‘Riyadh is where the future is’: British-Pakistani boxer hails Saudi capital as global sports hub

In this photograph, posted on June 14, 2024, British-Pakistani boxer and Riyad Season ambassador Hamzah Sheeraz celebrates his victory with Turki bin Abdul Mohsen Al-Shaikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, during the middleweight clash against US state of Wisconsin’s Austin Williams at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh on June 1, 2024. (Photo courtesy: Instagram/@hamzahsheeraz)
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Updated 19 June 2024
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‘Riyadh is where the future is’: British-Pakistani boxer hails Saudi capital as global sports hub

  • Hamzah Sheeraz entered professional boxing arena in 2017 and has won all 20 of his games
  • The undefeated boxer plans to compete again during the Riyadh Season in September this year

ISLAMABAD: British-Pakistani boxer Hamzah Sheeraz, who defeated Austin Williams from the US state of Wisconsin in a bout in Riyadh this month, has hailed the capital city of Saudi Arabia as the future hub of global sports.
Sheeraz defeated Williams on June 1 in a highly anticipated middleweight clash at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh as part of the Queensberry vs Matchroom: 5vs5 event.
The 25-year-old, who intends to compete again in the Saudi capital later his year, says it was an “amazing” experience to fight in Riyadh, though he competed for the first time in the Kingdom.
“[Saudi Arabia has] a massive, huge impact and not just only on boxing. We’re talking all sports here across the board. We’re talking soccer. We’re talking snooker. We’re talking obviously boxing. We’re talking UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship],” he told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
“Riyadh is where the future is in terms of sports. I see for the next, however, for the foreseeable future, Riyadh is where it’s all happening.”
Sheeraz was born in Ilford, London into a family of athletes. His father hails from Matore village in Kahuta tehsil of Pakistan’s Punjab province. Sheeraz’s father was a cricketer who played for Gloucestershire, while his paternal grandfather and uncle were both boxers. Sheeraz’s uncle also won ten national amateur titles for Slough and Pinewood Star clubs in the UK, according to the 25-year-old.
He was formally introduced to boxing at the age of 8 by his uncle and had his first bout at 12, becoming a three-time finalist at the national junior championships in the UK, before turning into a professional fighter.
In 2017, he signed up with Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions as a professional boxer. Sheeraz debuted in September of the same year and defeated Duane Green in technical knockout in the second round on the undercard of the Billy Joe Saunders–Willie Monroe Jr. fight at the Copper Box Arena in London. Standing at 6 feet 3 inches, Sheeraz has been undefeated and boasts a 20-0 record.
He said it was a great first experience competing before the “vibrant crowd” in Riyadh, adding that it was valuable to face that level of competitiveness and to be among the elite where even a 1 percent difference can be crucial.
“The people around the world can really see that Riyadh and the whole Riyadh Season is really portraying the pinnacle of sports and showing that this is the best level it can get to,” the 25-year-old said. “So, it’s always an honor to be a part of that and to be part of something where the competition is so high, but the reward is so much higher.”
Asked about his next fight, Sheeraz said he intended to compete again during the Riyadh Season in September. “Hopefully, we are looking at September but nothing has been confirmed yet. Hopefully, it’ll be another Riyadh Season event,” he added.
The annual Riyadh Season festival is part of the Saudi Seasons initiative to promote tourism and national heritage of the Kingdom, according to Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA). The festival is attended by millions of people each year to enjoy exciting activities and events.
In honor of his exceptional performance in Saudi Arabia, Sheeraz said, Turki bin Abdul Mohsen Al-Shaikh, chairman of the GEA, had signed him as an “Ambassador of Riyadh Season,” alongside two other boxers Terence Crawford and Jared Anderson.
“I am an ambassador for Riyadh Season now and it is an absolute honor,” he told Arab News. “I can’t thank the people involved, His Excellency [Turki bin Abdul Mohsen Al-Shaikh] enough for choosing me and for allowing me to be someone who represents not just them, but who represents them on such a big, big worldwide level.”
Sheeraz garnered global fame in 2022, when he was recognized by the prestigious Boxing Writers’ Club as the ‘Young Boxer of the Year’. A number of former world champions have been the recipient of the award presented at the Savoy Hotel on London’s Embankment.
In March 2022, he defeated Jez Smith for the WBC International Silver Middleweight Title at the OVO Arena, Wembley. Previously, he defended the WBO European Champion title in super welterweight category on four occasions.
About boxing in Pakistan, Sheeraz said Pakistan had many great fighters, but the problem was that they did not have a platform and financial backing to advance their careers.
“Hopefully, [I will] bring these young superstars to Riyadh, bring them to Riyadh to perform,” he said, adding that he had a plan to build gyms in the country of his origin to help natural talent come through without any worries.
“Definitely, I would love to come back there,” he said, when asked whether he would like to compete in Pakistan. “I would [also] love to do tours, go to universities, give speeches, get in touch with the youth over there to steer them in the right direction and show them there are opportunities out there that they wouldn’t even dream of.”


Rianne Malixi of the Philippines wins US Girls’ Junior, routing Asterisk Talley 8 and 7

Updated 21 July 2024
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Rianne Malixi of the Philippines wins US Girls’ Junior, routing Asterisk Talley 8 and 7

  • The 17-year-old Malixi won five straight holes to take a 7-up lead after 14, was 6 up after 18 and ended it with a par win on the 29th hole
  • Malixi has verbally committed to play at Duke, starting in 2025

TARZANA: Rianne Malixi of the Philippines won the 75th US Girls’ Junior a year after falling in the final, routing Asterisk Talley 8 and 7 in the 36-hole championship match at El Caballero Country Club.

The 17-year-old Malixi won five straight holes to take a 7-up lead after 14, was 6 up after 18 and ended it with a par win on the 29th hole.

Last year in the final, Kiara Romero beat Malixi 1 up at the US Air Force Academy’s Eisenhower Golf Course in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Malixi has verbally committed to play at Duke, starting in 2025.

The 15-year-old Talley, from Chowchilla, California, teamed with Sarah Lim to win the US Women’s Amateur Four-Ball in May in San Antonio.


Pogacar on brink of third Tour de France triumph ahead of Riviera finale

Updated 21 July 2024
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Pogacar on brink of third Tour de France triumph ahead of Riviera finale

  • Having won five stages, Pogacar enjoys a healthy five-minute 14-second lead over Jonas Vingegaard, winner of the past two editions
  • Pogacar on brink of third Tour de France triumph ahead of Riviera finaleBarring a major incident it will be his third Tour win, completing a Tour-Giro d’Italia double not achieved since 1998

NICE: Tadej Pogacar will be firmly in the spotlight as he goes down the ramp last on Sunday’s final day individual time trial in his adopted home of Monaco, with a third Tour de France title all but secured.

The final stage of the 2024 Tour will be broadcast around the world as he speeds along the corniche from Monaco to Riviera town Nice.

“I can ride home from there and sleep,” Pogacar said earlier in the Tour.

Having won five stages, Pogacar enjoys a healthy five-minute 14-second lead over Jonas Vingegaard, winner of the past two editions.

Barring a major incident it will be his third Tour win, completing a Tour-Giro d’Italia double not achieved since 1998.

It will also provide him the platform for potential Olympic glory in two weeks and at the world championships which follow soon after.

The 25-year-old, runner-up to Vingegaard on the last two Tours, took the lead on day four, attacking his key rival downhill as the race entered France via the Alps.

Other stars emerged along the way, as Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay won three stages, the sprint points green jersey and national hero status in his homeland.

He narrowly beat the 2023 sprint king Jasper Philipsen, who won three stages but never had the lead in the points race.

Belgian newcomer Remco Evenepoel is set to win the best young rider’s white jersey, also winning the first individual time trial and looks good for a spot on the podium going into the final day in third.

The 24-year-old Evenepoel trails second-placed Vingegaard by 2min 50sec, but is expected to win the final day’s individual run.

“He’s the best time-triallist in the world,” Vingegaard said Saturday.

Olympic champion Richard Carapaz is being hailed as the most combative rider on the 2024 Tour.

The Ecuadorian EF rider won a stage, took the yellow jersey for a day and came close to other victories. He raced on Saturday in the polka dot best climber’s jersey.

Another Belgian won hearts, as the tough Victor Campenaerts rung one up for dads everywhere.

After winning a three-way battle to close out stage 18 he grabbed a phone for a video call with his partner, who immediately showed him their newborn baby, Gustaaf, with dad in tears.

“You have no idea how much this means,” he said, though nobody asked if he was referring to the stage win.

The French did well too, grabbing the opening day win with Kevin Vauquelin and calming nerves from home fans.

Retiring Romain Bardet, twice a podium finisher, should be well received in Nice after a fine Tour. He took the yellow jersey, albeit for a day.

Mark Cavendish also grabbed the headlines, claiming a record 35th stage win.
 


India’s Paes, Amritraj make history joining Tennis Hall of Fame

Updated 21 July 2024
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India’s Paes, Amritraj make history joining Tennis Hall of Fame

  • The first inductees from India were joined by British tennis journalist and author Richard Evans in enshrinement ceremonies
  • Vijay Amritraj : I am humbled and honored to join this incredible and exclusive group that have brought glory to our sport
  • Paes recounted his youth playing football and hockey before turning to tennis and eventually following his hockey-captain father as an Olympic medalist

NEW YORK: Former doubles world No. 1 Leander Paes and tennis broadcaster, actor and player Vijay Amritraj became the first Asian men inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday.

The first inductees from India were joined by British tennis journalist and author Richard Evans in enshrinement ceremonies at the Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.

Paes recounted his youth playing football and hockey before turning to tennis and eventually following his hockey-captain father as an Olympic medalist.

“It’s my greatest honor to be on this stage with not only these legends of the game, people who have inspired me every single day of my life — not because you’ve only won Grand Slams, not because you’ve shaped our sport but every single one of these people have shaped the world we live in,” Paes said.

“I would like to thank you so much for giving this Indian boy hope.”

Amritraj, 70, played from 1970 until retiring in 1993, winning 15 ATP singles titles and 399 matches and being ranked as high as 18th in the world and helped India to the Davis Cup finals in 1974 and 1987.

“I am humbled and honored to join this incredible and exclusive group that have brought glory to our sport,” Amritraj said.

After his playing days, Amritraj has helped humanitarian causes, backed ATP and WTA events in India and has acted in the James Bond and Star Trek movie series.

“A feeling came over me that I had never experienced,” Amritraj said of learning about his election to the Hall. “This was an honor not just for me, for my family, for my parents, but for all of my fellow Indians and my country who live around the world.”

Like Amritraj, Evans was inducted in the contributor category for his life impact on the sport.

Paes, 51, was an 18-time Grand Slam champion in doubles and mixed doubles who was selected in the player category after honing his trade in an Amritraj youth academy.

Paes and Amritraj made India the 28th nation represented in the Hall of Fame.

“Playing for 1.4 billion people could either be pressure or it could be wind within your wings,” Paes said.

“I’d like to thank every single one of my countrymen who supported me, who stood by through all the ups and downs, and we’ve been through a few, but you all were the inspiration, the support, you were even the strength to guide me through when even I didn’t believe.”

Paes won career Grand Slams in both men’s and mixed doubles, completing one in men’s by winning the 2012 Australian Open and another in mixed by capturing the 2016 French Open.

He won the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bronze medal by defeating Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

His only ATP singles title came in 1998 on Newport grass in the same venue where he was inducted.

“As my father always said to me, if you believe in yourself, you work hard, you’ll be passionate not only to win prize money and trophies, but you do that to inspire the world,” Paes said.

“It has been my greatest honor to play for my countrymen in seven Olympics, to stand where the national anthem is playing in all those Davis Cups, and to prove that we Asians can win Grand Slams and also be No. 1 in our field, be it tennis or anything.”


South Sudan nearly beat the US in an Olympic tuneup. Here’s how it happened

Updated 21 July 2024
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South Sudan nearly beat the US in an Olympic tuneup. Here’s how it happened

  • South Sudan made 14 3-pointers, while the US made seven. The US reserves were 1 for 11 from beyond the arc

Takeaways from the US Olympic team’s 101-100 win over South Sudan in an exhibition game Saturday in London:
At 39, 40 in a row
LeBron James’ layup with 8 seconds left was the game-winner, and the win marked the 40th consecutive time that the Americans have won an international game with the NBA’s all-time scoring leader — at 39, set to become the oldest US men’s basketball Olympian ever — in uniform.
Seems like being in London works for King James. Playing in the same building as he did during the 2012 London Olympics — O2 Arena, which was called North Greenwich Arena during those games a dozen years ago — James came up big down the stretch.
In that gold medal game against Spain in 2012, James hit a game-sealing 3-pointer with about 2 minutes left to cap a season where he won NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP, an NBA title with the Miami Heat and Olympic gold.
Respect for South Sudan
South Sudan got this Olympic berth based on its World Cup finish last year. Its national federation is led by former NBA player Luol Deng, and the team is coached by former NBA guard and now Houston assistant coach Royal Ivey.
James gave both men a ton of credit postgame Saturday.
“To have that representation, to have that type of leadership over there, teaching them the right way how to play the game, that’s good. That’s great, actually,” James said. “The game is worldwide. There’s not one place that you don’t see the game being played. I think that’s the beauty of it. The game of basketball brings together so many people.”
Waiting for KD
Kevin Durant was on the floor getting some warmup shots up, but the Americans were again without the three-time Olympic gold medalist.
Durant returned to practice Friday after about three weeks of dealing with a calf strain. It’s possible that he plays in the final US tune-up on Monday against Germany in London. Otherwise, he’ll go into the Olympics not having gotten any true game action since April 28 when his Phoenix Suns were eliminated from the first round of the NBA playoffs by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Key Number
South Sudan made 14 3-pointers, while the US made seven. The US reserves were 1 for 11 from beyond the arc.


Shane Lowry lets British Open lead slip away. Si Woo Kim makes hole in one

Updated 21 July 2024
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Shane Lowry lets British Open lead slip away. Si Woo Kim makes hole in one

TROON, Scotland: Shane Lowry made a double bogey on the famous “Postage Stamp” eighth hole at Royal Troon and it only got worse for the Irishman.
Lowry led the British Open by three shots early Saturday before his day unraveled in the wind and rain. His 6-over 77 left him three shots behind leader Billy Horschel going into Sunday’s final round.
Quite a turnaround after taking a two-shot lead into the weekend and pairing on Saturday with unheralded Dan Brown.
“I guess for me the eighth hole was killer really. Make par there and you can still shoot 3 or 4 over and still be leading the tournament. Just pulled my wedge shot there,” Lowry said of the 123-yard par-3 eighth.
Lowry, eyeing his second British Open title, had moved three strokes ahead with a birdie at No. 4.
On the eighth, which he had birdied on back-to-back days, Lowry found the “Coffin bunker” before his next shot rolled off the back of the green. He got back up but two-putted.
Lowry, who won the claret jug at Royal Portrush in 2019, bogeyed the 11th and 12th and was out of the lead.
Three more bogeys followed — at the 14th, 15th and 18th — to leave him 1 under overall.
“You’d have to question why there wasn’t a couple of tees put forward today, to be honest. I think 15 and 17 — like 15 is 500 yards playing into that wind, it’s — yeah, they keep trying to make holes longer, yet the best hole in this course is about 100 yards,” he said.
On the last, Lowry sliced his drive and then sent his next shot into the grandstand to the right of the green. He was given a free drop but pitched well short of the hole and needed two putts.
“This is going to take me a couple hours to get over today,” he said, adding, “but I have a job to do tomorrow and a similar chance to win this tournament.”
Hole in one
Si Woo Kim didn’t see his ball go in, but he didn’t mind. You’ll never forget a hole in one at the British Open.
Kim’s third-round ace was at the par-3 17th hole.
“My caddie told me you’d better hit hard with a 3-iron,” the South Korean said. “So I did, and as soon as I (did), I see the ball (go) over the fringe.”
He thought perhaps it was within 20 feet, but then the crowd erupted.
“I couldn’t see it,” he said.
The shot took a few hops before rolling straight into the cup. Kim high-fived caddie Manuel Villegas, who then playfully tapped the visor of Kim’s cap.
At 238 yards, it’s the longest hole-in-one at a British Open since organizers began keeping complete records in 1981.
Louis Oosthuizen made a hole in one at the 2016 Open at Troon. Ernie Els made one at the Postage Stamp in 2004.
There were three at the 1997 Open at Troon — by Pierre Fulke, Daniel Olsson and Dennis Edlund.
Table tennis anyone?
Table tennis seems to be a go-to activity to unwind at the British Open.
Dan Brown, who was the surprise leader after the first round, said he’s been playing the game with his friends at the players’ lounge at Royal Troon.
Joe Dean, too.
“We played it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Wednesday afternoon, I could feel myself getting a bit of tendinitis in my elbow,” the Englishman said after Saturday’s 71 left him 4 over par overall. “Very addictive game. We believe we’re better than what we are. No, it’s great fun. It passes the time.”
Dean’s only other Open appearance was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale.
Cricket, too
Zimbabwe cricket must have been all the rage back in the day.
The fathers of Dean Burmester and Sean Crocker were teammates on Zimbabwe’s first cricket test team — cricket’s premier format — in 1992.
They’re both at Royal Troon to watch their sons compete at the British Open.
“I don’t think they’ve bumped into each other yet, but if they do, it could be some carnage,” Crocker joked after his third-round 69 on Saturday. “We were both kind of joking we were trying to keep our dads away from each other this week ... I think some alcohol is going to get hurt if they get together.”
Mark Burmester and Gary Crocker played on the team that faced India in Zimbabwe’s first test match. The Crockers moved to the United States when Sean was young. Dean Burmester represents South Africa.
“Even though we both don’t play under the Zim flag,” Crocker said, “we have our roots and heritage there, so secretly we’re Zimbabweans.”