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Adam Azim promises to show opponent Anthony Loffet respect, but drop him as soon as he gets the chance



Adam Azim does not need to hold back on his journey to the top, says promoter Ben Shalom.

For a fighter who is only 20 years old, Azim should have all the time in the world. But the rising prospect is ready to rush. He sees a fighter like Devin Haney, just 23 years old, at the top of the lightweight division and wants to reach that level.

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Sky Sports’ Johnny Nelson believes Azim has the potential to become a superstar in the sport

“It’s motivation for sure but I sense a bit of frustration,” Shalom told Sky Sports News.

“He wants to be talked about in that bracket and I think in 12 months we will be talking about him in that bracket.”

To get there, he would have to be moved quickly and on Saturday, live on Sky Sports, he will be matched with Belgium’s Anthony Loffet for the first scheduled 10-round bout of his career.

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His promoter, though, does not expect the fight to last that long.

“Every time he steps up, he knocks them out. I’d love to see him go the distance. I’d love to see him get tested. I can’t say I expect that this fight. I think he’s going to show us again how fast he is, how powerful he is at the weight,” Shalom said.

“At that weight he’s formidable. He’s sparring middleweights. He’s sparring middleweights with big, big power and dealing with it.”

Azim shares that expectation. He stopped Conner Marsden in rapid time in his last fight and could do so again against Loffet.

“I didn’t force that shot [against Marsden]. That shot just came. I saw the opportunity I hit him and he dropped. When I fight this Saturday, if that shot comes again or any opportunity when I land on him, then obviously I think he will go down,” he said.

Nevertheless he promises he has prepared himself for the full 10 rounds, if required. “It’s no pressure. I’ve been doing 10 to four rounds in sparring,” Azim said. “I believe I’m fit for any amount of rounds. I’m ready.”

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Sky Sports head of boxing Adam Smith is excited at what is in store for Azim

He came face to face with Loffet at Thursday’s public workout.

“I looked in his eyes, I’m showing him in his face that I’m there, I’m there to win. And he’s there to win as well, don’t forget that. You can’t disrespect your opponent. You’ve got to respect your opponent as well because they’re up here. All my opponents I respect them because they’re very good fighters. Any opponents that get sent to fight, I respect them,” Azim declared.

“This is the start of my journey, this is the first of many,” he continued.

“Whenever it comes, let’s see if I’m ready to take the world-level route when I get up there in my career. But at the moment it’s on Saturday night and that’s what I need to work on.”

Watch Adam Azim, Sam Eggington vs Przemyslaw Zysk, Karriss Artingstall’s pro debut and more live on Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Main Event tomorrow from 7pm.

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Origin Game 2 preview: Can Queensland seal series in the west?



With one hand on the State of Origin shield, Queensland can wrap up the series before they even host Game 3 with victory at Perth’s Optus Stadium on Sunday night.

In Billy Slater’s coaching debut, the Maroons pulled off an upset for the ages with a 16-10 victory at Accor Stadium in Game 1, the win masterminded by Slater’s former club and state teammate Cameron Munster.

Despite conceding the first try 15 minutes in, the northerners worked their way back into the match with a spectacular try via Dane Gagai, and an easy try off the scrum from captain Daly Cherry-Evans, on either side of halftime.

They repelled the Blues’ attack in the second half to hold on for what was their first win in Blues territory since Game 2, 2017.

This has them just one win away from reclaiming the shield for just the second time since 2017, when the state’s golden era was considered to have ended, around which time Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston announced their representative retirements.

Another win for Slater would see him join Kevin Walters in winning his first two matches as Queensland coach, and also him and Mal Meninga in winning a series on their first attempt.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

From the side that defeated the Blues in Game 1, Xavier Coates and Reuben Cotter are the only changes, both of them forced through injury. Murray Taulagi has been named for his Origin debut on the wing, while Jai Arrow comes into the 17 after being 18th man for the first game.

A minor reshuffle in the run-on side sees Lindsay Collins move to prop forward, as Tino Fa’asuamaleaui moves to lock in Cotter’s absence.

The Queensland side to line up at Optus Stadium is as follows.

Kalyn Ponga, Selwyn Cobbo, Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, Murray Taulagi, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans (c), Lindsay Collins, Ben Hunt, Josh Papalii, Kurt Capewell, Felise Kaufusi, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui. Interchange: Harry Grant, Jai Arrow, Patrick Carrigan, Jeremiah Nanai. 18th man: Tom Dearden.

In: Murray Taulagi, Jai Arrow. Out: Xavier Coates, Reuben Cotter.

On the other side of the equation, the Blues find themselves 1-0 down in a series for the third time in four years, and coach Brad Fittler has accepted the criticism of his side’s Game 1 performance and made changes to the side accordingly.

Fittler’s side started strongly, scoring the first try through Jack Wighton 15 minutes in, but were left to pay the price after severely underestimating a Queensland side which had its pride severely dented after two horrible defeats in the first two games last year.

They trailed by 16-4 with less than 10 minutes left and ultimately left it too late, Isaah Yeo being tackled a metre short of the tryline when the full-time siren rang, leaving the Blues with a lot of catching up to do if they are to level the series and keep their shield defence alive.

There is only one forced change to the Game I side, with Wighton dropping out after testing positive to COVID-19, while Eels pair Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson, and centre Kotoni Staggs have all been dropped.

Apisai Koroisau and Jake Trbojevic both come into the run-on side, while Matt Burton and Siosifa Talakai has both been named for their Origin debuts.

Koroisau’s naming at hooker means Damien Cook has been demoted to the bench after 13 consecutive starts in the 9 jersey, while Panthers Grand Final hero Stephen Crichton has been promoted to starting centre alongside Burton.

Despite some recent strong form for the Bulldogs in response to being left out of the Game 1 side, Josh Addo-Carr has again been overlooked, with Daniel Tupou retaining his place on the wing.

Daniel Tupou

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Seven of the Blues’ starting 13 are from the all-conquering Penrith Panthers, and so Brad Fittler will be praying that these seven players carry their club form into the Origin arena and keep the series alive.

The New South Wales side to line up at Optus Stadium is as follows:

James Tedesco (c), Brian To’o, Matt Burton, Stephen Crichton, Daniel Tupou, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Payne Haas, Apisai Koroisau, Jake Trbojevic, Cameron Murray, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo. Interchange: Damien Cook, Angus Crichton, Junior Paulo, Siosifa Talakai. 18th man: Nicho Hynes.

In: Matt Burton, Apisai Koroisau, Jake Trbojevic, Siosifa Talakai. Out: Kotoni Staggs, Jack Wighton, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Ryan Matterson.

This will be the second State of Origin match to be played at Optus Stadium, following Game 2 in 2019, which the Blues won by 38-6.

Recent history favours both sides, with the Blues having won each Sunday game since the series was revamped in 2018, and the Maroons having not lost a live decider at Suncorp Stadium (the venue for Game 3) since 2005.

However, only once since 2005 (in 2019) have the southerners come from 1-0 down in a series to win, meaning the pressure will be on Brad Fittler and his side to level the series as defeat would give the northerners a golden chance to complete a clean sweep on their home soil.

It will be game on from the first whistle, with the Blues determined to level the series before a potential Suncorp Stadium decider, while the Maroons will be aiming to go 2-0 up in the series and give Billy Slater the perfect start to his coaching career.

On neutral territory, and with their only changes being forced through injury, the Canetoads should get the job done.

Prediction: Queensland by six points.

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Cubs OF Ian Happ is ‘numb’ to trade rumors with deadline approaching



Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ has heard enough trade rumors in his career that he’s now able to tune them out.

“At some point, you get numb to it,” Happ told The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney. “You get numb to it, and you just have to go do your job every day. I’ve said this before, we’ve all been through a stretch where there’s been rumors. Playing in this market, whether it was the offseason or midseason where that kind of stuff was swirling, you’ve been through it at some point.”

Happ, 27, has spent his entire career with the Cubs since the team drafted him ninth overall in the 2015 MLB Draft. This season, he has a career-best .288 batting average with 36 RBI through 69 games. Happ has been particularly hot, as of late, with a .358 batting average, two home runs and seven RBI in his last 15 games.

With a contract set to expire after the 2022 season and Chicago near the bottom of the standings at 27-44, he’s a logical player to generate trade speculation. The 2022 trade deadline is set for Tuesday, Aug. 2.

Last season, the Cubs were sellers at the deadline, sending away cornerstones Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant.

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Avalanche coach Jared Bednar says confidence in Kuemper remains ‘high’



Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar’s confidence level in goaltender Darcy Kuemper is still high a day after the team lost 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final and fell short during their first opportunity to clinch the title on home ice.

Kuemper stopped 26 shots from the double defending champions Friday night but was criticized for giving up a soft goal from defenceman Jan Rutta to open the scoring in the first period.

Bednar said after the game that Kuemper was “OK” and he’d “like to see him get the first one, obviously,” but gave his netminder a vote of confidence and shouldered the burden on the team as a whole while addressing reporters Saturday morning.

“He’s gotten us to this point,” Bednar said. “We’re in the Stanley Cup Final with a 3-2 series lead and we saw what he could do in the second game in Tampa. In order to beat a team like Tampa, as good as they are, we need strong performances from our whole team. One sneaks through him last night. We find a way to battle back and then we have a breakdown on the final goal.

“Margins for error are small at this time of the year, so everyone just has to get prepared to play their best game and give us everything they’ve got, but I would say our confidence level in Darcy is high.”

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Kuemper posted a 16-save shutout in Game 2 as the Avalanche thumped the Lightning 7-0, but he was pulled in Game 3 after giving up five goals on 22 shots as Tampa Bay battled back to beat Colorado 6-2.

The 32-year-old Kuemper rebounded in Game 4 stopping 37 of 39 shots as the Avalanche were victorious 3-2 in overtime to close within one victory of clinching their first Stanley Cup title since 2001.

Colorado has another chance to finish the job while Tampa Bay looks to keep its hopes of a three-peat alive when Game 6 goes down Sunday starting at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW.

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