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Kovalev mauls Hopkins to unite belts

Sergey Kovalev punished 49-year-old ring legend Bernard Hopkins over 12 rounds on Saturday, unifying three light heavyweight world titles with a lopsided unanimous decision.

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Hopkins was brought to earth with a thud when Kovalev knocked him down in the first round.

The hard-hitting Russian powered on from there, never troubled as he added Hopkins’ World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles to his own World Boxing Organization belt.

Two judges scored the bout 120-107 for Kovalev, while a third saw it 120-106 for the 31-year-old Russian, who had never been past the eighth round in 26 prior fights.

Kovalev improved to 26-0 with one drawn and 23 knockouts.

Hopkins, who will turn 50 in January, fell to 55-7-2, enduring the most lopsided decision of his career.

Already the oldest fighter to capture a major world title, Hopkins insisted the defeat wouldn’t automatically spell the end of his ring career.

“I would not disclose anything now,” he said. “It’s 50-50, what I’m going to do, but I’ve done more than anybody expected me to do in my whole career. I’m fine. I will think about it.”

Kovalev said he thought Hopkins “needs to stop his career,” if only to “give younger guys a chance to be champions.”

Kovalev showed he didn’t need Hopkins to step aside, imposing his will from the opening bell.

“Bernard is a tough opponent and very good at keeping the distance,” Kovalev said.

“He’s a great in the boxing world. But I wanted to show my fans I could box and I did. He touched me with some good punches, he has some good form.”

Despite encouraging chants of “B-Hop! B-Hop!” from the crowd of 8,545 at Boardwalk Hall, Hopkins had no answer for Kovalev’s power and the Russian’s disciplined plan of attack.

“The better man was Kovalev,” Hopkins said. “He fought a great technical fight. He used his reach and he used his distance and that was the key.”

After sending Hopkins to the canvas with a right to the face in the first, Kovalev staggered Hopkins with another right in the eighth, although the veteran – whose only concession to age is the gray stubble on his chin – stayed on his feet.

Finally in the 12th, Hopkins seemed to realise he’d need to produce a knockout, but Kovalev seemed just as intent – landing 38 of his 89 punches in the final round.

“I’m crazy,” Hopkins laughed when asked about going toe-to-toe with Kovalev in the 12th, but then added: “I’m kidding. It’s what the fans want to see. They want to see good fights. I was engaging, I knew if I could get a good shot in I could turn things around.”

British jihadist killed in Iraq

A married father-of-two is believed to have become the second British jihadist to have killed himself while fighting in Syria and Iraq.

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The man, named in reports as Kabir Ahmed, is believed to have been involved in a suicide bomb attack in the town of Beiji, north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, two days ago.

Going under the name Abu Sumayyah, the 32-year-old is said not to have told his family that he was fleeing Britain to fight for terrorist organisation Islamic State.

It would make Ahmed the second British jihadist suicide bomber, after Abdul Waheed Majeed – a 41-year-old father-of-three – blew himself up in February when he drove a truck laden with explosives into a jail in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Ahmed died when he drove a truck packed with explosives into a convoy of a top Iraqi police officer, killing eight people, including the ranking official, authorities said.

Ahmed’s identity was confirmed by Shiraz Maher, from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College in London, which monitors social media accounts of alleged jihadists.

Writing on Twitter, Maher wrote: “British foreign fighter, Abu Sumayyah, (real name: Kabir Ahmed) from Derby carried out a suicide bombing in Baiji, Iraq, yesterday.

“British suicide bomber in Iraq, Abu Sumayyah (Kabir Ahmed) originally joined Jund al-Sham in Syria and then moved to Islamic State.

“Abu Sumayyah (Kabir Ahmed), British suicide bomber in Iraq, was 32, married, and had children.”

The Foreign Office is now looking into the incident. A spokesman said: “We are aware of reports of the death of a British national in Iraq and are looking into them.”

Ahmed was one of three men to be jailed in 2012 for handing out a leaflet calling for gay people to be executed.

Ahmed, with two others, distributed material entitled The Death Penalty? that showed an image of a mannequin hanging from a noose and quoted Islamic texts that said capital punishment was the only way to rid society of homosexuality.

Wawrinka and Cilic face toughest challenge yet

The pair have both discovered their dramatic breakthroughs — Wawrinka’s Australian Open victory in January and Cilic’s U.

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S. Open triumph in September — have proved no instant gateway to a new level of constant, elevated success.

Swiss Wawrinka has endured a season of maddening inconsistency. Croatian Cilic, who has swung between a first- round defeat in the Shanghai Masters and a lower-key triumph in Moscow, reckons he has been a target for every wild gunslinger in town ever since mowing down all-comers at Flushing Meadows.

Yet if their brilliance on the biggest stage has been harder to replicate than they could have imagined, they ought to find encouragement from the words of another first-time grand slam winner who endured plenty of under-achievement before re-emerging to prove himself one of the great champions.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who opens the defence of his Tour finals crown against Cilic at the O2 Arena on Monday, knows the “biggest adjustment after becoming a grand slam winner is a mental one” and fancies it could be the biggest challenge for both Cilic and Wawrinka “right now and in months and years to come.”

OPEN FLOODGATES

In 2008, Djokovic won the Australian Open, assuming that more grand slams would swiftly follow. Instead, it took him three years to land the next one, which then really did open the floodgates to his current haul of seven.

“In my case, I did have a lot of doubts in those years after my first grand slam, mostly because I lost the majority of the big matches in the Majors against two of my biggest rivals, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal,” said Djokovic.

“I hit the bottom, I think, around 2010 but with the help of the closest people around me, my family and my team, I managed to find all the necessary mental strength and motivation to work even harder and be patient.

“I could only prepare myself the best I could, take care of my life on and off the court and believe that one day I could win it again. That’s what happened, but the process itself is long and it takes a lot of mental effort.”

So, this is the battle of the mind facing both Wawrinka and Cilic. The difference, of course, is that Djokovic won his first title at 20, while Wawrinka is now 29 and Cilic 26. Time is not on their side in the same way.

Cilic already senses fresh pressure, as if he has a target on his back.

“It’s a different feeling now. I played some matches after the US Open where the guys are playing much more risky, going all or nothing. That’s not easy to confront match after match,” he said.

Wawrinka, who faces Tomas Berdych on Monday after a wretched sequence of only one match win in his last four tournaments, admits his inconsistency is harder to deal with after hitting the heights in Melbourne and Monte Carlo, where he won his first Masters title in April. “Winning a grand slam and a Masters changes your life, changes the way you have to find a way to feel good and play well in every tournament,” he said,

“I hope next year I can have better results in every event.”

Not that Wawrinka would change anything about his landmark year, which he hopes could be capped not just by success in London but by winning the Davis Cup with Roger Federer for Switzerland in the final against France this month.

What would he prefer? A London triumph or an historic victory for his country? “That’s not a good question,” he smiled. “Don’t choose.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

SA’s Cooper scores Shield ton against NSW

South Australian Tom Cooper struck a classy century against NSW to enhance his status as the Sheffield Shield’s dominant batsman.

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Cooper’s superb 121 steered the Redbacks to a 60-run lead against the Blues at stumps on Sunday’s second day of play at Adelaide Oval.

After Redbacks captain Johan Botha took a career-best 6-34 from 32.4 overs to help bowl NSW out for 230, SA were 9-290 with Test quick Mitchell Starc claiming four wickets.

While SA opener Phil Hughes (20) failed to press his Test claims, Cooper’s ton continued his prolific Shield run-making, following scores of 75 and an unbeaten 68 in the season-opener.

The elegant strokeplayer tops the run tally this season. And he was also the Shield’s second-highest scorer last season with 881 runs – five shy of now-retired West Australian Marcus North’s total – at an average of 51.82.

“He has been in really good form, Coops,” SA coach Darren Berry said.

“He and Travis Head put on a partnership that put us in a really strong position … they’re great entertainers.”

Cooper and Head (64) put on 129 runs for the fourth wicket to rescue SA from a wobbly 3-44.

The duo scored 125 of their partnership in just 105 minutes in the middle session to seize momentum for the South Australians.

Their stand came after Hughes fell to Test quick Mitchell Starc, who was menacing all day and finished with 4-64 from 22 overs.

Hughes, seeking to push his claims for selection in Australia’s side for the first Test against India starting December 4, produced a scattered knock.

He struck three crisp boundaries but also a number of inside edges in a 27-ball stay which ended when, playing defensively, he edged to first slip.

Hughes’ opening partner Andrew McDonald (two), Callum Ferguson (15) and middle order bats Tim Ludeman (one) and Botha (six) all failed.

But Cooper remained in command and after support from Head, he also featured in a handy 72-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Joe Mennie (33).

Halpenny fires NZ to Fast5 win

A miracle super shot from Ellen Halpenny set New Zealand alight as they downed Australia 35-31 to retain their Fast5 netball world series title in Auckland on Sunday.

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Halpenny sunk an unbelievable three-pointer right on the half-time whistle, barely a foot inside the goal third, to give the Kiwis a 15-10 lead at the break.

The Australians led 7-4 after the first quarter, but with Bailey Mes sinking three from four in the two-point zone, and Halpenny’s miracle bomb, New Zealand won the second quarter 11-3 and never looked back.

Australia managed to stay within reach of the Kiwis in their power play third quarter, limiting them to 12-5 in the six-minute spell as New Zealand took a 27-15 lead into the last quarter.

The Flyers struggled to make the most of their chances in the power play final quarter, Temalisi Fakahokotau, Kayla Cullen and Katrina Grant particularly impressive in the Kiwis’ defensive circle.

Erin Bell gave the Flyers a chance with some superb long-range shooting in the final quarter, sinking two from two three-pointers and one of her three two-point attempts, but New Zealand’s lead proved too much to overcome.

New Zealand were unbeaten in pool play, opening the two-day tournament with wins over Malawi and England before downing Australia 30-21 in their final match on Saturday.

They beat South Africa 34-25 and overwhelmed Jamaica 35-10 win in their final pool matches on Sunday to qualify top.

Australia downed Jamaica and South Africa before losing to New Zealand on Saturday, then had to work hard for a 35-33 win over Malawi after earlier beating England 31-24.

England pipped Jamaica 31-30 to finish third, while South Africa beat Malawi 30-22 in the play-off for fifth and sixth.

Captain Rooney could feel armband burden, says Hodgson

The 29-year-old striker, who is expected to win his 100th cap against Slovenia next Saturday, replaced Steven Gerrard as skipper in August after the Liverpool midfielder retired from international duty following England’s poor World Cup showing.

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Rooney has made a promising start in the job with England winning their first three Euro 2016 qualifying matches to top Group E by three points from Slovenia, but Hodgson warned it is too early to judge him as captain.

“I worry that the responsibility is going to weigh him down,” Hodgson told reporters. “We do all we can, myself and the coaching staff, to ensure that won’t happen with us.

“But it is all very well telling someone to leave your problems behind and don’t worry about them, to get on with your life; it is easy to say, but very hard to do sometimes.

Rooney, who is closing in on Peter Shilton’s record of 125 England appearances, was also handed the captaincy at Manchester United following Louis van Gaal’s arrival as manager and Hodgson is aware of the difficulties the striker faces as he tries to juggle the two roles.

“At the moment I think he’s coping with it well but we’ll have to keep an eye on the situation, as will Louis, to make sure it doesn’t weigh him down,” he said.

“I remember making the point fairly recently that he’s really taken on this job as captain with enormous seriousness.

“He’s studied and talked a lot with Steven Gerrard. He spends a lot of time with the younger players.

“Obviously, with me he’s very good. If there’s anything he thinks I should be made aware of, he makes me aware of it.”

Rooney is six goals behind Bobby Charlton’s England record of 49, but beating that mark is not top of the striker’s agenda according to Hodgson.

“I’m not certain Wayne Rooney is a person who goes to bed at night dreaming of a record,” he said.

“I believe he just wants to keep playing and do the best job he can for England for as long as possible.”

(Reporting by Michael Hann, editing by Ed Osmond)

Hamilton would be the better champion – Ecclestone

The championship will be decided in Abu Dhabi on Nov.

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23 with the Mercedes drivers the only two in contention and everything to play for with double points awarded for the first time in the sport’s history.

Ecclestone told the official formula1南宁桑拿会所, website, in an interview carried out at the U.S. Grand Prix last weekend but published on Sunday, that at the start of the season he had expected Rosberg to be the winner.

“I thought that would probably suit the team better. And in my position I thought it would be better for Formula One to have a world champion who can speak several languages,” said the sport’s commercial supremo.

“I thought that if there was going to be any help, which I am certain that there hasn鈥檛 been, then maybe there would be a bit more support forthcoming from a German team for a German driver. So yes, I was sure that Nico would do it.

“Privately I thought that Lewis would be a good champion. He is more widely known around the world than Nico. Consequently, he would be the better champion for the sport.”

Ecclestone, who recently turned 84 and has run the sport for decades, said he was sure 2008 world champion Hamilton had far more recognition around the world than Rosberg.

“Most people haven鈥檛 heard of Nico. Therefore, Lewis would be the better champion as far as this sport is concerned,” said the Briton.

Hamilton has won 10 races to Rosberg’s four ahead of Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, the penultimate round of the championship.

Rosberg has been better in qualifying, however, his 10 poles for the season securing him the sport’s inaugural pole position trophy at Interlagos.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Homeless half marathon a life-saver for some

The drug and alcohol movement calls it 鈥渟wapping the witch for the bitch.

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鈥?Put simply, replacing one addiction with another. And, for Brian Millett, it worked.

The one-time self-proclaimed party boy wrestled with alcoholism and drug addiction for more than a decade. What began with a few post-match beers at the local cricket club set the promising athlete on a self-destructive path.

鈥淎s a shy kid, once I had a drink I felt like I turned from a black and white TV into a 3-D Plasma and just ran with it for the next 15-20 years. I loved for the first 5-7 years and then it turned on me like a mongrel dog it was your friend and then it wasn’t working anymore but I was hooked on the stuff, I couldn’t stop,鈥?he explained.

Brian made several attempts at quitting, but success came when he gradually introduced exercise.

鈥淚 just started doing sit-ups, push ups going for runs, swims and just getting the adrenaline and chemicals going and I always felt better,鈥?he says.

鈥淚 just started doing sit-ups, push ups going for runs, swims and just getting the adrenaline and chemicals going and I always felt better,鈥?he says.

Abstinence gave him time, a clear mind and the desire to get back into sport. And for Brian, there could be no half-measures. He completed triathlons, even successfully taking on the sport鈥檚 ultra-distance mecca 鈥?the Hawaiian Ironman.

Since then, Brian has invested time assisting programs encouraging exercise for the disadvantaged. Most recently, it鈥檚 been with Reclink, a charity which embraces the power of sport to re-connect those touched by a range of issues including homelessness, substance abuse and poor mental health.

Brian Millett says he鈥檚 now ready to return to the workforce full-time, and share his story and skills to assist others.

鈥淔ailure’s not an option anymore. I don鈥檛 have to turn to any substance anymore – I just use my history and my background to motivate me to do the best I can. Because this is it you know, this is not a dress rehearsal.  I鈥檝e got to have a crack now.鈥?/p>

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Tasmania collapse v Vics in Shield

A spectacular batting collapse by Tasmania had Ed Cowan admitting his side had fluffed it before the innings even finished.

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At 3-190 in the Sheffield Shield match against Victoria at Bellerive, the home side looked well in control after the Bushrangers had limped to a 279 first innings total.

Former Test opener Cowan was in fine form on Sunday and motored to 105 – including 16 boundaries – off 120 deliveries.

But it wasn’t enough.

The seasoned left hander was one of six Tasmanians to lose their wicket for the addition of just 34 runs.

Cowan was stumped while dancing down the wicket to meet a well-flighted delivery from Fawad Ahmed.

At stumps the Tigers had sunk to 9-241.

“We’ve fluffed it to be fair, so we’re going to have to fight hard in the morning to get as many runs as we can,” Cowan said after play.

Tasmania struggled in the batting department last season and in the opening round against Western Australia, something coach Dan Marsh made clear needs addressing.

“He’s pretty disappointed with us. I think we’re pretty disappointed to hand back the game again – it’s happened a bit of late,” Cowan said.

On the flip side Victoria were proud of their fight back, which was led in part by Peter Handscomb.

The `keeper took some sharp catches and was also the top run scorer for the Bushrangers, falling for 96 in their first innings.

“We’re in a good position now,” he said after Sunday’s play.

Allrounder Daniel Christian (3-21) and spinner Ahmed (3-71) shared the spoils.

Not out batsmen Evan Gulbis (26) and Andrew Fekete (5) will return for Tasmania when play resumes in the day-night match at 1pm (AEDT) on Monday.