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Update April - May, 2019

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Van de Beek gives Ajax 1-0 lead vs Tottenham in CL semifinal

Ajax's Donny van de Beek celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the Champions League semifinal first leg soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Rob Harris

London (AP) — Even with a first Champions League final in 23 years in sight, Ajax have some regrets.

The way Ajax overpowered Tottenham at the start of their Champions League semifinal on Tuesday left the visitors feeling frustrated to only have a slender 1-0 advantage from the first leg, secured by Donny van de Beek's first-half goal.

"In the first 20 minutes we played really good," the 22-year-old midfielder said, "and after that Tottenham chased something."

Tottenham did chase in the second half, but with a side depleted by injuries and suspension they lacked the attacking end product to equalize.

"For the first 20 minutes of the game we were just ball watchers," Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen said. "We made them look a look better. They are a good side but we gave them the feeling they can control things."

The Dutch side were given too much space to string together slick passes early on, and Van de Beek ghosted into the penalty area to receive a through-ball from Hakim Ziyech before knocking a shot past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the 15th minute.

"We were completely dominating," Ajax coach Erik ten Hag said.  "Tottenham changed the system (to a back four), switched to a different gear and we weren't anticipating."

Tottenham, contesting their first European Cup semifinal in 57 years, were without injured striker Harry Kane and the suspended Son Heung-min. They also had to contend with the loss of defender Jan Vertonghen in the first half with an injury that threw a fresh spotlight on soccer's handling of suspected concussions.

Vertonghen challenged for a header in the Ajax area but slammed his face into the back of teammate Toby Alderweireld's head, leaving him with blood pouring from a cut on his nose in the 32nd minute.

"With a head injury it can be dangerous," Ten Hag said on beIN Sports. "Take him off. Don't take risks with head injuries."

But Vertonghen received treatment on the field and went to change his bloodied white jersey. Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz was pointing at his head as he spoke to Vertonghen, before allowing him to return to action in the 38th minute.

Vertonghen lasted only 40 seconds before going across to the sideline, leaning over and struggling to stand. Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino had to grab Vertonghen to stop him from keeling over before the Belgian was helped down the tunnel by two medical officials.

"At this moment you are focused on the game, it is too difficult to think too much," Pochettino said. "Only I need to listen and hear what (the medics) say and take a decision. I am never going to debate and put into question the decision of the medical staff."

With midfielder Moussa Sissoko on for Vertonghen, Tottenham did look more assertive as Ajax's attacking rhythm was disrupted.

"We started to show more energy," Pochettino said.

But the visitors, who contest the Dutch final against Willem II on Sunday before the second leg next Wednesday, were only prevented taking away a healthier advantage when the post denied David Neres late on.

Ajax have made a remarkable advance to the last four with a youthful squad despite the Dutch league lacking the vast television revenue of the Premier League — and having to go through three qualifying rounds just to enter the group stage in September.

Tottenham are paying for investing in building a new stadium rather than their squad, making no additions this season. They are also in a scrap just to hold on to third place to take one of the Premier League's four Champions League slots.

"My players are heroes to be in the situation we are today," Pochettino said. "In the first half an hour it wasn't the best. We are still alive in the tie."

Antetokounmpo powers Bucks past Celtics 123-102 in Game 2

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo shoots during the first half of Game 2 of a second round NBA basketball playoff series against the Boston Celtics Tuesday, April 30, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

 Charles F. Gardner

Milwaukee (AP) — Giannis Antetokoumpo had 29 points and 10 rebounds, Khris Middleton made seven of Milwaukee's 20 3-pointers, and the Bucks beat the Boston Celtics 123-102 on Tuesday night to even their second-round playoff series at a game apiece.

Antetokoumpo bounced back from a sub-par performance in Game 1, repeatedly attacking the rim with powerful drives to the basket. He went 7 for 16 from the floor and 13 of 18 at the foul line.

Middleton finished with 28 points for Milwaukee, which went 20 for 47 from beyond the arc. Eric Bledsoe added 21 points and five assists.

The Bucks led by as many as 31 points after a closely played opening half. Game 3 is Friday night in Boston.

Marcus Morris paced Boston with 17 points. Jaylen Brown had 16, and Al Horford finished with 15.

Tottenham stun Man City to reach Champions League semis

Tottenham Hotspur forward Fernando Llorente celebrates his side's third goal during the Champions League quarterfinal, second leg, soccer match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Rob Harris

Manchester, England (AP) — More than two minutes into stoppage time, Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling slid across the field and puffed his chest to the crowd, roaring in elation. Tottenham players collapsed to the turf, some flat on their backs, forlorn and heartbroken.

From the brink of Champions League elimination, Manchester City were celebrating their passage to the semifinals.

Not for long.

As City manager Pep Guardiola was leaping on the touchline, Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakir was receiving updates in his ear from the video assistant referee checking replays.

The stadium soon became hushed until the big screen flashed: "No goal. VAR. Offside."

Guardiola threw his head in his hands, but there was nothing to argue about.

When Christian Eriksen's misplaced back-pass deflected off Bernardo Silva into the path of Sergio Agüero, the City striker was offside before setting up Sterling in the penalty area.

"It's cruel," Guardiola said.

There would be no eighth goal on this breathtaking night of epic drama. Tottenham advanced on away goals following Wednesday's 4-3 loss that left the teams tied 4-4 on aggregate.

City's quadruple dreams were extinguished. Guardiola, a Champions League-winning coach with Lionel Messi's Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, failed to reach the semifinals for the sixth straight time, his third with City after three misses with Bayern Munich.

Instead, Tottenham reached their first European Cup semifinal in 57 years and will play Ajax. Liverpool meet Barcelona following a 6-1 aggregate win over Porto, giving England multiple clubs in the semifinals for the first time since Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea in 2009.

Tottenham advanced thanks to Fernando Llorente's hip, which nudged the ball into the net in the 73rd minute for a goal that survived a VAR review for possible handball. It was the last goal of a night that will be long remembered by clubs that lived in the shadows of larger rivals in their own cities.

"That is why we love football, we feel the passion," Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said." We enjoy watching football, anything can happen.

"Today we showed our great character, great personality. To score three goals against Manchester City is not easy."

Not when top-scorer Harry Kane was out through injury. Not when the midfield options were so depleted that an injury to Moussa Sissoko before halftime forced Pochettino to bring on out-of-favor center forward Llorente.

And Tottenham will play the first leg against Ajax without Son Heung-min — Kane's understudy who scored the valuable first-leg goal last week. Son scored Tottenham's first two goals at Etihad Stadium, then picked up a booking for a foul on Kevin De Bruyne that earned him a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.

The South Korean showed just how influential he is for Tottenham in a start unlike anything seen before in the Champions League.

Four goals in the opening 11 minutes. The fifth in the 21st minute, after five shots on target.

"The first 10 minutes of this game and the last five was fairytale stuff," Eriksen said.

Sterling put City ahead in just the fourth minute. Son then netted twice to put City in a position where they had to score three more goals to advance.

City did just that to take a 4-2 lead, only for Llorente — and the VAR — to have the last say.

"It was a very tough game, a very crazy game," Son said. "Sometimes you are annoyed with VAR but today it is a case of, 'Thank you and good decision.'"

Liverpool beat Porto again, return to CL semifinals

Liverpool's Roberto Firmino scores his side's third goal during the Champions League quarterfinals, 2nd leg, soccer match between FC Porto and Liverpool at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)

Associated Press

Porto, Portugal (AP) — For the second year in a row, Porto had no answer to Liverpool's attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

A year after the forwards scored all goals in a 5-0 rout of the Portuguese champions in the round of 16 of the Champions League, the trio combined again to lead Liverpool back to the semifinals of the European tournament.

They netted a goal each in a comfortable 4-1 win over Porto on Wednesday, with Virgil van Dijk also scoring as Liverpool advanced 6-1 on aggregate after winning the first leg 2-0 at home.

Liverpool, who lost in the final last season, will now face Barcelona, who eliminated Manchester United 4-0 on aggregate on Tuesday.

Mane had a hat trick at the Estadio do Dragao last season, with Salah and Firmino adding a goal each. The Senegalese player led the way again this time, opening the scoring with a 26th-minute goal that was confirmed by video review after being initially disallowed for offside.

Porto had started well and showed signs they might be able to reverse the first-leg deficit, but Liverpool took control after Mane's goal and cruised to victory.

"We knew they wouldn't be able to keep up the pressure of the first 30 minutes," Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp said. "In the second half Porto's energy levels dropped, so it was easier for us to control the game."

Liverpool had barely gotten close to Iker Casillas's goal when Salah picked up a pass inside the area and sent a low pass to Mane, who came sliding in behind the defenders near the far post to score his 14th goal in 21 Champions League appearances.

Mane looked offside at first, and few Liverpool players complained when the flag went up, but video review showed he was in a legal position before making his run to the ball.

"I was thinking it was offside, to be honest," Mane said. "I was surprised."

The goal hurt Porto's morale and the team struggled to keep pushing forward. The pace slowed significantly and Liverpool took advantage, with Salah finding the net from inside the area after a pass by Trent Alexander-Arnold on a quick counterattack in the 65th.

Firmino, who came off the bench after halftime, and Van Dijk added to the lead with late headers — in the 77th and 84th minutes, respectively. Porto's lone goal came through a 69th-minute header by Militao, the defender who is joining Real Madrid at the end of the season.

Mane could have scored his second goal of the game in the 73rd but he missed an open net after dribbling past Casillas on a breakaway.

Porto, who eliminated Roma in the round of 16, had won all of their four previous home games in the Champions League this season, outscoring opponents 11-3.

Celtics beat Pacers 99-91 to take 2-0 series lead

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) hangs on the rim after slamming a dunk against the Indiana Pacers in the final minute of the fourth quarter of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Boston. The Celtics won 99-91. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Associated Press

Boston (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 37 points and the Boston Celtics rallied late in the fourth quarter to beat the Indiana Pacers 99-91 on Wednesday night for a 2-0 lead in the first-round series

Coming out of a timeout with a chance for Indiana to tie it, the Pacers' Wesley Matthews threw an inbounds pass into the bench on the other side of the court with 12.1 seconds left. On the ensuing play, the Celtics' Al Horford passed to Jayson Tatum, who was fouled on a two-handed dunk. He completed the three-point play to make it 97-91 with 8.8 seconds left.

The Pacers turned it over again and the Celtics were able to close out the game at the free throw line.

Tatum scored 26 points, including a thunderous dunk down the stretch to help punctuate a 10-0 run by Boston over the final five minutes. Bojan Bogdanovic led Indiana with 23 points, and Thaddeus Young had 15.

Game 3 is Friday night at Indiana.


Milwaukee (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 13 of his 26 points in Milwaukee's big third quarter and the Bucks beat Detroit to take a 2-0 series lead.

Eric Bledsoe led the Bucks with 27 points, and Khris Middleton had 24. Milwaukee is trying win a series for the first time since 2001. Luke Kennard had 19 points for Detroit. Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond each added 18, and Drummond had 16 rebounds. Detroit star Blake Griffin sat out again with a left knee injury, but received a technical for the second straight game for arguing from the bench.

After scoring 10 points and playing only 14 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, Antetokounmpo scored Milwaukee's first seven points in the third quarter. The Bucks outscored Detroit 35-17 in the period to take a 93-76 lead into the fourth.

Game 3 is Saturday night in Detroit.

Koepka, DeChambeau share lead at the Masters

Bryson DeChambeau reacts to a missed putt on the 11th hole during the first round for the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Doug Ferguson

Augusta, Ga. (AP) — Bryson DeChambeau believes science was at work late in the afternoon at Augusta National, creating a force in the atmosphere where big roars from great shots filter through the back nine.

An easier description: Another exciting finish at the Masters, this time on a Thursday.

Brooks Koepka got it started, adding to his reputation of playing his best golf in the majors. He rolled in a 20-foot putt birdie from behind the 12th green, the first of four straight birdies to take the lead. DeChambeau answered with four straight birdies at the end of his round, with two shots inches away from being even better.

His 8-iron on the par-3 16th grazed the edge of the cup. His 6-iron into the 18th was even better, so good that it rolled smack into the middle of the pin and bounced back an inch or two.

Both wound up in a share of the lead at 6-under 66.

"Absolutely, there is an energy and there is something in science that does talk about that," said DeChambeau, who has a scientific answer for everything. "It's great to have momentum and great atmosphere and gets you all pumped up, creates adrenaline flow. ... I believe that's partially what happened today."

They were one shot ahead of 48-year-old Phil Mickelson, who delivered thrills of his own.

Mickelson found some momentum after shots in the pine trees at No. 10 and in the water on No. 11, both leading to bogey when he thought it could have been worse. He answered with three birdies on the next four holes, including a shot into the 16th that stopped inches from the cup .

He had a 67, his best start since 2010, when he won his third green jacket.

"It looked like, after bogeying 10 and 11, that would kill some momentum. It was the other way around, because I made two great bogeys that should have and could have been doubles," Mickelson said. "And then when I got to the holes that I could birdie, I took advantage of it with some good shots."

Tiger Woods missed all the action. He played earlier in the round and methodically scored a solid 70. It was a good start for Woods in his quest to end 11 years without a major, and he was atop the leaderboard briefly until a late bogey. He sounded satisfied.

"I've shot this number and won four coats, so hopefully, I can do it again," said Woods, who slightly miscalculated. The last green jacket he won in 2005 began with a 74. The goal was to not fall too far behind early, and he is just four shots behind.

Rory McIlroy's bid for the last leg of the career Grand Slam began with a 73, which featured six bogeys.

"I made five birdies — that wasn't the problem," McIlroy said. "I just made too many mistakes."

Even more surprising to McIlroy was no one from the early starters took advantage of soft turf from recent rains.

"It's there for the taking, and I'm surprised someone hasn't run off," McIlroy said.

And that's right about when Koepka and DeChambeau took off.

"Honestly, I was hitting it great all day," DeChambeau said. "Just an accumulation of great golf that finally showed in the score."

He two-putted for birdie on the par-5 15th. He narrowly missed his first hole-in-one in competition. From the woods right of the 17th fairway, he went just over the back of the green and chipped in from 35 feet.

He didn't see until later how good his shot was into the 18th because he was in light rough short of the fairway bunker, unable to see the green but knowing it was good from the roar of the crowd.

"Oh my gosh," DeChambeau said when he watched the replay for the first time. "I guess I should have pulled the flagstick."

He is not the only player to putt with the flagstick in the cup — allowed under the new Rules of Golf — just the only one to apply science to the decision .

Koepka played in the last group of the day, and didn't have great energy in his group. Jordan Spieth had to rely on his short game to salvage a 75, matching his highest score at Augusta. Paul Casey, coming off a victory three weeks ago in Florida, failed to make a birdie in his round of 81.

Blinders on, Koepka played bogey-free in his first time at the Masters in two years. He missed last year recovering from a wrist injury that left him wondering if he would ever play again. Then he won a second straight U.S. Open, held off Woods to win the PGA Championship and has established himself as a major player.

"I think just an understanding of how to play and handle the bigger tournaments, and understanding how to deal with pressure a little bit better," Koepka said of his recent run of three majors in his last six tries.

He holed out from behind the green at No. 12 , picked up birdies on the par 5s and rolled in a bending 20-footer in between on the 14th.

Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter were at 68, while Jon Rahm and Adam Scott were among those at 69.

Justin Rose, who returned to No. 1 in the world and was among the favorites this week because of his recent history at the Masters, opened with a 75.

"It's just a great test of golf to start out the first round of Masters," DeChambeau said. "And to be honest, it's great to sift through some of the really good players and maybe not so great players in this event right now. And look, it's not to say they are bad players. It's just very difficult out there and every aspect of your game has to be on point."

Arsenal, Chelsea, Valencia and Benfica win in Europa League

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang kicks the ball during the Europa League first leg quarterfinal soccer match between Arsenal and Napoli at Emirates stadium in London, Thursday, April 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Karel Janicek

Prague (AP) — Arsenal closed in on the Europa League semifinals with a 2-0 home win over Italy's Napoli on Thursday while Chelsea scored late to earn a 1-0 victory at Slavia Prague.

Coming off a disappointing 1-0 loss to Everton on Sunday, Arsenal produced an attacking display that Napoli were not able to stop. Aaron Ramsey struck early and Kalidou Koulibaly added an own goal to put the home side in command at the Emirates Stadium.

Also, Joao Felix's hat trick guided Benfica to a 4-2 win over 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt, handing the Bundesliga side their first defeat in the Europa League this season.

In an eastern Spain derby, Valencia secured a 3-1 away win at Villarreal after scoring a couple goals in injury time.

For Arsenal and Chelsea, winning the Europa League would secure a route back into the Champions League if they fail to finish in the top four in the Premier League.

The two are currently locked in a tight battle with Tottenham and Manchester United for the last two qualifying spots behind Liverpool and Manchester City.

Napoli are second in Serie A and have no such worries but Valencia, currently sixth in the Spanish league face the same scenario.

The second legs will be played on April 18

Rugby Australia to terminate Folau deal after anti-gay post

Australian rugby union player Israel Folau is shown in this June 25, 2016, file photo. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Dennis Passa

Sydney (AP) - Israel Folau and his anti-gay sentiments appear to have gone too far this time.

Rugby Australia said Thursday it plans to terminate the fullback's contract with the national team after he made anti-gay comments on social media for the second year in a row.

When Folau made similar remarks on April 5, 2018, he escaped with a warning but no sanction. Now, only five months from the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, where Folau was expected to be one of Australia's leading players, Rugby Australia wasn't so lenient.

RA chief executive Raelene Castle said in a statement that she and NSW Rugby Union head Andrew Hore made "repeated attempts" to contact Folau directly and via his representatives on Thursday, but that he failed to communicate with them.

"As a code we have made it clear to Israel formally and repeatedly that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action," Castle said. "In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract."

Folau, one of the sport's top players, published a message on his Instagram account late Wednesday saying that hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators."

Castle said that while Folau was entitled to his religious beliefs, "the way in which he has expressed these beliefs is inconsistent with the values of the sport. We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts."

"Israel has failed to understand ... that he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality," Castle said.

Australian airline Qantas, a national team sponsor, issued a statement earlier Thursday saying Folau's comments "clearly don't reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity that we support."

Folau has also publicly aired his opposition to same-sex marriage.

The 30-year-old Folau has 316,000 Instagram followers. By late afternoon Thursday, the controversial post had received 14,700 likes and 13,800 comments.

Folau has played 73 test matches for Australia. Last weekend while playing for the New South Wales Waratahs, Folau scored his 60th try, the most of any player in Super Rugby, breaking the record of former New Zealand winger Doug Howlett.

Two months ago, Folau signed a multimillion-dollar contract extension to remain with the Waratahs and Australian rugby until the end of 2022. Australian media had reported previously that Folau would walk away from any contract if his religious opinions and views on homosexuality were silenced.

On Thursday, before Rugby Australia's statement, some contemplated that Folau again made the anti-gay comments so he could be released from the new long-term deal.

There were reports Thursday that he again might take up a rugby league contract, one of three football codes, including Australian Rules football, that he has played.

Former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock said Folau had "pushed Rugby Australia into a corner and they have to act."

"Everyone knows his point of view, right? He's done this a number of times already," Mortlock told the Australian Associated Press. "So it's more (about) what was the motivation ... knowing full well that he was probably going to get sanctioned."

Former England rugby international Joe Marler, who plays for London club Harlequins, mocked Folau by posting two images of men kissing. Another former England international, James Haskell, wrote to Folau on Twitter and said "sport has no place for this ... keep it to hate groups. You are an unreal player, but a ... misinformed bigot."

Former Wales rugby player Gareth Thomas, who announced he was gay in 2009, wrote on Twitter that people should "not be influenced" by Folau's words and that Thomas had "sympathy" for Folau.

Britain-based LGBT charity Stonewall supported Rugby Australia's move.

"Folau's comments are just one example of how much work is still left to do to combat discrimination and the use of hateful language against lesbian, gay, bi and trans (gender) people," said Kirsty Clarke, the director of sport at Stonewall.

Lomachenko goes Hollywood for title clash with Crolla

In this May 12, 2018, file photo, Vasiliy Lomachenko, left, of Ukraine, throws a punch at Jorge Linares, of Venezuela, during the WBA lightweight championship boxing match in New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen, File)

Greg Beacham

Los Angeles (AP) — Vasyl Lomachenko left Ukraine and moved stateside several years ago because he dreamed of fighting for big money in the world's most popular boxing venues.

After headlining at Madison Square Garden, in Macau and in several spots around Las Vegas, Lomachenko is going Hollywood on Friday night.

Lomachenko (12-1, 9 KOs) risks his two lightweight world titles at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles when he takes on Britain's Anthony Crolla.

Crolla (34-6-3, 13 KOs) is a big underdog against the masterful Lomachenko, whose technique and athleticism have propelled him from two Olympic gold medals to the short list of the world's greatest pound-for-pound fighters.

Lomachenko trains outside Los Angeles, and he has already fought in the LA area twice. But he has never appeared in this fight-loving city's most prominent indoor arena, and the mere idea of headlining in such a cavernous venue would have been improbable just a few years ago.

"It's a very exciting place," Lomachenko said. "After my first (LA) fight at Microsoft Theater, I looked across the street and thought, 'Wow, maybe someday I can get into Staples Center.'"

Less than two years after that LA debut in the smaller Microsoft venue, Lomachenko has moved across the street for a title defense he is expected to win with style — and not just because he's wearing an outlandish robe worth a reported $200,000 into the ring.

Any opponent under 140 pounds would be an underdog against Lomachenko, but the lack of a theoretically worthy opponent doesn't interest the champion. Until a bona fide challenger to his dominance emerges at 130 or 135 pounds, he will keep racking up wins.

"I don't care," Lomachenko said with a smirk. "In my fights, I just want to show off my skills. My opponent, whoever. I just want to enjoy it and to put on a good and interesting fight."

Lomachenko's next fight was supposed to be a title unification bout with Ghana's Richard Commey, who holds one of the two remaining lightweight belts that Lomachenko covets. But Commey emerged from his bout Feb. 2 with an injured right hand, and Lomachenko elected to stay active by entertaining his mandatory challenger for the WBA crown.

While Crolla is widely respected for his toughness and resilience, Lomachenko sometimes seems to be competing in a different sport. His footwork alone inspires rhapsodic appreciation from veteran fight watchers, and his hand speed is similarly peerless.

Crolla has watched Lomachenko's bouts with admiration, but he has been fighting for too long to be intimidated.

"He's the best fighter in the sport, and I'm grateful for this chance," Crolla said. "Even the best fighter in boxing is beatable. Nobody is bigger than the game, so I go into this fight knowing I've got a chance and a strategy to beat him."

Crolla is making his U.S. debut, but the Manchester native is likely to have every British athlete's contingent of vociferous stateside fans. Crolla has another advantage, according to Lomachenko.

"He's very good, and he's in a comfortable position because he has nothing to lose," Lomachenko said.

The Staples Center card also includes Mexican star Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez making his light heavyweight debut against Tommy Karpency in the co-main event, along with veteran brawler Mike Alvarado facing unbeaten Arnold Barboza Jr.

Lomachenko isn't looking beyond Crolla to other fights, partly because no big fight looms. He wants Commey's belt, but the biggest money would come from a showdown with former American lightweight champion Mikey Garcia.

But even if Garcia could get over his antipathy toward Top Rank boss Bob Arum — his former promoter and Lomachenko's current promoter — Lomachenko and Garcia probably can't find a common weight. Lomachenko says he is too small for 140 pounds, and Garcia could struggle to get back down to 135 after fighting at welterweight — and getting thrashed by Errol Spence Jr. — last month in Texas.

Until money creates the motivation to solve this dilemma, Lomachenko will go on showcasing himself to the world against the best opponents he can find. Crolla is worthy, and Lomachenko is taking him seriously.

"I get nervous a little before a fight, but when I step in the ring, I'm in my place," Lomachenko said. "I start to enjoy it right away. A couple of rounds, and then I find my moment."


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Van de Beek gives Ajax 1-0 lead vs Tottenham in CL semifinal

Antetokounmpo powers Bucks past Celtics 123-102 in Game 2

Tottenham stun Man City to reach Champions League semis

Liverpool beat Porto again, return to CL semifinals

Celtics beat Pacers 99-91 to take 2-0 series lead

Koepka, DeChambeau share lead at the Masters

Arsenal, Chelsea, Valencia and Benfica win in Europa League

Rugby Australia to terminate Folau deal after anti-gay post

Lomachenko goes Hollywood for title clash with Crolla