worked tirelessly to keep Chelsea at bay in the second half but failed to trouble Carlo Cudicini.

    Lampard made the game safe from the spot after Danny Higginbotham had tugged Alex's shirt, before Liam Miller saw red for a push on Claudio Pizarro.

    Interview: Sunderland boss Roy Keane Interview: Chelsea boss Avram Grant

    Chelsea will be steeling themselves for a spate of bruising encounters over Christmas and this flattening of one of the Premier League's featherweights moved them closer to pacesetters Arsenal and Manchester United.

    But the Blues will go through a key part of the season without their talismanic striker Didier Drogba who underwent a knee operation earlier on Saturday.

    The Ivory Coast forward boasts more goals this season than Saturday's front two Kalou and Shevchenko put together.

    But the former came close to adding to his three league goals when he deflected Cole's corner on to the bar after just five minutes.

    And just 15 minutes later, the Ivorian picked out his unmarked strike partner Shevchenko who dived to head home from five yards.

    The hosts deserved more from a first half that they completely dominated. Black Cats boss Roy Keane indicated before the game that he was willing to "park the bus" in front of his side's goal and Kenwyne Jones was isolated up front feeding on scraps and mistakes.

    Cudicini's only test of the first half was to gather Jones' bobbling low drive, while Darren Ward, again keeping Craig Gordon out of the side, was regularly peppered with crosses, and half chances.

    As the rain lashed down in the second half, Chelsea poured forward swamping the visitors' defence and breaking up sporadic counter attacks.

    Sunderland worked hard to limit the home side's clear-cut chances with Paul McShane and Higginbotham tirelessly chasing down runs and blocking shots.

    And as their confidence grew, Jones became more involved and he glanced a header wide from a tight angle.

    Halford had a long range effort comfortably saved by Cudicini and substitute Daryl Murphy flashed an effort wide from 25 yards.

    But when Higgingbotham pulled Alex's shirt inside the box, Lampard drilled home the penalty to put Chelsea out of sight.

    Miller's late dismissal for pushing Pizarro just yards from the referee completed Keane's miserable afternoon.

    Source: BBC Sport

    Man Utd 4-1 Derby

    Carlos Tevez scored twice as Manchester thumped Derby to move within a point of Premier League leaders Arsenal.

    Ryan Giggs put United ahead with his 100th league goal, slotting home after Ronaldo's shot was only parried.

    Tevez smashed home United's second from a Ronaldo free-kick before Wes Brown teed up the Argentine for a third.

    Wayne Rooney and Giggs hit the woodwork before Steve Howard bundled home a late reply for Derby but Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty sealed a fine United victory.

    Source: BBC Sport

    Report: Broncos give Stokley contract extension

    Brandon Stokley, thrust into the No. 1 receiver role when teammate Javon Walker went down with an injury, has reportedly turned his solid season into a contract extension with the Denver Broncos.

    According to a report in The Denver Post, sources said Stokley received a three-year extension to stay in the Mile High city. Contract terms were not available.

    On the season, Stokley has 39 catches for 614 yards and four touchdowns with the Broncos.


    Aston Villa 1-3 Portsmouth

    Two outstanding strikes from Sulley Muntari helped Portsmouth to a sixth straight away win against a shell-shocked Aston Villa.

    Villa dominated the first half but fell behind early on when scrappy play in their penalty area led to Craig Gardner prodding the ball into his own net.

    Muntari's first was a left foot strike from 25 yards and he then beat two defenders to score with a low shot.

    A late penalty for Gareth Barry was little reward for Villa.

    Portsmouth had not won in the top-flight at Villa Park for 52 years but they ultimately deserved to end that miserable record if only because of the brilliant goals from Muntari, who produced the two rays of sunshine on a rain-lashed afternoon.

    As in keeping with the conditions, for large parts of the first half play was scrappy.

    As indeed was Portsmouth's opening goal after just 10 minutes. From a corner the ball fell to Noe Pamarot on the wide right.

    Wilfred Bouma failed to deal with Pamarot's miscued shot and in the confusion Craig Gardner prodded the ball into his own net and past a stranded Scott Carson.

    That was harsh on Villa who pressed hard for the equaliser and they were offered two, gilt-edged chances to do so.

    Both fell to Martin Laursen, who will rue those missed opportunities. In the 18th minute, his free header was saved by David James, and just two minutes later he squandered an even better chance.

    Ashley Young's free kick found him totally unmarked but this time he headed wide from just five yards out. It was almost a carbon-copy of his earlier chance - only easier.

    Further chances fell to Gabriel Agbonlahor and Gareth Barry in a first half Villa controlled.

    But they were made to pay the penalty with the first of Muntari's screamers after 40 minutes. The villa defence failed to close him down as he fired a left-footed shot into the top right-hand corner from 25 yards. It was an unlikely end to the first half.

    Muntari's second shortly into the second period was even better. He robbed Nigel Reo-Coker in the Villa half and nutmegged Zat Knight before shooting low into the bottom corner.

    Villa didn't deserve to be three nil down and they responded well, although they only had a single goal to show for their efforts and that came from the penalty spot.

    It was awarded when Distin was adjudged to have brought down Ashley Young on the edge of the box with a quite unnecessary challenge and Gareth Barry stepped up to reduce the deficit.

    Villa continued to seek a way through with Patrick Berger firing over the bar and Olof Mellberg shooting wide.

    But as they pressed, Portsmouth threatened to do even worse damage on the break with Papa Bouba Diop guilty of a terrible miss late on.

    Source: BBC Sport

    MRI shows Grossman has sprained knee ligament

    CHICAGO -- Rex Grossman hobbled into an uncertain future, and the rest of his team wasn't far behind.

    One year after reaching the Super Bowl, the Chicago Bears appear to be in a state of flux after a 24-16 loss at Washington on Thursday night all but dashed any shot left at a playoff spot.

    The question of where the Bears (5-8) head from this point starts with the quarterback position. There was great fear about Grossman's injury, suffered just four minutes into the game Thursday, when his left leg twisted awkwardly under the force of defensive lineman Cornelius Griffin. The team did not issue any update on his condition Friday, but multiple Chicago-area media outlets reported that an MRI exam revealed no tear, only a sprain of the medial collateral ligament.

    That is good news for Grossman, because a torn ligament might have required surgery and an extended rehabilitation process. He likely will miss the rest of the season as it is, because sprains of the MCL usually require a month of recovery.

    As for the outlook farther down the line, Grossman has an expiring contract and would probably be a relatively cheap option for teams seeking a quarterback. It's hard to predict what they would get from him, though.

    Grossman's five seasons in Chicago have been marked by inconsistency and injuries. He missed most of the 2004 and 2005 seasons with knee and ankle injuries, and his durability was a big question mark until he got through last season unscathed, when he led the Bears to the Super Bowl. Consistency remains an issue.

    Grossman got benched after throwing six interceptions and one touchdown in the first three games this year and did not play again until Brian Griese sprained his left shoulder against Oakland on Nov. 11. The time off appeared to help, considering Grossman has three touchdowns and one interception in the past five games.

    If he's finished for the year, the Bears have a decision to make: Do they go with the veteran Griese or give third-stringer Kyle Orton a look?

    "It is amazing," wide receiver Bernard Berrian said. "I sit at home sometimes and think, 'Are we really in this position?' And it's hard, because we really can't pinpoint why."

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.


    Roundup: Pettitte takes arbitration; Gagne rejects

    NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte formally returned to the New York Yankees on Friday night when he accepted the team's offer of salary arbitration.

    Michael Barrett


    Andy Pettitte


    Mark Loretta


    Catcher Michael Barrett returned to the San Diego Padres when he accepted his club's offer and infielder Mark Loretta went back to the Houston Astros. They were the only players to accept among the 17 offered arbitration by their former clubs last Saturday.

    Pettitte, who made $16 million last season, decided last weekend he preferred to pitch for the Yankees next year and put off retirement. The acceptance of arbitration appeared to be procedural -- he had a standing $16 million offer from New York.

    Pettitte was 15-9 with a 4.05 ERA this year in his return to the Yankees following three seasons with his hometown Houston Astros. The left-hander went 11-3 after the All-Star break.

    He declined a $16 million player option last month, saying he needed more time for a decision.

    Loretta hit .287 with four homers and 41 RBIs last season, when he made $3.5 million, including $1 million in performance bonuses.

    By accepting arbitration, Loretta can negotiate a one-year deal or allow an arbitration panel to decide his salary.

    "I know Houston, I know the guys and feel comfortable there," Loretta told the Houston Chronicle.

    Loretta's teammate, pitcher Trever Miller, declined his arbitration offer because he wants at least a two-year deal.

    Miller has not ruled out returning to Houston -- if they meet his salary demand. He pitched in 76 games last season and had an ERA of 4.86.

    "The Astros will not budge from their one-year offer," Miller told Houston TV station KRIV. "I would love to be an Astro and if the Astros are serious about bringing me and my family back to Houston it will have to be a two-year deal."

    If Miller signs with another team, the Astros would receive a compensatory draft pick next year.

    Barrett, who earned $4.4 million, batted .244 for the Chicago Cubs and the Padres, who acquired him in a June trade.

    Among those who declined arbitration offers and remained free agents are outfielder Mike Cameron (San Diego), third baseman Pedro Feliz (San Francisco), reliever Eric Gagne (Boston), pitcher Livan Hernandez (Arizona), left-hander Ron Mahay (Atlanta), catcher Mike Piazza (Oakland), outfielder Aaron Rowand (Philadelphia), outfielder Shannon Stewart (Athletics) and reliever Luis Vizcaino (Yankees).

    Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


    Saturday's Premier League photos

    Source: BBC Sport

    Live - Premier League

    Aston Villa v Portsmouth (1245)

    Chelsea v Sunderland
    Everton v Fulham
    Man Utd v Derby
    Newcastle v Birmingham
    Reading v Liverpool (1715)


    Source: BBC Sport

    Matt Prior column

    While the first Test against Sri Lanka in Kandy was ultimately disappointing, I can honestly say the mood in the England camp remains buoyant.

    It goes without saying that we didn't want to go one down in the series, but there is a huge amount the team can take away from the way we performed and, with two Tests left, we can still come away with a series win.

    In Kandy, we dominated the opening couple of days and went agonisingly close to saving the match so, with a bit more luck and an improvement here and there, we know we have what it takes to be successful here.

    For a start, Ian Bell was absolutely brilliant throughout the Test. He really has hit the ground running in this series and is the one we can all take a lead from.

    And from an individual point of view, I thoroughly enjoyed batting on the final day and loved every minute of the challenge.

    When you're growing up as a kid and batting in the playground, it's always the greats you imagine facing.

    For me, that meant the likes of Allan Donald or Curtly Ambrose, and so to go out in a Test and face a legend like Muttiah Muralitharan - the greatest wicket-taker ever - was a real privilege.

    Source: BBC Sport

    Prior backs bowling unit to shine

    Matt Prior insists England have what it takes to level the series against Sri Lanka in Colombo despite the absence of fast bowler Matthew Hoggard.

    Hoggard misses the second Test, which starts on Sunday, with a back injury, and Prior told BBC Sport: "Losing him would be a massive blow for any side.

    "But Steve Harmison, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann are all firing in the nets so whoever comes in can do the job.

    "We know what we must do and we're sure we can turn this series on its head."

    Hoggard, who has 246 wickets from 65 Tests, impressed with figures of 4-29 in the first innings in Kandy.

    But he broke down with the injury whilst bowling in the second innings of the 88-run defeat to the hosts in the first Test.

    The Yorkshireman was able to bat on the last day - with a runner - but he missed Friday practice, and skipper Michael Vaughan later confirmed his absence.

    Source: BBC Sport

    The buildup to Mayweather-Hatton

    Friday, 4:40 p.m. PT -- Calzaghe has the last word

    After his unscripted face-off with Bernard Hopkins, Joe Calzaghe spoke with a few of us about what happened and how he feels about the prospect of fighting the Executioner.

    "I've never seen him before, except on TV," he said. "I saw him over there, and I wanted to say hello to the guy, and then he's in my face and saying I don't want to fight."

    Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe

    John Gichigi/Getty Images

    Bernard Hopkins, left, and Joe Calzaghe wasted no time getting to know each other.

    Calzaghe admitted he only wants a couple more fights before retiring, and said that Hopkins is one of the best fighters in the world at the moment.

    "I've wiped everybody out, as you've seen against Mikkel Kessler. There's nothing else to prove at super middleweight, so it means going up to light heavyweight and fighting the best names out there. Unfortunately, I'm not a welterweight, so I don't have the [Floyd] Mayweathers, the [Miguel] Cottos, and the [Ricky] Hattons, so I've got to chase a 42-year-old man. I will execute the Executioner."

    Calzaghe said he would face Hopkins, "any time, any place, anywhere" and won't even ask for a lion's share of the purse. Parity, according to the Welsh fighter, would be awesome but he isn't expecting it.

    "[Hopkins] can have his ego, and 51-49 [of the purse], Calzaghe continued. "But I tell you, if we ever fight, I will knock him out. He can't beat me. I don't see how he can beat me. I throw 1,000 punches a fight. He throws, what, 200 punches a fight. How's he possibly going to beat me? He can't beat me."

    Warming up to his theme now, he dismissed the notion of Hopkins as a great fighter.

    "He's no great fighter. He got beaten twice by Jermain Taylor. He's not a great fighter. Of course he's not. He got lucky against Winky Wright and he's a middleweight. He can't beat me. He can't win. He's going to lose. He knows that. I don't think he really wants to fight."

    He said he was a little tired of the criticism because he's never fought in the U.S.

    "Listen, the two best super middleweights in the world are Europeans," he continued. That's just the way it is. The only reason I haven't fought in America is financial. But now I've had a couple of fights on HBO; the fight with Kessler was on prime time. So I think now I have the strength to come to America and hopefully make a lot of money and make the fight happen."

    He said that he didn't want to wait until June or July, but would take a fight in March beforehand if it looked as if a Hopkins bout could not take place before the summer. Even though he was excited to see the number of fans Ricky Hatton had brought to Las Vegas, he'd rather have the fight in New York.

    "But wherever he wants to fight, I'll fight him." -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Friday, 3:35 p.m. PT -- Mayweather's entourage

    Floyd Mayweather's fellow "Dancing with the Stars" alums Wayne Newton and Helio Castroneves carried Mayweather's belts to the stage during the weigh-in, and will be carrying them into the ring on Saturday. Both admitted afterward that the festivities had been far wilder than they had expected.

    "That was amazing," said Castroneves of the boisterous weigh-in. "I was standing behind Wayne in case something went wrong," he laughed.

    "I had been to a weigh-in with Sugar Ray Leonard some years ago," said Newton, Mr. Las Vegas himself. "But it was nothing like that. But this is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of what it's going to be tomorrow night. That was probably, what, a third of what the audience will be tomorrow night?"

    In all his years of performing in Las Vegas, tomorrow will be the first time Newton has ever walked a fighter to the ring or participated in the event in that kind of way.

    "It's going to be very cool for me," he said. "I've never done anything like this."

    Mayweather, said Newton, has "a really sharp mentality, meaning there are kind of two Floyd Mayweathers. One when he's not in the ring and the other one when he's getting ready to go in the ring. He's very intense no matter what he's doing, but he's able to keep that in perspective, in terms of knowing when to use that energy and when not to."

    Castroneves joked that they recognized that same intensity during the taping of the show.

    "At one point when the judges were giving low scores, I thought, 'They'd better have protection, because I don't know what's going to happen,'" he laughed.

    Not surprisingly, Newton is backing his man to pull off victory on Saturday.

    "It's going to go Floyd's way. I think he's the best in the world at what he does. And it's going to be a real joy to stand there and know that I don't have to face Ricky Hatton." -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Friday, 2:20 p.m. PT -- Welcome to Manchester, Nev.

    Twenty minutes before Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton were due to weigh-in, the arena was already packed with singing fans, who had been waiting in line for up to five hours for the opportunity to grab a seat. Hatton trainer Billy Graham was introduced to the throng, and judging from the roar, you would have thought he was the main event star.

    The crowd broke into a rendition of "God Save the Queen."

    Michael Buffer appeared.

    "We just had a call from President [George] Bush. He's worried because the last time there were this many British in the United States, it was 1812 and you burned down the goddamn White House!"

    Bob Halloran, Director of Sports for MGM Mirage, attempted to tell the crowd the latest betting odds. Unable to make himself heard above pro-Hatton cheers, he shrugged and handed the mike back to Buffer.

    One by one, the fighters of the Golden Boy stable ascended the stage. There were respectful cheers for Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Marco Antonio Barrera. The cheers were especially loud for Oscar De La Hoya himself, who bowed and smiled in obviously genuine appreciation.

    Potential Joe Calzaghe opponent Bernard Hopkins, on the other hand, was met with a cascade of boos, and when Calzaghe himself was introduced and joined Hopkins on the stage, the Hopkins jeers and Calzaghe cheers were accompanied by gesturing and posturing by the fighters and a brief nose-to-nose concentration.

    There was another rendition of "God Save the Queen."

    Then Ricky Hatton came to the scales and it felt as if the roof was about to come off the arena. The crowd was so loud by now that it was all but impossible to hear Buffer's introduction of Mayweather.

    Hatton looked calm, relaxed, hands on hips. Mayweather was all business, nervous energy, moving his body to the rhythm of the crowd's songs.

    The fighters stripped down to their underwear, looking at each other across the scale.

    Hatton walked forward, stepped on to the scale, never taking his eyes off Mayweather, looking down on him now.

    "Ricky Hatton, 145 pounds!"

    Mayweather's turn.

    "Floyd Mayweather, 147 pounds!"

    Hatton crossed over the scale again, standing eyeball-to-eyeball with Mayweather, the two men with barely a millimeter separating them. Then Mayweather put his head against Hatton's and nudged him. Hatton shoved him back and the two went to push each other some more, Mayweather jawing at Ricky, until they were separated.

    Hatton took the mike and the boisterous crowd suddenly went quiet.

    "What can I say?" said Hatton. "Absolutely fantastic. Just answer me two questions."

    The crowd was on their toes.

    "Who are you here to see? Floyd?"

    "Nooo," yelled the crowd.



    "Who's taking the belts?"


    "Right. Let's f---ing have it." -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Friday, 2:15 PT -- Heading to the weigh-in

    From the media room I could hear the chants and feel the stomping of thousands of rabid Ricky Hatton fans. I had an ominous feeling as I closed my laptop and grabbed a can of coke.

    I half-jogged to the arena and pushed my way through the mobs of people.

    The ground of the arena was literally shaking as I walked in. I flashed my credential to an usher and proceeded to the area set aside for media. Not one empty seat.

    God save our gracious Queen
    Long live our noble Queen

    In the stands the crowd continued to sing. A trio of guards off to the left wore expressions of bewilderment and amazement. Nothing they teach in security school could have prepared them for this.

    My heart was in my throat but I continued on. Just behind me stood 10 or so rough-and-ready Hatton fans, sing at the top of their hoarse lungs, intent on turning the Arena into Old Trafford.

    God save the Queen,
    Send her victorious!

    Miguel Cotto marched by me with a baby carriage in tow. He got his seat.

    Finally, I found an aisle just between the last row of media and the first of the masses. I wasn't about to stand in no man's land alone.

    I climbed into the row behind me and set up shop on the front lines, dead in front of the podium and right alongside thousands of screaming, chanting Brits.

    Happy and glorious,
    Long to reign over us:
    God save the Queen.

    Former champions Genaro "Chicanito" Hernandez and Kevin Kelley entered the area late as well. They posted up in that empty row in front of my own. Soon, other members of the media/credientialed folk filed into the row. I lept over the seat in front of me and shouldered my way into position.

    Dan Rafael was right. This is going to top all other weigh-ins. -- Darius Ortiz

    Friday, 2:00 PT -- A change of pace

    Juan Manuel Marquez

    AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

    Juan Manuel Marquez is ready for Round 13 against Manny Pacquiao.

    No where in the boxing etiquette handbook does it say you have to carry on with name-calling, finger-pointing, "I-dare-you-to-cross-this-line" braggadocio antics and, for the most part, most boxers don't.

    Still, it's always a pleasure to speak to a fighter who's insightful, civil and down-to-earth.

    Juan Manuel Marquez was making his way through the MGM Grand when I pulled him aside for a word or three. His handlers were in a bit of a rush but Marquez was more than happy to chat.

    Marquez is stoked about his upcoming fight with Manny Pacquiao on March 15. "People have been waiting since 2004 to see us fight again. We're going to put on a great fight. It's good for the Mexican people, the Filipino people and boxing in general. I can't wait."

    The Mexico City star has steered clear of buffets while in Vegas. He's as thin as a rail and is just five pounds from the 130-pound junior lightweight limit. No procrastinating here! -- Darius Ortiz -- Darius Ortiz

    Friday, 1:20 p.m. PT -- Why don't you say what you really feel, Hopkins?

    Joe Calzaghe was just finishing up a radio interview when he spotted Bernard Hopkins and, simultaneously, Hopkins spotted him. Hopkins made a beeline straight for him and the two rivals went face-to-face and nose-to-nose. It was difficult to make out everything above the din, but the back-and-forth went something like this:

    Bernard Hopkins: Will you take the fight?

    Joe Calzaghe: Will YOU take the fight?

    BH: I already said I'll take the fight.

    JC: OK then, let's fight. When you want to do it?

    BH: I'm gonna mess up your face.

    JC: Nobody's messed up my face. Look at my face. Twenty-five years of fighting and not a mark.

    BH: That's because you're fighting in Europe. You're not fighting a legend.

    JC: I am a legend.

    BH: In Europe.

    JC: There's no way you can beat me.

    BH: I will never let a white person beat me.

    JC: If you fight me, you'll lose.

    BH: I will never lose to a white person.

    JC: I can't wait man, I can't wait to kick your ass. -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Friday, noon PT -- The British have come &;

    They've come from all over the globe and from all walks of life, some from 5,000 miles away; others, as in Elvis' case, from beyond the grave, for a chance to see the Floyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton weigh-in live.

    The vast majority of those in line at the entrance of the Arena are Brits who've been waiting since twilight to secure a bird's-eye-view of the proceedings.

    One member of the media regretted not bringing a rolling bar cart to the MGM. He's sure he wouldn't have been able to go two steps without selling out.'s boxing writer Dan Rafael feels this weigh-in has the potential to top all others in terms of atmosphere and crowd fervor.

    "Off the top of my head, Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya, Jose Luis Castillo-Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya-Fernando Vargas stand out as the most passionate, vibrant weigh-ins," he said. "But this could beat all of them."

    Ah yes, De La Hoya-Vargas. The whole promotional tour of that fight was a three-ringed circus. I remember, at that weigh-in, a shirtless, insanely muscular Vargas hammed it up to the crowd, striking poses and strutting his stuff as if he were Lou Ferrigno circa 1978.

    That should have been a dead giveaway that Vargas was on, um, the "breakfast of cheaters." Then again, a certain someone was bunting homeruns into the San Francisco Bay and that didn't raise eyebrows for years.

    The weigh-in's just over two hours away. Stay tuned. -- Darius Ortiz

    Friday, 10:25 a.m. PT -- The Weight-ing game

    A bolt of energy has hit the MGM Grand overnight. For the past few days, the atmosphere and enthusiasm has been steadily building, and it seemed as if every other person in Las Vegas had a Manchester accent. But this morning, it's risen to an entirely different level. The weigh-in is in three-and-a-half hours, and already several hundred chanting, cheering Brits are lined up outside the arena. The south end of the Las Vegas Strip has become an outpost of northern England. I've not experienced an atmosphere quite like this at a big fight before. These guys are serious fans and their enthusiasm is contagious. The weigh-in should be quite the spectacle. -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Thursday, 3:55 p.m. PT -- Mayweather has entered the building!

    All week, there have been numerous pieces of evidence suggesting that these days, Floyd Mayweather gets it. He knows the little things are important when it comes to dealing with the media, and not only has he been highly accessible, he's also paying attention to details.

    Floyd Mayweather Jr.

    AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

    Floyd Mayweather Jr., right, wasn't about to let anyone in on his secret ring walk.

    This afternoon, he sat patiently in front of a camera and did live TV interview-after-live TV interview, making a point each time to note in advance the name and station affiliation of the person he was talking to, reacting to each question as if he were hearing it for the first time rather than the 10th time in almost as many minutes.

    But it was clear this afternoon that he was much happier talking about his plans for his ring entrance and costume than about Ricky Hatton. He teased his interviewers with hints, and then smiled and acted coy when asked for specifics.

    He did mention that his fellow "Dancing With The Stars" alumni Helio Castroneves, Mark Cuban, and Wayne Newton, would all be involved in his ringwalk.

    "Hey man, Wayne Newton, he's Mr. Las Vegas," smiled Mayweather at us between interviews. "He knew Elvis."

    So does that mean he's going to be walking out to the accompaniment of "Danke Schoen"?

    He smiled again.

    "I'm not telling you." -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Thursday, 3:45 p.m. PT -- A moment like this

    The biggest fight in Ricky Hatton's career was the June 2005 night when he beat Kostya Tszyu to lift the IBF junior welterweight crown.

    Until now.

    Billy Graham

    AP Photo/Jon Super

    Ricky Hatton's biggest fight was against Kostya Tszyu -- until the Floyd Mayweather fight came to fruition.

    "I think this is bigger. When it was in Manchester, my home town, it wasn't just a Manchester occasion, the whole country got behind me, because that fight was said to be one of the biggest British fights we'd ever had. But I think this has eclipsed it.

    "Kostya Tszyu was [the] No. 2 pound-for-pound best fighter in the world at the time, undisputed No. 1 in his division. You wouldn't have thought I could top all that. But it looks like I'm going to on Saturday. Floyd's No. 1 pound-for-pound. Five-weight world champion; there's only greats that have done that, really. Tommy Hearns, [Ray] Leonard, [Oscar] De La Hoya, people like that. Regardless of what we think of him, the credit's due. I've got more respect for him than any boxer in the world."

    Because of the magnitude of the event, he says, "I'm a little bit more fired up than normal."

    "I don't want to beat him any more badly because of what he said to me. I can't be ruffled in that department. But it's the biggest fight Britain's probably been involved in, if I win. We've had a lot of undisputed champions. We've had a lot of world champions. But maybe not too many who could say they were the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing at the time. It's absolutely massive." -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Thursday, 3:12 p.m. PST -- Their first time

    Ricky Hatton remembers the first time he met Floyd Mayweather.

    "It was at the Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins fight. And my opinion hasn't changed much to be honest. A lot was made that we had a bit of a scuffle. But it wasn't a scuffle as such. I was sat on the row by HBO. I think Floyd was sat a bit farther down the row, and he came walking past me. I stood up to shake his hand, out of respect. You know, 'Nice to meet you Floyd.' He wouldn't shake my hand. He just went, 'I'll whup your ass,' or some [stuff] like that. So I just said, 'Fair enough,' To be honest, I wasn't overly [bothered] in the first place."

    Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Ricky Hatton

    AP Photo/Jon Super

    Ricky Hatton, right, and Floyd Mayweather aren't exactly best of friends.

    Hatton and Mayweather have both put in a lot of time and effort promoting their fight, and they continue to do so, almost up until the bout begins. This afternoon, Hatton sat down with a small group of journalists for about 30 minutes, his second such get-together in three days, with a press conference sandwiched in between. He continues to appear relaxed and in good humor, and although Floyd claims to see signs of nervousness in the Englishman's eyes, Hatton reckons it's the other way around.

    "Floyd will make you believe that, oh, he saw nerves in my eyes yesterday. You go back and look at the promotional tour 12 weeks ago and how he acted, and how he got in my face and hurled abuse at me. You look at yesterday [when the two men had a shoving match at the press conference]. Don't tell me I'm scared."

    He says he hasn't been taking Mayweather's pre-fight taunts terribly seriously.

    "I'm not saying we'll ever be best buddies, because we're from totally different walks of life. We're different characters. But sure, we'll probably be mates after the fight. The respect is always there after the fight. But at the minute, I'd have to say it's all an act, but I can't say for certain." -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Thursday, 2:00 p.m. PT -- The class act

    Wearing a light-brown leather jacket, stylish designer jeans and a grin from cheek to cheek, Marco Antonio Barrera seemed content in his retirement as he walked into the media room, but still in good enough shape to climb into the ring on a moment's notice if need be. "The Baby-Faced Assassin" was in town to provide moral support for his good friend Ricky Hatton.

    Barrera and Hatton met in Sheffield in 2002 and "The Hitman" began attending Barrera's big fights soon after. Barrera felt it was only fair to return the favor.

    Marco Antonio Barrera

    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Is there a chance we may see Marco Antonio Barrera in the ring again one more time?

    Barrera mentioned Hatton's crowd-pleasing style fit the mold of the prototypical Mexican fighter and that Hatton had endeared himself to the Mexican fans.

    The pair of fighters share more than just a friendship: Hatton's style of fighting is similar to that of a young Barrera.

    The Barrera that fought Kennedy McKinney in 1996 was a slugger in the purest sense of the word; a face-first buzzsaw of punches, he fought with reckless abandon and would take 10 to land that one shot to the spleen.

    Barrera was forced to change his style after running into -- and getting knocked out by -- Junior Jones immediately after the McKinney fight. Barrera retooled, reinvented himself and went on to win championships at featherweight and super featherweight years later.

    I asked Barrera who is most difficult opponent was. "Erik Morales," he said. "For sure, Erik Morales. The three fights, the rivalry, all of that made him my toughest opponent."

    And the hardest hitter he'd ever faced?

    "Again, Erik Morales," he replied. "Hard, hard hitter."

    This coming from a man who traded bombs with McKinney, Jones, Naseem Hamed and Manny Pacquiao, a who's who of murderous punchers. He and Morales were bitter enemies during their careers and while that's not about to change, Barrera does respect his arch-nemesis.

    So what's Barrera's prediction on Hatton-Floyd Mayweather?

    "I like Hatton," he said. He's got the ability -- and the will -- to win. The will means a lot; he's hungrier. He wants it more."

    Is there a chance we'll see you in the ring again, Mr. Barrera?

    Barrera thought for a moment then began to smile. "We'll see. Maybe one more; just to get my hand raised one last time." -- Darius Ortiz

    Thursday, 11:25 a.m. PT -- Blasphemy from the pulpit

    The drivel most trainers spew at news conferences and media round tables hardly ever changes. I'm still waiting for the day that a trainer steps up to the podium and tells it how it is.

    "Hells yeah my fighter gets butterflies! He spends 40 minutes in the bathroom before a fight and we have to tie him down to put his gloves on. The whole 'carrying him to the ring like a Roman emperor' entrance? He was tied to that throne and wouldn't have come out of his dressing room otherwise!"

    Until that day comes, we'll have to endure the generic, PR responses; on how their fighter won't lose, can't lose, doesn't know how to lose.

    Ricky Hatton's trainer, Billy "The Preacher" Graham, is more of a straight-shooter than most. He's extremely media-friendly and charismatic. Like any trainer, he's eager to play up his fighter's chances but admits his fighter may cut and is sure to face difficult moments against Floyd Mayweather.

    "I'm expecting a tough, competitive fight," he told us today. "I'd like Ricky to use the jab in this fight. He's got a wicked jab, he's got a lot of pace on it. If he uses it, he's going to [mess] up Mayweather bad!"

    Billy Graham and Ricky Hatton

    Bryan Haraway/Getty Images

    Trainer Billy Graham, right, and Ricky Hatton have worked together since the fighter was 17.

    Hatton's pugnacious, face-first style of fighting doesn't leave much room for a jab. It isn't something I've seen in past fights but may be something he's added to his repertoire in preparation for Mayweather.

    Anyway, Graham kept preaching, even mentioning how Hatton was the best fighter in British history.

    So how would Hatton have faired against a throwback fighter like, say, HENRY ARMSTRONG?

    "Too strong &;" was Graham's response.

    Humility from a trainer? Well, this is a first.

    "Ricky would have been too strong," he lamented.

    I spoke too soon.

    His eyes twinkled as he gazed somewhere over the media's heads, as if imagining how his charge's fight with Armstrong would have played out and exposed "Homocide Hank" as an over-hyped nobody.

    "Ricky would throw too many punches, he'd simply overwhelm Armstrong," he continued.

    Overwhelm Armstrong? What? One of Armstrong's nicknames was "Hurricane Hank" for goodness sake! Overwhelming Armstrong would be the equivalent of me out-eating Joey Chestnut in a hotdog-eating contest. It ain't happening.

    Nothing against Hatton, but I don't feel he's the best fighter in British history, let alone in boxing history, as Armstrong may very well have been. I'm sure Hatton would be the first to admit this himself.

    Much like his fighter, Graham has been ultra-confident and in high spirits leading up to the Hatton fight, so his comments may have just been the adrenaline talking. Hopefully. -- Darius Ortiz

    Wednesday, 8:16 p.m. PT -- A 'Super' sighting

    Upon spotting former junior welterweight/welterweight champion Zab Judah in the MGM Grand casino, I was taken back to the first time I saw the Brooklynite fight: it was against Micky Ward, in 1998. Judah controlled the fight with his blistering hand speed and a pulsating jab and, by the middle rounds, was far enough ahead on the scorecards that Ward would have needed a knockout to win.


    AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

    All hell broke loose moments after Zab Judah, right, hit Floyd Mayweather below the belt.

    Then, suddenly, in the 10th round, Ward landed a left hook to Judah's liver. Ward's bread-and-butter shot was that left hook but the only reason he landed it was because Judah's mind had drifted; he'd taken himself out of the ring and somewhere outside of the Miccosukee Indian Gaming casino and into the Miami night.

    In other words, he'd gotten ahead of himself.

    Such has been Judah's curse. And while his hands and feet may very well be the fastest of this generation (he was my first choice for Graham Houston's "Speed and smarts" piece until Graham correctly pointed out that Judah had the speed but not necessarily the smarts to qualify), it's his thinking processes that have let him down.

    Judah gave Floyd Mayweather all he could handle and more for four rounds in April 2006. Then, as has become the norm with Judah, his concentration slipped for a moment, and a moment is all a fighter of Mayweather's caliber needs to turn the tide in a fight.

    Mayweather went on to control the better part of the next eight rounds while Judah short-circuited. He melted down completely in the 10th when, tired and frustrated, he deliberately hit "Pretty Boy" Floyd below the belt.

    I can't help but wonder if Judah had been able to maintain his mind-set and sustain his attack for the full 12 rounds, would Mayweather still be an undefeated fighter. Of course, I can only wonder; for as brilliant as Judah's physical attributes are, he's still a flawed fighter, and a flawed fighter will never get the better of Mayweather.

    It'll take a near-perfect fighter on his best night to beat Mayweather.

    So, is Ricky Hatton that perfect fighter? We'll have to wait until Saturday to find out.

    Much like his fighter, Graham has been ultra-confident and in high spirits leading up to the Hatton fight, so maybe his comments may have just been the adrenaline talking. Hopefully. -- Darius Ortiz

    Wednesday, 3:30 p.m. PT -- The Executioner sings Hatton's praises

    Bernard Hopkins took time following the press conference to talk to reporters about how he sees the fight playing out.

    Bearing in mind that the president of Golden Boy Promotions East has a vested interest in a Ricky Hatton victory (Hatton is fighting under the Golden Boy banner for this fight, and it's no secret that De La Hoya himself is eyeing a Hatton fight in May), the light heavyweight champion nonetheless had some interesting points to make.

    "Hatton's a dangerous guy because he's hard to keep him off you," Hopkins said. "I don't think I've seen Floyd fight where he fought a guy who came with rapid punches, that had some sting on them, top to bottom, angles, and an energy level staying what it was in the first through to the eighth, ninth and 10th rounds. Ricky Hatton, I never seen the man get tired. I believe Mayweather's style of catching and baiting -- you catch a man and you bait them in -- that's not going to work, like it did on many other fighters, against Ricky Hatton. Why? Because if you throw that many punches in rapid fire, it's hard to come back with one, two, or three shots. It works great against one- or two- or three-punch guys, because you can time that. But he's nonstop, Hatton. So you got to time five punches compared to one or two. That's going to be the difference in this fight as time goes on." -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Wednesday, 3:20 p.m. PT -- Another side to Mayweather

    Floyd Mayweather Jr.

    AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

    Floyd Mayweather Jr. has shown a different side of himself during fight week.

    A lot of people have strong opinions about Floyd Mayweather, and they're not always particularly positive. The conventional wisdom is that he's brash, arrogant and disrespectful. But to some extent, Mayweather himself exaggerates those elements when the cameras are on, fully aware that there is something to be gained from playing the cartoon villain. In quieter moments, he can be a completely different person: Polite, relaxed, smiling and generous to the media.

    So far during fight week, he has been almost exclusively Good Floyd, perhaps a sign that he feels more confident than he did before fighting Oscar De La Hoya -- when he was noticeably more tense and more brusque with his responses to reporters' questions. He has been in good humor, sitting with the media for long sessions both yesterday and today. He even applauded when Ricky Hatton came to the podium during the press conference on Wednesday, and laughed when Hatton's trainer Billy Graham pretended to fall asleep when Roger Mayweather rambled on at great length.

    There were moments of tension, of course, and after the press conference, he seemed at times defensive of his legacy and his image. But so far this week, he's been a dream to cover -- much like the always accessible Hatton has also been. -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Wednesday, 1:20 p.m. PT -- The staredown


    AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

    Boys will be boys: Saturday can't come soon enough for Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton.

    Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton stood nose-to-nose and stared into each other's eyes.

    Photographers shuffled for position and tried to get that quintessential staredown shot.

    Click, click, click; flash, flash, flash.

    OK guys, I thought, they've all got their shots, you can back down now. But no one budged.

    Kelly Swanson, Mayweather's publicist, moved in but didn't dare pull him away first.

    They continued to stare; Hatton chewing away on what must have been the most stale piece of gum ever (he'd been chewing away the entire media conference) with Mayweather becoming irked by Hatton's audacity.

    Hatton nudged ever-so-slightly closer.

    "Guys, let's cool it," someone said.

    Mayweather made it clear he wasn't going to budge until Hatton did and said something to the effect of "you don't know what you're getting yourself into." He then pushed Hatton.

    Hatton took a half-step back and without lifting an arm, bullied Mayweather several feet back with his chest, sumo-style.

    Mayweather's people immediately broke up a sneak preview to Saturday's fight. As Mayweather was whisked away, Hatton ran his thumb under his throat and winked at the "Pretty Boy."

    Round 1 goes to Hatton, but we'll have to wait until Saturday for the real show. -- Darius Ortiz

    Wednesday, 11:57 a.m. PT -- 'A Hatton Wonderland'

    Moments before the final news conference, Ricky Hatton's legion of fans took to singing and swearing in announcing their fighter's arrival to the MGM Grand media center.
    Ricky Hatton

    AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

    Salvador Sanchez had a mariachi band; Wilfredo Gomez, a salsa one. Ricky Hatton has his own throng of musicians.

    Led on by a quartet of trumpeters who could double for The Baseball Furies from the cult film "The Warriors," Hatton's supporters were again out in force.

    For those of you who would like to sing along, or simply can't make out the slurred speech of 200 passionate, revved-up Hitman fans, here they are:

    One, Ricky Hatton
    There's only one, Ricky Hatton
    Walking along, singing his song,
    Walking in a Hatton Wonderland.

    The witty English blokes have one for Mayweather as well, but, well, this is a PG-rated blog. -- Darius Ortiz

    Wednesday, 11:50 a.m. PT -- Freddie knows best

    Freddie Roach and Oscar De La Hoya

    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Freddie Roach, left, trained Oscar De La Hoya against Floyd Mayweather in May.

    The last man to train a fighter to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. says he isn't sure what to expect when Mayweather and Ricky Hatton clash on Saturday.

    "It all depends on who shows up to fight," said Freddie Roach, who was in the corner of Oscar De La Hoya when the Golden Boy fought Mayweather at this same venue on May 5. "If the same Floyd shows up who fought us, I don't see how he can handle the pressure. We didn't fight a very good fight that night."

    Then again, he mused, there is always the possibility that, as Mayweather insists, Hatton simply isn't in his class.

    "It could just be Arturo Gatti all over again," he acknowledged. Either way, Roach reckoned the pattern of the fight would become clear after just the first couple of rounds. -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Tuesday, 12:30 p.m. PT -- Will any Mayweather do?

    Ricky Hatton and Lehkei Mayweather

    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Ricky Hatton took time out to say hello to Roger Mayweather's two-year-old son, Lehkei.

    Ricky Hatton has already chased one Mayweather out of the ring.

    Roger Mayweather's 2-year-old son, Lehkei, was dancing around the ring in the MGM Grand Garden Arena, shadowboxing while his father sat on the ring apron talking to journalists. Neither of them seemed to notice the arrival of Hatton, who climbed into the ring and playfully made a beeline for the budding pugilist. Little Lehkei, evidently not yet ready to spar with world champions, ran straight into his dad's arms.

    Hatton immediately went over to shake Mayweather's hand, and the two men, showing class and mutual respect, obligingly posed for pictures with each other and with the now much happier Lehkei, before the trainer went on his way and Hatton sat down with the media. -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Tuesday, 11:57 a.m. PT -- Words of wisdom by 'Money Mayweather'

    "The Pretty Boy" wants to go by Floyd "Money" Mayweather, and on this day he was making a whole lot of sense. The loquacious welterweight wasn't at a loss for words when he addressed the mostly British media from Garden Arena.

    Some of the gems he dropped:

    On why he was so laid back: "I already know how he's going to come out. He's going to come out ready to kill me. Relaxation's a great sensation."

    On whether his opponent, Ricky Hatton, is fun to watch: "If you call hitting and holding, hitting and wrestling exciting, then I guess he's an exciting fighter."

    On who's the bigger fighter: "I don't know no other fighter that's done eight-figure gates back-to-back. I don't know other fighters selling out in 30 minutes to two hours. How many fights has he sold out in the U.S.? None."

    On who has the better fans: "I love U.K. fight fans. You guys are die-hard fans. Even when Hatton gets his a-- beat, you're still going to love him. I wish we had fans like that."

    On why he reneged on retirement: "I always wanted to fight over in the U.K. and I never did. So if I figured if I can't go to the U.K., I'll bring the U.K. over here. And we'll do it one more time."

    On what he plans to do after the Hatton fight: "The future holds a long vacation." -- Darius Ortiz

    Tuesday, 11:12 a.m. PT -- Who are ya?

    Floyd Mayweather

    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Who's that guy that everyone wants an autograph from?

    He currently lives just minutes from the casino, but Floyd Mayweather might as well have been flying in from Mars, such was the cold reception he received upon entering the lobby of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

    Anyone not familiar with boxing or the fighters themselves would surely peg Ricky Hatton to be the home fighter. It seemed as though Mayweather was walking into enemy territory and not the other way around.

    The master of ceremonies announcing his arrival certainly didn't help his cause.

    "From the U-S-A, please welcome &; Floyd Mayweather!" she bellowed.

    Boos and insults followed.

    "Awww c'mon, seriously &; Let's give a warm welcome to the American fighter!"

    This time the English contingent responded with chants of "Ricky Hatton!" and "Floyd, who are ya?"

    You'd hope, after spending countless hours crossing the Atlantic and throwing down top dollars for fight and plane tickets, they'd know who Mayweather is, right?

    Anyway, none of this seemed to faze the "Pretty Boy," who immediately took to the mic and responded with his "Money Mayweather!" mantra.

    Moments later, the same fans who booed his arrival were lining up for autographs and photo ops with Mayweather. Only in boxing. -- Darius Ortiz

    Tuesday, 10:59 a.m. PT -- The man of the hour

    Ricky Hatton

    AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

    Ricky Hatton got a king's welcoming upon his arrival at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

    It seems as if half the inhabitants of Manchester are here already, whether they have tickets to the fight or not. I've spoken with a number of English fans who have made the trip to Las Vegas just for the fight, even though they don't have seats in the arena and have no prospect of being able to buy any at the hugely inflated prices scalpers are charging. Instead they'll be happy enough to watch the fight on closed circuit at one of the casinos on the Strip, and to simply be able to say they were here.

    They were certainly out in force in the lobby of the MGM Grand this morning, roaring as Hatton made his entrance, pulling up in a London taxi and pushing his way through the throng.

    It's hardly a new experience for the hugely popular Hatton, but even so, he clearly appreciated the greeting.

    "Absolutely fantastic," he told journalists later. "When you think, there's probably only a quarter of them here at the minute, so to give the support like they did. I found it amazing: I saw a few American fans going, 'Who are ya? Who are ya?' Which is always nice to see, because obviously the reason why I came over to fight in the first place was to get a fan base over here."

    He made a distinction between his reception and the one given Floyd Mayweather Jr., who arrived about 20 minutes later.

    "I read in the program that Floyd and Leonard Ellerbe are saying that the reason Ricky's fans are coming over is to watch Floyd," Hatton said. "Well, you could have fooled me. I didn't hear a cheer for him. It was just boos all around and we're in his home town, really. Although he comes across as a confident man, I think he's actually a bit insecure, and I think slightly that may have upset him a bit. I'd be ashamed if I got a reception like that in Manchester."

    For a man about to face the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, Hatton is oozing confidence.

    "I have a really eager twinge in me, I really want to get in there and do it," he said. "The more I see of him, in interviews and things he says, little training methods &; Sometimes as the fight gets nearer, doubt comes in. It's having the opposite effect on me. I'm not just saying it in order to prove myself to you people. I really believe it.

    "It all comes to an end for Floyd on Saturday. I truly believe that." -- Kieran Mulvaney

    Kieran Mulvaney covers boxing for and Reuters.
    Darius Ortiz is the boxing editor of