Van de Beek gives Ajax 1-0 lead vs Tottenham in CL semifinal
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)
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
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
"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
"We started to show more energy,"
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
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
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)
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
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
"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
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
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
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)
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
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.
BUCKS 120, PISTONS 99
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
Game 3 is Saturday night in
Koepka, DeChambeau share lead at the Masters
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)
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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)
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
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
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)
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
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,
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
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)
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
"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
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
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
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
"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."