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Casimero set to shock world

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JOHN Riel Casimero (center) is ready to return to action with Bones Adams (left) helping him. daily TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

There is a noticeable bounce on John Riel Casimero’s step the past few weeks.

Casimero, the three-division world champion, has been promised to fight in October by his official United States representative Sean Gibbon, who also happens to be the president of the Manny Pacquiao-owned MP Promotions.

“Casimero’s training is getting into high gear,” reported Gibbons from Las Vegas, where Casimero has been getting ready since March.

Actually, Casimero — the current World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight titlist — had been on training mode since February.

But the 30-year-old from Ormoc, Leyte was forced to step on the break pedal after his 26 April showdown with Naoya Inoue of Japan was scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Top Rank chief Bob Arum remains unable to set a date for the three-belt duel involving Casimero, the WBO 118-pound king, and Inoue, the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation ruler.

“Big things are coming for Casimero. He will shock the world,” Gibbons, who also runs the affairs not only of Pacquiao but also the two other reigning Filipino world titleholders in Jerwin Ancajas and Pedro Taduran, said.

About two months ago, Casimero was on the verge of getting a ticket so he can reunite with his family when it became unclear that he can secure a fight.

Although Inoue might not end up becoming Casimero’s dance partner in October, Gibbons insists his prized puncher doesn’t mind facing somebody else as long as he gets to strut his stuff.

The last time he fought, Casimero blasted South African Zolani Tete in a quickie in Birmingham, England in November last year.

Before settling in Las Vegas, Casimero spent over a month under the supervision of Cuban émigré Pedro Roque in Miami.

Nowadays, Casimero, who has a 29-4 record with 20 knockouts, shows up regularly at the Bones Adams Gym, a sweatshop utilized by Pacquiao when he met Keith Thurman over a year ago.

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McDowell eyes dose of confidence

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Graeme McDowell looks for confidence heading into another US PGA Tour event. SEAN HAFFTEY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MIAMI (AFP) — Graeme McDowell is hoping a return to the Corales Puntacana resort, where he ended a near-four year title drought last year, will jumpstart his game.

“My game needs that little injection of confidence anyway,” McDowell admitted this week as he prepared to tee off Thursday in the US PGA Tour event in the Dominican Republic.

The 2010 US Open winner struggled mightily at the US Open at Winged Foot last week, missing the cut after shooting an 80 in the second round.

The 41-year-old expected a vastly different challenge this week.

“As opposed to the US Open last week, this is going to be about making some birdies,” McDowell said.

“Fifteen- or 20-under par to win down here.”

“It’s about taking advantage of the opportunities that this course gives you if you drive it well and get aggressive with your iron play.”

“And I really putted well here last year, so if I can kind of get the putter ramped back up, enjoy these greens again, I’ll hopefully have a good weekend.”

McDowell fired a three-under final round of 69 for a 19-under total and a one-shot win over American Chris Stroud and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes last year.

It was his first US PGA Tour title since the Mayakoba Classic in 2015.

“The win last year was pivotal for me and it really kicked me on into the sort of latter part of last year where I played pretty well,” McDowell said.

He won a European Tour event in Saudi Arabia to start the 2020 season and was playing well before Covid-19 brought the game to a halt.

McDowell admitted the lengthy break “derailed me a little bit.

“But that’s just one of those things,” he said. “It’s derailing a lot of people in a lot of ways all over the world, so I’m certainly not going to sit here and kind of be resentful.”

It’s been a different atmosphere as golf returned to action, with spectators largely banned in a bid to prevent any surge in coronavirus cases.

McDowell acknowledged it had been hard to adjust, and he was delighted that a limited number of spectators were to be allowed in designated hospitality areas this week.

“I’ve missed the old environment a little bit and perhaps this will give me a little bit of a taste of the old stuff again and maybe straighten me back out and maybe get me back on some leaderboards again,” he said.

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Suarez stays in La Liga

Agence France-Presse

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Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez is bringing his wares to Atletico Madrid. MANU FERNANDEZ/POOL/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MADRID, Spain (AFP) — Atletico Madrid announced the signing of Barcelona forward Luis Suarez, confirming the Uruguayan striker is set to continue playing in La Liga rather than joining Juventus in Italy.

Barcelona said Atletico had agreed to pay six million euros for Suarez, who left his last training session in tears having been told over the summer that he was no longer required by new coach Ronald Koeman.

Since joining Barca from Liverpool in 2014, Suarez has won a host of trophies, including the 2015 Champions League and four Liga titles.

He leaves as the club’s third highest scorer with 198 goals behind Cesar Rodriguez (232) and Lionel Messi (634).

The move to Barcelona’s La Liga rivals follows a failed attempt to join Juventus.

Juve coach Andrea Pirlo disclosed last week a deal was unlikely because of delays in the Uruguayan’s bid to get an Italian passport.

On Tuesday, prosecutors in Perugia said they suspected Suarez of cheating to pass his Italian language test with the aid of examiners suspected of helping him.

The exit of the 33-year-old from Camp Nou comes as Koeman attempts to reshape Barcelona.

As well as Suarez, the Dutchman has shown the exit to Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic, while French defender Samuel Umtiti is also set to leave.

Spanish television channel Gol showed Suarez wiping away tears with his sleeve as he drove off after saying his last goodbyes to teammates at Barcelona’s Sant Joan Despi training center.

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‘Bulalo’ powers Casimero

Nick Giongco

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JOHN Riel Casimero is tipped to go all out in his title defense against Duke Micah this weekend. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF SEAN GIBBONS

A hole-in-the-wall Filipino restaurant cum grocery store in the Connecticut town of Wallingford might hold the key to John Riel Casimero’s bid to put on a show of force when he risks the World Boxing Organization bantamweight title this Sunday.

Now inside the bubble at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino in Uncasville, an area in the town of Montville, which is 60 miles from Wallingford, Casimero will soon have his bowl of his favorite bulalo (beef soup).

American boxing man Sean Gibbons said his son, Brendan, has just flown in from Los Angeles and will serve as the errand boy in the next few days.

“Brendan won’t be with us in the bubble but he will be play a major role because he will be giving us what we need inside,” Gibbons said.

“He will pick up the groceries and other needs.”

The Kayumanggi shop has agreed to concoct Casimero’s request of beef bones and marrow slow-cooked in spices and seasoning as part of his nutritional requirements in the final days leading to the fight with Ghanaian challenger Duke Micah.

Only Casimero, lead trainer Bones Adams, Filipino-American cutman Stephen Lunas and Gibbons are ordered to remain behind closed doors.

“I have already talked with the lady who owns the store and she readily agreed to cook for Casimero,” Gibbons said.

“It’s important that Casimero gets to eat what he wants because these little things, called intangibles, play a role in winning and winning big.”

Earlier in the day, Casimero (29-4 with 20 KOs) and Micah (24-0 with 19 KOs) faced off during a Zoom press conference and the champion didn’t mince any word.

“I’ll go for the knockout. This is my first time on Showtime so I want to give everyone watching an impressive performance,” said Casimero, referring to the television network that will telecast the fight.

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Injured Uy back on track

Ian Suyu

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An injured hand wouldn’t stop Natalie Uy from chasing an elusive berth in the Tokyo Olympics.

Uy, the Filipino-American pole vault expert, yesterday said suffering a hand injury couldn’t derail her from preparing for various Olympic qualifying tournaments in the United States.

She said she is back on track and moved to a new camp in Georgia together with world No. 5 vaulter in Katie Nageotte under American mentor Brad Walker.

“Training is going really well and I am really working hard,” said Uy, who set a new national record after clearing an impressive 4.30-meter mark in the Acadia Invitational in North Carolina last 18 July.

Uy’s record-smashing performance was then followed by a slightly decreased 4.11-meter output, which was still good enough to take the first place the 19-29 year-old category of the American Track League tournament on 26 July.

Uy said despite not being at perfect shape, she is working towards her full recovery and working on other facets of her game.

“I might not be able to do all the drills, but somehow I am able to do a majority of the workouts as of now. I am recovering well from my injury — slowly but surely.”

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PBA bubble gets green light

Bea Micaller

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The resumption of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) 45th season is finally a go.

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas yesterday announced that they have already secured a provisional authority from the Inter Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) that will effectively allow them to restart their aborted season.

Vargas, who sat down with ranking IATF executives together with PBA commissioner Willie Marcial, said they have already secured the confidence of the government through the help of Bases Conversion and Development Authority chief Vince Dizon, who played a key role in holding the games inside the Clark Freeport Zone using a bubble concept.

“This is a happy event,” said Vargas, who has good relationship with Dizon after serving as president of the Philippine Olympic Committee during the country’s buildup for its hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games last year.

“We are happy to announce that, through the help of Sec. Dizon, we have secured the provisional approval of the IATF.”

The PBA had already ironed out all the kinks in its bubble plan.

The league would house around 350 delegates composed of players, coaches and team officials from 12 teams at the Quest Hotel inside Clark.

Games would be held at the Angeles University Foundation gymnasium starting 11 October, but delegates would start entering the bubble on 28 and 29 September.

But now that the IATF finally issued its green light, the PBA will formally become the first league in the country to open amid the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dizon, who is also the deputy chief implementer of the national COVID-19 task force, explained that the PBA was given provisional authority because its health measures are strict and stringent than that of the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) group, which is composed of the Philippine Sports Commission, Department of Health and Games and Amusement Board.

“The current issue here is that the protocols stated in JAO are different from the protocols set by the PBA for the bubble,” Dizon said.

“We just need to amend the protocols and with the provisional approval, we now have the authority to begin the bubble.”

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Youth chess online tilt set

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Players 17 years old and below will see action in the 2020 National Youth online chess championships starting on Tuesday, 29 September.

The 12-day tournament is divided into age-group categories for boys and girls – 7-under, 9-under, 11-under, 13-under, 15-under and 17-under.

A masters event for older players, including titled ones will also be held in the last two days of the event.

A guaranteed cash prize of P77,000 will be up for grabs in the event organized by the Endgame sports Multi-Events, Inc. and the National Chess Federation of the Philippines.

“It is the goal of Endgame Sports to encourage the youth to keep on focusing their training and attain new heights,” said Endgame Sports founding president Cris Aspiras.

“Youth program is the main thrust of the National chess program, they have my support,” said NCFP president Cong. Butch Pichay.

For inquiries, interested parties may log in at www.endgamesportsmgmt.com.

The tournament will start the qualifying tournaments in 7U, 9U and 11U at 9 a.m. on 29 September followed by the 13U, 15U and 17U the next day and the Masters Challenge on 1 October.

The grand finals is set on 3 to 4 October for 7U, 9U, 11U, 6 to 7 October for 13U, 15U and 17U and 9 to 10 October for the masters using the time control of 15 minutes plus a five-second increment.

Registration is free to all seeing action in the 7U, 9U, 11U and 13U levels while those playing in the 15U, 17U and masters class must pay P100 to join with all required to have lichess, Viber and Zoom accounts.

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Sports

French cut

Agence France-Presse

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There’s simply no way Roland Garros will be overflowing with spectators in this year’s edition of the French Open. CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS, France (AFP) — The French Open at Roland Garros was braced to cut its crowd limit once again to as low as 1,000 fans a day after the government announced new limits in its battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

French tennis chiefs had already reduced the number of fans allowed in for the season’s concluding Grand Slam event, which starts Sunday in Paris, to 5,000 ten days ago, down from 11,500.

However, health minister Olivier Veran demanded new limits at sports grounds in 11 “red zones” in the country, one of which includes the French capital.

“To date, we have no confirmation on the conditions of organization of the tournament,” said a French Tennis Federation spokesperson.

This new ceiling of 5,000 will apply “from Saturday after consultation between the prefects and local elected officials,” Veran said.

The health minister also announced “the closure of sports halls and gymnasiums” because “they are confined spaces and which are unfortunately places of significant contamination.”

These new measures, which will last for a period of two weeks, also concern the areas of Bordeaux, Lyon, Nice, Lille, Toulouse, Saint-Etienne, Rennes, Rouen, Grenoble and Montpellier.

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Saudi squad bombs out

Agence France-Presse

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AFP Photo.

DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — The coronavirus-hit holders Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia was kicked out of the Asian Champions League after being unable to field a sufficient number of players against Shabab Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates.

Al Hilal was “deemed to have withdrawn from the competition” after failing to name the required 13 players for their AFC Champions League (West) Group B match in Doha.

The Asian Football Confederation said in a statement that under the “special rules applicable to AFC Competitions during the COVID-19 pandemic” the Saudi giants, which had already qualified for the Last 16, will not be able to take any further part in the competition.

“All matches played by Al Hilal, who named only 11 players, are considered null and void” the AFC said.

As a result, Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai progress to the Round of 16 from Group B.

Competition regulations allowed for 35 players to be registered by each club, but Al Hilal registered 30 of which only 27 travelled to Doha in the beginning of the competition.

Al Hilal and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) had asked for the postponement of the match against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, citing an AFC rule allowing for a delay “in exceptional circumstances.”

But their request was turned down as a postponement “would have a huge negative impact on the current match schedule of the AFC Champions League (West).”

Al Hilal played Iran’s Shahr Khodro on Sunday despite 15 of their players testing positive for coronavirus, after Asia’s football body refused to postpone the game.

The Saudi team had “asked the Asian Football Confederation to postpone” the match at Qatar’s Al Janoub stadium after tests showed that ten players had “been infected with Covid-19,” adding to five players who had already tested positive.

According to AFC rules, Al Hilal was still able to play the match as 14 of its players were available, including two goalkeepers.

For the record, Pakhtakor defeated Iran’s Shahr Khodro 1-0 and topped the group with 10 points while Shabab Al Ahli were second on seven.

Shahr Khodro  lost all their matches while Al Hilal also finished pointless following the AFC’s decision to void their results.

Al Hilal won the title beating Uruwa Red Diamonds of Japan in the final last year.

Earlier, Iran’s Esteghlal booked their last-16 spot  with a 3-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli.

The convincing win saw Esteghlal finish second ahead of Iraq’s Al Shorta on goal difference in Group A after both teams were level on five points.

Al Ahli had qualified for the knockouts earlier and ended up Group A winners with six points despite their defeat.

Teams in the group played only four matches each instead of the usual six after the UAE’s Al Wahda were considered withdrawn following several Covid-19 positive tests before they travelled to Qatar.

Esteghlal required a two-goal victory margin to make the cut and they did so with some flair at the Al Janoub Stadium, one of the new venues in Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

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Hamilton seeks Schumacher’s 91-win mark

Agence France-Presse

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LEWIS Hamilton chases his 91st Formula One title. JENNIFER LORENZINI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SOCHI, Russia (AFP) — Lewis Hamilton seeks to match Michael Schumacher’s record 91 Formula One wins at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi on Sunday despite fears over a potential coronavirus fall-out from allowing 30,000 fans to attend.

The six-time world champion is one win away from what once was believed to be an untouchable total, but he will be a clear favourite to succeed on a track where he has triumphed four times in six years.

He has also reeled off six wins in nine races this season to open up a 55-point lead ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the title race, the Finn and former team-mate 2016 champion Nico Rosberg being the only other victors since Sochi arrived on the calendar.

Another Mercedes win at the former home of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games would also be a record for most successive victories by a team at a single Grand Prix.

But all involved with the champions are aware that not only is the event set to be the first sporting occasion to host a major crowd in the Covid-19 era, but it will also see the team shadowed by a Netflix film crew.

The organizers say 30,000 spectators are expected and that the race is sold out.

The cameras will be recording content for the third “Drive to Survive” series — and tip-toeing around their subjects, hoping to avoid a repeat of events in Germany last year.

Then, at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, run in teeming rain, Mercedes celebrated 125 years of motorsport with their worst performance of the season — a flu-struck Hamilton ending up classified ninth and Bottas crashing out from fourth.

“It made a very entertaining episode for Netflix,” said Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff.

“But this time, we hope we can have great content — and have a great race.”

Hamilton, lauded this week as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world this year, has approached the race with humility.

“I never thought that I would be here, that’s for sure,” he said after his 90th career triumph at the Tuscan Grand Prix two weeks ago.

“It just does not seem real to me.”

His greatest rival this weekend is likely to be team-mate Bottas, winner on the tight Sochi track in 2017, his maiden triumph.

The Finn has proved himself to be a force on the circuit that suits his style and knows he has to wreck Hamilton’s party to stay in the championship race.

After two pointless exits with car failures, Max Verstappen of Red Bull will be seeking a return to his earlier form.

“It’s not easy in Sochi and the track is not a favourite for us with a lot of long straights — it’s not easy to overtake,” he said.

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