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In Outdoors….

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►  Canoeing, Surfing Orgs Fight Over Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Ending an argument we’re sure has happened at least once on a slow afternoon in a bar somewhere, a court will finally decide whether stand-up paddleboarding is closer to surfing or canoeing. The New York Times reports the Court of Arbitration for Sport has been asked to settle a dispute between the International Surfing Association and International Canoe Federation, both of which are fighting for control of the increasingly popular sport of stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP. The battle for control of SUP has become more urgent as the Olympics is considering adding it to future games.

The ISA argues SUP is performed on a board, like surfing; it also claims it’s been holding SUP competitions for years, Deadspin reports. The ICF counters that SUP uses a paddle. “Propulsion using a paddle is basically conoeing,“ the ICF secretary general says. “Standing up or sitting down is irrelevant.“ But the ISA claims the ICF is trying to jump on the bandwagon. “We have a track record of doing this,“ Reuters quotes the ISA president as saying. “At the ICF now there is an interest of how they can be part of the popularity of the sport.“ The ISA calls itself “the historical rightful custodian” of SUP, and the ICF claims its opponent has rejected all offers of compromise. No date has been set for the court’s decision.


►  Former UFC Fighter Dies After Boxing Match

The world of mixed martial arts is mourning former Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Tim Hague, who was fatally injured in a boxing match in Edmonton Friday. His sister, Jackie Neil, confirmed Sunday that the 34-year-old, who was knocked out and suffered a brain hemorrhage, had died, the CBC reports. “It is with incredible sadness, sorrow, and heartbreak to report that Tim has passed away today,“ she said. “He was surrounded by family, listening to his favorite songs. We will miss him so greatly.“ Hague, who fought in the UFC as “The Thrashing Machine” between 2009 and 2011, was active in MMA for 10 years but had been focusing on boxing since last year, according to Bleacher Report.

Hague was hospitalized in critical condition Friday after the KO79 match against former Edmonton Eskimos player Adam Braidwood, the Edmonton Journal reports. Edmonton Combative Sports Commission executive director Pat Reid says an official review will include reports from referees, ringside judges, physicians, and others. Gym owner Alicia Landry tells the CBC that Hague, who had a day job as an elementary school English teacher, was a local icon who had planned to lead a summertime sports camp. “The students just adored him,“ she says. “He’s a big teddy bear, that guy.“

In Sports….

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►  A First: Boxing Great Will Fight Mixed Martial Arts Great

Lovers of sports spectacles can rejoice: The long-rumored super-fight between undefeated boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr. and mixed martial arts champion Conor McGregor has been made official. Yahoo Sports reports the two men will face each other in a boxing match on August 26 in Las Vegas. The 40-year-old Mayweather will end a 23-month retirement to face McGregor, the 28-year-old Irishman who went from being a rookie in the Ultimate Fighting Championship to the biggest star in the history of mixed martial arts in just a few years. According to ESPN, McGregor first suggested the idea of a cross-sport superfight with Mayweather on Conan O’Brien’s talk show back in 2015. It wasn’t until McGregor won the UFC lightweight belt last November, however, that the fantasy started to become a reality.

Mayweather is considered the heavy favorite going into the fight, though regardless of the outcome McGregor’s paycheck promises to be by far the biggest of his career. According to the New York Times, Mayweather’s 2015 fight with Manny Pacquiao drew nearly 4.5 million viewers through pay-per-view. McGregor’s biggest pay-per-view draw to date drew 1.6 million. Forbes reports each fighter could take home more than $100 million for the fight. The two men will meet at the light-middleweight limit of 154 pounds, which bodes well for McGregor, who is currently the UFC’s 155-pound champion. Mayweather, meanwhile, won one of the biggest fights of his life when he jumped up in weight to fight Oscar de la Hoya for the 154-pound belt in 2007. Mayweather walked into that fight 10 pounds lighter than his opponent.

In Sports….

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►  Trusting ‘process,‘ feelings of disrespect fueling WVU’s success

Over the past several years, former general manager Sam Hinkie and the Philadelphia 76ers have turned the idiom “trust the process” into an object of parody and ridicule.

But for the No. 12 West Virginia Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0 Big 12), trusting the process has been the secret to their success as they have ridden a newfound commitment to hard work to a surprising 5-0 start.

“You focus on how you got to that point, why you’re 5-0, because we did a great job at preparation. The players bought in. They worked hard in practice,” offensive line coach Ron Crook said. “It’s not a coincidence. It’s not magic that it happens. It happens because you went out and trusted what you were doing. You trusted the process, and now you have to come in and do it over again.”

Crook said last week was one of the best weeks of practice the Mountaineers had in his four years with the program, and the result was a 48-17 road demolition of Texas Tech that moved them onto the national radar.

The ensuing AP poll has West Virginia at No. 12, their highest ranking at any point of the season since 2012 — perhaps not coincidentally the last season the Mountaineers started 5-0.

In 2012, West Virginia followed that start with five straight losses, eventually finishing the season 7-6 and unranked. For coach Dana Holgorsen, the record through five games is where the similarities end.

“I know you all are thinking 2012. I know you all are,” he said. “This is a totally different team. There are no similarities between the two teams. I think this team is a good group of kids that like each other and like playing the game, and they didn’t listen to when everyone was saying we (stunk) and they’re not going to listen when everyone is saying we’re good.”

The last point is the one that continues to resonate with the players. All season, the Mountaineers have talked about feeling disrespected by the media, the polls and college football pundits.

And even though West Virginia is climbing the rankings, that mindset hasn’t changed. It is driving the Mountaineers to continue trusting the process heading into another important conference game Saturday against TCU.

“The people who are ranking us No. 12 right now are the same people who left us out of that conversation,” senior quarterback Skyler Howard said. “We’re still not respected.

“I don’t know why I would think it would change now, why I would be respected as a quarterback and why our team would be respected as West Virginia when it hasn’t been in years past and in weeks past.”


►  Did Disgraced Cop Kill Boxing Champ Sonny Liston?

“So, you’ve come to ask me if I killed Sonny Liston,“ a large tattoo-covered man asks the ESPN writer standing at his door outside Las Vegas. That writer, Shaun Assael, has written a book called The Murder of Sonny Liston, and the Undefeated has an excerpt. It’s widely accepted that Liston, a former heavyweight boxing champ, died from an accidental heroin overdose in 1970. But some Vegas “bookies, mobsters, and cops” still wonder if he wasn’t murdered. Vegas police sergeant Gary Beckwith was called out of bed in the middle of the night back in 1982 to meet with a man named Irwin Peters. Peters was a former snitch for the police who had worked with a cop named Larry Gandy. Now he wanted to inform on Gandy.

Gandy was an old-time cop who inspired awe in his coworkers but left the force after a police brutality lawsuit. Peters told Beckwith that Gandy then turned to a life of crime, robbing drug dealers and burglarizing houses using his real estate appraiser’s licence while doing a Daffy Duck impression to hide his identity. He also said Gandy “bragged” about killing Liston by shooting him up with heroin. Beckwith didn’t put much stock in Peters’ story—until he started digging into it. Addresses given by Peters matched up with open cases, and a number of victims recalled a suspect who sounded like Daffy Duck. That’s how, many years later, Assael found himself at Gandy’s front door, asking about the former champ. Read the full story HERE .

In Sports….

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►  Boxer Dies After Being Stretchered Out of Ring

A 25-year-old Scottish boxer died Friday night after losing a bout for the first time in his career, the Guardian reports. According to CNN, “Iron” Mike Towell squared off against Dale Evans Thursday in Scotland in a British welterweight title final eliminator. Evans knocked Towell down for a second time in the fifth round, the match was ended, and Towell was removed from the ring on a stretcher. He later died at the hospital 12 hours after being taken off life support. No official cause of death has been given, but Towell’s partner of eight years, Chloe Ross, says he had “severe bleeding and swelling to his brain,“ the BBC reports. Towell became just the third boxer to die from apparent fight-related injuries in the past 21 years in the UK.

“I’m absolutely heartbroken,“ says Ross, who had a son with Towell. She says Towell had been having headaches in the weeks before the fight, but his management team says they weren’t aware of anything like that. An expert adds that Towell’s medical information, including current brain scans, would have been checked before he was allowed to fight. “I am devastated, and all my thoughts are with Mike and his family,“ CNN quotes Towell’s opponent, Evans, as saying. “He was an inspiration for the young kids,“ the head coach at Dundee Boxing Club in Scotland tells the Guardian. “We’re all gutted.” Towell had a career record of 11-1-1.


►  West Virginia snags close game against Kansas State

Skyler Howard threw a touchdown pass, and West Virginia came from 13 points down in the second half to beat Kansas State, 17-16, on Saturday in the Big 12 opener for both teams.

West Virginia is 4-0 for the first time since 2012. The Mountaineers broke a four-game losing streak to the Wildcats since joining the league that year.

Kansas State (2-2) had a chance to win it, but Matthew McCrane’s 43-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 3 seconds left was wide left. West Virginia got the ball at its 26 and ran out the clock.

West Virginia was held scoreless in the first half for the first time in three seasons and finally found the end zone on Justin Crawford’s 1-yard run with 13:41 left in the game.

A 31-yard punt later gave West Virginia the ball back at its 43, and Howard converted a third-down pass to Ka’Raun White at the Kansas State 9 before finding Jovon Durante in the right corner of the end zone from 7 yards with 6:11 left for the final margin.


►  Herd can’t overcome slow start at Pitt

In the first half against Pitt, Marshall was outmanned and overmatched, as the Panthers pounded their way to a 27-0 lead on the strength of 354 yards of offense. Marshall regrouped at halftime and got as close as a field goal, pulling to within 30-27. However, Marshall’s comeback effort came up short. Pitt added two late touchdowns to hold on for a 43-27 win Saturday night at Heinz Field.

“We’re 1-3. We have nothing to take from this game but a loss. We dug our self a hole in the first half and couldn’t dig our self out,” said quarterback Chase Litton.

Marshall nearly dug itself out of the 27-0 hole it found itself in during halftime, scoring four touchdowns in the second half. Marshall dominated the third quarter to get back into the ballgame. The Herd received the second half kickoff and proceeded to drive 80 yards on 12 plays for its first score of the game, a 15-yard pass from Litton to Josh Knight.

Needing a spark and momentum, Doc Holliday rolled the dice on the ensuing kickoff. Amoreto Curraji executed a perfect onside kick that was recovered by Knight, giving Marshall the ball back at the Pitt 47-yard line. Marshall kept the momentum going, scoring on an 11-yard run by Anthony Anderson.

Marshall kept the pressure on scoring on its next two possessions. Litton found a wide-open Michael Clark for an 83-yard touchdown pass and Keion Davis scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.

With 4:01, Marshall trailed Pitt 30-27 after being down 27-0 at the half.

The Herd could not get any closer. Pitt put the game away at the 1:04 mark, when Nathan Peterman hooked up with Jester Weaver for a 54-yard touchdown pass on a 3rd down and 3.

Pitt also scored on the final play of the game, when Avonte Maddox picked off Litton and returned it 33 yards for the game’s final score.

“I thought our kids came out in the second half and played the way they were capable of playing and just couldn’t make a couple of stops there at the end to put ourselves back in the game,” said coach Doc Holliday.

Through the first two quarters it appeared Pitt was going to cruise to a blowout victory. The Panthers outgained Marshall 354-102 at the half and had a 202-7 advantage in rushing yards. Pitt piled up 21 first downs to Marshall’s two in the first half.

“It was too much to overcome there in the second half,” acknowledged Holliday. “They create a lot of issues with run fits and we didn’t do a very good job of fitting it up in the first half.”

Litton finished the night with 240 yards passing and two touchdowns on 20-of-32 passing in his return to the lineup. Keion Davis rushed for 86 yards to lead the Herd followed by Anthony Anderson’s 56 yards.

Marshall’s current three-game losing streak is the longest since 2010, Doc Holliday’s first season as head coach.


►  Tight squeeze suits Mountaineers fine in win over Wildcats

From the West Virginia sideline, offensive lineman Tyler Orlosky saw Kansas State’s go-ahead field goal sail through the uprights.

“It looked good from my angle, so I put my head down for a second,” Orlosky said. “But then I heard everybody start cheering.”

Turns out, Matthew McCrane missed the 42-yard kick and Kansas State missed a chance to extend its four-year stranglehold over West Virginia. Even a slim margin was enough for Orlosky, one of the seniors who finally enjoyed a win over the Wildcats, 17-16, on Saturday at sold-out Milan-Puskar Stadium.

Skyler Howard found Jovan Durante for a 7-yard touchdown with 6:11 left and Mike Molina added the decisive extra point as West Virginia (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit.

“Finding a way to win is the most important thing,” said Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen, who narrowly escaped another episode of tough luck against K-State (2-2, 0-1). “They are hard to beat.”

West Virginia struggled despite outgaining the Wildcats 422-286. Justin Crawford gained 75 of his 104 rushing yards in the second half, pulled WVU within 16-10 on a 1-yard run with 13:41 left.

Howard finished 24-of-41 passing for 298 yards — 104 of those to deep threat Shelton Gibson, who lost his helmet on a 52-yard catch that set up Crawford’s score.

Jesse Ertz finished only 10-of-30 passing but put Kansas State in position for the go-ahead score by hitting Byron Pringle for 19 yards on third-and-8.

That opportunity evaporated when McCrane missed wide left with 2:03 to play.

Holgorsen wasn’t watching the kick — too preoccupied with designing a plan for his 20-minute offense to go win the game if necessary.

“I figured 60,000 people would let me know real quick,” he said.

McCrane hit three previous attempts Saturday from 37, 31 and 22 yards as K-State built a 16-3 lead in the third quarter. But the kicker was 0-of-2 this season from beyond 40 yards and didn’t remedy that stat with the game at stake.

“I just miss-hit the ball,” McCrane said. “The snap and hold were there and I missed. I have to hit a consistent ball. I’m disappointed in myself.

“I apologize to the K-State fans. To cost our team the first conference game is big.”

West Virginia had its own kicker drama after Josh Lambert missed a 30-yard kick to end West Virginia’s first drive. He later made a 37-yarder in the third quarter, but it wasn’t enough atonement for Holgorsen, who let Molina handle both PATs in the fourth period.

K-State linebacker Elijah Lee intercepted Howard on a pass Ka’Raun White bobbled, and the Wildcats converted the turnover into a 48-yard touchdown drive capped by Ertz’s 2-yard scramble.

West Virginia also overcame Rushel Shell’s fumble at the Wildcats’ 2-yard line, but stuck with the running game in the second half to counter K-State defensive end Jordan Smith’s pass rush.

K-State settled for 140 yards rushing and averaged only 2.9 yards per carry, about half its average over the first three games. West Virginia’s defense tightened up from yielding 280 yards o the ground to BYU.

“That’s college football,” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.

The 10 completions matched the fewest by a West Virginia opponent during Holgorsen’s six-year tenure.

“We just played harder in the second half,” the coach said. “The crowd got into it, juiced us up and we got some momentum.”

Momentum the Mountaineers will carry into Lubbock in two weeks.

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  Despite Floods, Greenbrier Tennis Exhibition Will Be Held

A two-day tennis exhibition will be held as scheduled in September at The Greenbrier resort despite recent floods.

The resort announced Monday that the 2,500-seat tennis stadium in White Sulphur Springs will be cleaned up before the exhibition on September 17 and 18.

The event includes singles and doubles matches involving Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Pete Sampras and John McEnroe.

The resort, including the year-old stadium, was flooded following heavy rains on June 23. Fifteen people died in Greenbrier County and 23 were killed statewide.


►  UFC Sale May Be Biggest Sports Deal in History

The UFC has been sold for $4 billion in what sources say is the biggest sports deal in history, per Las Vegas Now. After months of rumors, UFC President Dana White announced the sale to a group led by Hollywood talent agency WME-IMG—which boasts UFC stars like Ronda Rousey as clients and has Ari Emanuel as its co-CEO—on Sunday night, reports the AP. The deal marks a major milestone for the global entertainment brand, bought by casino owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta in 2000 for just $2 million, reports the New York Times. Taking advantage of social media marketing, distribution partnerships, and licensing deals, they transformed the brand into one that brought in $600 million in revenue last year. The Fertitta brothers will retain a minority interest in the company while White, their high school buddy, will continue running the UFC.

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Dana White separates Miesha Tate, left, and Amanda Nunes during the UFC 200 weigh-ins on Friday.

Though the sport was once referred to by John McCain as “human cockfighting,“ the UFC now has more than 500 athletes under contract, hosts some 40 events each year, and is broadcast in 156 countries, per the AP. “We’ve been honored to have UFC and a number of its athletes as clients and couldn’t be happier to take our relationship to this next level as the organization’s owner and operating partner,“ Emanuel says. “UFC has experienced tremendous growth over the last decade and we are looking forward to helping the organization and its athletes identify new opportunities to develop and further establish their global footprint.” Private equity firms Silver Lake Partners, which owns WME-IMG, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts are backing the deal along with Michael Dell’s investment firm.

In Sports….

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►  MMA Legend Kimbo Slice Dead at 42

Kimbo Slice, the bearded street fighter who parlayed his internet popularity into a mixed martial arts career and worldwide fame, has died. He was 42. Slice, whose real name was Kevin Ferguson, was taken to a hospital in Margate, Florida, near his home Monday, Coral Springs Police Sgt. Carla Kmiotek says. Slice’s death was confirmed by Mike Imber, his longtime manager. “We lost our brother today,“ Imber tells the AP. The cause of death is still unclear. Kmiotek says there is no active police investigation, and no foul play is suspected. Slice was a Bahamian-born ex-football player and strip club bouncer who began competing in unsanctioned street fights in 2003. Videos of his violent knockout victories in those bouts became wildly popular online, both for his punching power and his distinctive, intimidating appearance.

He studied MMA and eventually competed in several promotions, including the UFC and Bellator, which staged his two most recent fights. While he went 5-2 and never won a championship belt, Slice became one of MMA’s best-known figures, attracting large television audiences and crowds to his growing sport. He also had a pro boxing career between stints in the cage, going 7-0 with six knockouts from 2011-13. Slice’s death also was confirmed by Scott Coker, the CEO of Bellator, which promoted his return to MMA last year after a five-year absence. “One of the most popular MMA fighters ever, Kimbo was a charismatic, larger-than-life personality that transcended the sport, Coker said. “Outside of the cage he was a friendly, gentle giant and a devoted family man. His loss leaves us all with extremely heavy hearts.“


►  U.S. Olympic Basketball Team Loses NBA’s MVP

Stephen Curry has withdrawn from consideration from the Olympics, leaving the US basketball team without the NBA’s MVP. Curry said Monday in a statement that he has decided to pull out for “several factors—including recent ankle and knee injuries.“ He didn’t specify what the other factors were that he referenced. Several athletes have expressed concerns about the water situation in Rio and the Zika virus. The guard is the highest-profile absence for the two-time defending gold medalists, who will already be without NBA All-Stars Chris Paul and Anthony Davis, reports the AP. Curry had spoken of wanting the chance to win Olympic gold, but he missed six games in the postseason with a right knee injury.

Curry said he had spoken with his family, the Golden State Warriors (who could still have a strong presence at the Olympics; and his reps and recently informed the USA Basketball chair of his decision. The Americans have a list of 31 players in their roster pool for this summer and plan to name their 12-man roster later this month. Curry, the first player to be voted a unanimous MVP and the league’s leading scorer, certainly would have been on it. He could have been the team’s biggest star in Rio, with Kobe Bryant retired and LeBron James still uncommitted. But the Mercury News doesn’t see Rio as the 28-year-old’s last shot, noting “he should still be a top player when the 2020 Olympics roll around.“ ESPN reports the US is considered a “heavy favorite” in Brazil, having gone 8-0 in both 2008 and 2012.


►  Here Are Muhammad Ali’s Pall Bearers

The family of Muhammad Ali has settled on his pall bearers for Friday’s funeral in Louisville, with the biggest name being Will Smith, who played Ali in a movie of that name in 2001. Another big name is former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis. The others, per the BBC:

  • Jerry Ellis, the brother of Jimmy Ellis; the latter was Ali’s former sparring partner and a fellow heavyweight champion
  • John Grady, a cousin
  • Jan Wadell, a cousin
  • Ibn Ali, a nephew
  • Komawi Ali, former brother-in-law
  • John Ramsey, family friend

In Sports….

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►  Ali to Get His 40th Sports Illustrated Cover

Muhammad Ali will be on the June 13 cover of Sports Illustrated for the 40th time—featuring a photo shot by Neil Leifer while Ali trained in Miami Beach in 1970, reports AP. The decision comes in the wake of Ali’s death at age 74. “Muhammad Ali was a singular force of athletics, humanitarianism, and social equality unlike anyone in our history,“ says SI‘s Paul Fichtenbaum. Only Michael Jordan has been on more covers, with 50. The issue will be out on June 08.


►  Muhammad Ali’s Funeral Will Be Open to Public, Streamed Online

A family spokesperson says Muhammad Ali died of septic shock “due to unspecified natural causes,“ the AP reports. Bob Gunnell says Ali died Friday at 9:10pm, spending the last hour of his life surrounded by his family. His funeral is scheduled for Friday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky, and will be open to the public. Gunnell says Ali was a citizen of the world and he wanted people of all walks of life to be able to attend. The funeral will be translated and streamed on the internet. Eulogies will be given by former President Bill Clinton, Billy Crystal, and Bryant Gumbel.

One of Muhammad Ali’s daughters describes her father’s last moments, saying his heart wouldn’t stop beating for 30 minutes after all of his other organs failed. Hana Ali writes on Instagram that “no one had even seen anything like it.“ She says the family was surrounding Ali, hugging and kissing him, holding his hands, and chanting an Islamic prayer while his heart kept beating as his other organs failed. She calls it a “true testament to the strength of his spirit and will.“


►  ‘Ali Shook Up the World’: Reactions to the Death of the Greatest

Muhammad Ali died Friday at the age of 74, likely from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. The death of the Greatest led to an outpouring of tributes and memorials from those who knew him and others who admired him from afar. Here are 13 of those reactions from athletes, celebrities, and politicians:

  • “It’s been said it was Rope a dope, Ali beat me with no his beauty that beat me. Most beauty I’ve know loved him,“ George Foreman tweeted.
  • “Thinking of #MuhammadAli and remembering a man who was not afraid to take a stand and who was committed to being his authentic self,“ Billie Jean King tweeted.
  • “Ali shook up the world—and the world is better for it,“ the BBC quotes President Obama as saying in a statement.
  • “The greatest man I have ever known,“ Billy Crystal tweeted.
  • “The Greatest made the world a better place. His work is done. We are better for it,“ Carl Weathers tweeted.
  • “Ali exemplified courage—he never took the easy route, something to be admired in and outside of the ring,“ the Los Angeles Times quotes Oscar De La Hoya as saying.
  • “Boxing benefited from Muhammad Ali’s talents, but not nearly as much as mankind benefited from his humanity,“ the Times quotes Manny Pacquiao as saying.
  • “His may be the Greatest of 20th century American stories,“ Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted.
  • “We will NEVER forget your courage, standing up to those in power. You gave up your title & your career rather than kill Vietnamese,“ Michael Moore tweeted.
  • “From the day he claimed the Olympic gold medal in 1960, boxing fans across the world knew they were seeing a blend of beauty and grace, speed and strength that may never be matched again,“ ABC News quotes a statement from Bill and Hillary Clinton as saying.
  • “Muhammad Ali was the greatest, not only an extraordinary athlete but a man of great courage and humanity,“ ABC quotes Bernie Sanders as saying in a statement.
  • “Muhammad Ali is dead at 74! A truly great champion and a wonderful guy. He will be missed by all!” Donald Trump tweeted.
  • “God came for his champion. So long great one,“ Mike Tyson tweeted.


►  Djokovic Finally Conquers France for Grand Slam

Novak Djokovic became the first man in nearly a half-century to win four consecutive major championships and finally earned an elusive French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, beating Andy Murray 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 on Sunday. This was the top-seeded Djokovic’s 12th appearance at Roland Garros, and his fourth final, and after being stymied over and over in years past, he managed to cast aside a shaky opening set to dominate No. 2 Murray the rest of the way, buoyed by a supportive crowd that repeatedly chanted his nickname, “No-le!“ When his victory was sealed, Djokovic took a racket to etch a heart in the red clay that had given him such heartache in the past and dropped down on his back.

Since losing the 2015 final in Paris, Djokovic has won 28 Grand Slam matches in a row, from Wimbledon and the US Open last year, to the Australian Open in January, and now, at long last, the French Open. The last man to hold all four major titles simultaneously was Rod Laver in 1969, when he earned a calendar-year Grand Slam. Djokovic now can set his sights on that ultimate tennis achievement, because he is halfway there. The 29-year-old Serb’s first French Open trophy goes alongside six from the Australian Open, three from Wimbledon and two from the US Open to give him a total of 12. Among men, only Roger Federer (with 17), Rafael Nadal (14), and Pete Sampras (14) own more.


►  Muhammad Ali’s Funeral Will Be Open to Public, Streamed Online

A family spokesperson says Muhammad Ali died of septic shock “due to unspecified natural causes,“ the AP reports. Bob Gunnell says Ali died Friday at 9:10pm, spending the last hour of his life surrounded by his family. His funeral is scheduled for Friday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky, and will be open to the public. Gunnell says Ali was a citizen of the world and he wanted people of all walks of life to be able to attend. The funeral will be translated and streamed on the internet. Eulogies will be given by former President Bill Clinton, Billy Crystal, and Bryant Gumbel.

One of Muhammad Ali’s daughters describes her father’s last moments, saying his heart wouldn’t stop beating for 30 minutes after all of his other organs failed. Hana Ali writes on Instagram that “no one had even seen anything like it.“ She says the family was surrounding Ali, hugging and kissing him, holding his hands, and chanting an Islamic prayer while his heart kept beating as his other organs failed. She calls it a “true testament to the strength of his spirit and will.“


►  Shaq slated to return to Greenbrier Classic golf pro-am

CHARLESTON, WV - Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal is scheduled to tee up at The Greenbrier Classic’s pro-am again next month.

Media outlets report the 7-foot-1 former basketball standout will compete in the Wednesday pro-am on July 06, before the PGA Tour tournament begins.

Last year, O’Neal drew laughs when he whiffed on the first tee of the event, taking a divot and sending his golf ball nowhere.

The less-than-capable golfer, at times, also decided to throw the ball overhand like a basketball free throw.

Joining O’Neal will be Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee. McAfee played for West Virginia University.

Muhammad Ali Dead at 74

The Free Press WV

Muhammad Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, has died. He was 74.

Ali suffered for years from Parkinson’s disease, which ravaged his body but could never dim his larger-than-life presence. A towering figure in his prime, he still traveled and made appearances in his later years despite being muted by the thousands of hits he took during his remarkable career.

He was hospitalized in Phoenix with respiratory problems earlier this week, and his family gathered around him. He died Friday night, according to a statement from the family.

Ali was a giant of his time — a furious and loud fighter whose influence was felt far beyond the ring. He engaged in some of the world’s most iconic fights even though his career was interrupted for more than three years when he refused to be drafted for military service during the Vietnam War.

He beat the invincible Sonny Liston, fought a string of thrilling fights with Joe Frazier and stopped George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire. But he paid a terrible price for the estimated 29,000 punches he took to his head during a career that made him perhaps the most recognized person on earth.

“I am the greatest,“ Ali thundered again and again.

Few would disagree.

Despite his debilitating illness, he traveled the world to rapturous receptions even as the once-bellowing voice was reduced to a whisper and he was left to communicate with a wink or a weak smile.

Revered — and reviled — by millions, Ali cut quite a figure in his prime, indeed, complete with an entourage nearly as colorful as he was urging him to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.“ He finished with a record of 56-5 with 37 knockouts and was the first man to win heavyweight titles three times.

But his life outside the ring was as fascinating — and controversial — as his life inside the ropes.

Ali spurned white America when he joined the Black Muslims and changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. He defied the draft at the height of the Vietnam war — “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong” — and lost 3 1/2 years from the prime of his career. He entertained world leaders, once telling Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos: “I saw your wife. You’re not as dumb as you look.“

The quiet of Ali’s later life was in contrast to the roar of a career that had breathtaking highs as well as terrible lows. He exploded on the public scene in the 1960s with a series of nationally televised fights that gave the public an exciting new champion and entertained millions as he sparred verbally with the likes of bombastic sportscaster Howard Cosell in interviews.

Ali once estimated he had made $57 million in his pro career, but the effect of the punches lingered long after most of the money was gone. That didn’t stop him from traveling tirelessly to promote Islam, meet with world leaders and champion legislation dubbed the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, meant to protect fighters from being exploited by managers and promoters. While slowed in recent years, he still was able to make numerous appearances, including a trip to Ireland in 2009.

Despised by some for his outspoken beliefs and refusal to serve in the U.S. Army in the 1960s, an aging Ali became a poignant figure whose attendance at a sporting event would draw long standing ovations.

With his face nearly frozen from the disease and his hands trembling, he lit the Olympic torch for the 1996 Atlanta Games in a performance as riveting as some of his fights —namely, the “Rumble in the Jungle” and the “Thrilla in Manila.“

A few years after that, he sat mute in a committee room in Washington, his mere presence enough to persuade lawmakers to pass the boxing reform bill that bore his name.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay on Jan. 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, Ali began boxing at age 12 after his new bicycle was stolen and he vowed to policeman Joe Martin that he would “whup” the person who took it.

He was only 89 pounds at the time, but Martin began training him at his boxing gym, the beginning of a six-year amateur career that ended with the light heavyweight Olympic gold medal in 1960.

Ali promised to shock the world by beating the fearsome Liston in 1964 and he did just that to become heavyweight champion for the first time. He dominated the heavyweight ranks until he was stripped of his right to fight for a living when he refused to be inducted for the draft in 1967.

By the time Ali was able to return to the ring following his enforced layoff, he was bigger than ever. Soon he was in the ring for his first of three epic fights against Frazier, with each fighter guaranteed $2.5 million in boxing’s first megabucks match.

Before the fight, Ali called Frazier an “Uncle Tom” and said he was “too ugly to be the champ.“ His gamesmanship could have a cruel edge, especially when it was directed toward Frazier.

In the first fight, though, Frazier had the upper hand. He relentlessly wore Ali down, knocking him down in the 12th round and winning a decision.

It was the first defeat for Ali, but the boxing world had not seen the last of him and Frazier in the ring. Ali won a second fight, and then came the “Thrilla in Manila” on Oct. 1, 1975, in the Philippines, a brutal bout that Ali said afterward was “the closest thing to dying” he had experienced.

Ali won that third fight but took a terrific beating from the relentless Frazier before trainer Eddie Futch kept Frazier from answering the bell for the 15th round. It was, most in boxing agreed, Ali’s last great performance, though he would come back to win the heavyweight title from Leon Spinks to make history by winning the heavyweight title for the third time.

Glenville State Athletic Department Introduces Boxing

The Free Press WV

Glenville, WV – The Glenville State Athletic Department is excited to announce the establishment of a new sport at GSC. After a year of consideration and planning, boxing will begin in the fall of 2016.

“I’ve always enjoyed boxing and now for it to be a part of GSC’s athletic family, I am truly excited,” stated GSC Athletic Director Marcal Lazenby.

Duane Chapman, who has been a part of the Boxing Club at GSC for several years now, will take over the coaching responsibilities. “I believe that Duane will do a great job; he has been around the sport for his entire life,” Lazenby said. Chapman is also an Associate Professor of Art at GSC where he has taught since 1997.

Glenville State has a new boxing ring in the Waco Center and has already seen a spike in interest among current and prospective students. The Athletic Department will provide gloves, uniforms, and other necessary supplies for the student pugilists.

The new sport will provide opportunities for male and female athletes at Glenville State.

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  MMA Fighter Dies After Getting Knocked Out

A 28-year-old MMA fighter from Portugal died Monday night, 48 hours after he was knocked out during the third round of a fight in Dublin, the New York Daily News reports. According to the Washington Post, graphic video from the fight on Saturday shows Joao Carvalho tipping over after being hit in the head multiple times by Irish fighter Charlie Ward. The owner of the company that organized the fight says Carvalho was able to correctly answer questions in between rounds, but his health went downhill immediately after the fight. It started with a feeling of exhaustion before progressing to headaches, nausea, and vomiting. He was taken to the hospital.

Carvalho had emergency brain surgery and spent the next two days in critical condition. “Nobody involved in combat sports of any kind wants to see this,“ MMA star Conor McGregor, who was at the fight, tells the BBC. “To see a young man doing what he loves, competing for a chance at a better life, and then to have it taken away is truly heartbreaking.“ McGregor, who called Carvalho “a hell of a fighter,“ criticized the referees for not stopping the fight earlier, the Independent reports. Cesar Silver, CEO of Total Extreme Fighting, offered “sincere condolences” to Carvalho’s family and teammates in a statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”


►  Kobe Bryant’s Last Game Is Setting Ticket-Price Records

After 20 years and more than 1,300 career games, NBA great Kobe Bryant will suit up one last time for the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, 24/7 Wall St. reports. And according to USA Today, that’s making a meaningless matchup with the Utah Jazz possibly the most expensive regular season game in sports history. “Whether you’re a Lakers fan or not, attending Kobe Bryant’s last game of his career is a bucket list, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” a StubHub spokesperson says. Officially, the most expensive ticket for the game is $5,741. But courtside seats are going for up to $28,000 on the secondary market. And the average ticket price on StubHub is $970. That’s nearly 17 times higher than the average ticket price for the Lakers’ final game last season.

“These are really NBA Finals prices,” a SeatGeek spokesperson tells USA Today. “That’s pretty outrageous for a meaningless game for a team that hasn’t been successful for a couple seasons. It shows what Kobe means to the franchise.“ For budget-conscious fans hoping to see the Black Mamba one last time, the cheapest seats as of Tuesday morning could be found for the low, low price of $772. Tickets for Bryant’s final game are even more expensive than for the week’s other big-ticket NBA event: the Golden State Warriors attempting to set the league record for regular-season wins on Wednesday.


►  San Antonio Matches NBA Home Record - Golden State poised to set all-time win record

Kawhi Leonard had 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs had to rally at the AT&T Center to beat the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder 102-98 in overtime Tuesday night to finish 40-1 at home this season, matching an NBA record, the AP reports. The Boston Celtics had the same record in 1985-86. San Antonio came close to surpassing the Celtics’ record, but they had their first home loss of the season to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. Golden State, meanwhile, are on the verge of making their season even more historic. The win over San Antonio matched the 72-win record set by the Chicago Bulls in 1995-96, and victory over the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday would give them win No. 73.

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