Andre Ward accepts Carl Froch’s demand for UK bout

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Andre Ward lands a left on Carl Froch during their WBA/WBC Super Middleweight Championship bout in 2011.

Andre Ward has revealed he would be happy to give Carl Froch a re-match in the UK – but said he will not face the Nottingham fighter in his hometown.

The prospect of a second bout between the pair has been raised by the WBA ordering its two super-middleweight champions to face each other, with Ward the governing body's "Super" champion and Froch the "World" titlist.

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Ward outpointed Froch in December 2011 at Atlantic City to unify the WBC and WBA crowns, but the Californian has fought just twice since then due to promotional disputes.

Now that has been resolved, with Ward signing with music mogul Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports earlier this year, the 31-year-old has set his sights on Froch.

Froch, who vacated his IBF strap due to injury, has been chasing a fight with former middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez in Las Vegas in what he said would be his final contest.

But he may relish the second chance to face the only fighter he has not beaten in his 35-bout professional career.

Ward, though, has made it clear that while he will travel to the UK, he will not take on Froch in Nottingham.

"The UK is one thing, Nottingham is something different," Ward said. "Now he's saying 'well, I came to America, now you need to come to Nottingham '.

"The thing is this: Atlantic City, where we fought the finals of the Super Six, it's thousands of miles away from my home – that's a road fight. I live on the west coast; the fight was on the east coast, which was a six-hour plane ride for me.

"I'm not willing to come to Nottingham, I don't think I should have to, but Wembley stadium, the UK as a whole – I would love to come."

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Fight Club: Brook still earning respect

Andy Lewis 30/03/2015
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Moving up in the world: Kell Brook out-gunned Jo Jo Dan in Sheffield.

Kell Brook was determined to make a statement in his hometown of Sheffield on Saturday night – and his demolition of Jo Jo Dan appears to have turned heads a little further afield than The Steel City.

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The IBF welterweight champion – and the only title holder in the division not named Mayweather or Pacquiao – dropped Dan four times before the Romanian’s corner pulled him out at the end of the fourth session.

It was so one-sided it begged the question as to whether it was indeed a great performance from Brook, or a mismatch of criminal proportions given championship gold was at stake.

The truth is probably somewhere in between. It shouldn’t be forgotten of course that Dan was Brook’s mandatory challenger, the IBF’s No1 ranked contender. Yet that lofty status looked increasingly spurious with every booming right hand the home fighter unloaded.

The unbeaten Brook, now 34-0 with 23 knockouts, looked quick of hand, foot and mind, with the manner of his victory all the more impressive given he was making a comeback after suffering horrendous injuries in an unprovoked knife attack while on holiday in Tenerife last year.

Still though, it was perhaps a little surprising to see his triumph garner significant praise from across the Atlantic.

The 28-year-old fighter won his title in the US, out-pointing champion Shawn Porter in California with a polished, mature performance last August. But after that victory – a rare success story for a British title challenger away from home – much of the Stateside coverage quite naturally focused on Porter’s shortcomings.

Although after showing he is several levels above the Jo Jo Dan’s of this world, a little curiously, there were plenty of kind words for this hometown hammering.

ESPN’s top boxing writer Dan Rafael was among them, tweeting:

That was emblematic of the consensus, while Dan’s renowned promoter Lou Di Bella offered simply: “Kell Brook is very, very good… I’m a fan.”

Generally there is a liberal dose of scepticism of British fighters from the US media who, sometimes justifiably, regard them as being over-hyped. You only need look at David Price’s struggles with Tony Thompson or the beating Demetrius Andrade handed Brian Rose last year to find solid recent examples as to why.

Respect is hard-earned but Brook is starting to get it. That’s also a lesson Amir Khan knows all about, having himself been branded a ‘hype-job’ following some crushing losses.

His rebuild under Virgil Hunter has been hugely impressive and it’s pertinent to mention his name given the long-running and now inescapable clamour for him to fight Brook.

Without dwelling on a well documented saga… Brook wants it, his promoter Eddie Hearn has earmarked June 13 at Wembley Stadium for a hugely lucrative all British world title fight – but Khan is strangely reticent.

The fight makes sense in every possible way but in boxing that is no guarantee of it being made. You only need look at the names on Khan’s record to dismiss the notion that he is ‘ducking’ Brook. But he’s said on several occasions he believes he is a level above his British rival, with the company he has kept in the past forming the basis of this opinion.

Khan’s preferred option for his next outing would appear to be American Adrien Broner in what could be a hugely entertaining spectacle, while Hearn suggested on Saturday night that Khan was also considering Chris Algieri.

Yet Brook, a title holder in arguably boxing’s most talent-rich division, also has options with names like Juan Manuel Marquez, Brandon Rios and Marcos Maidana all being thrown about.

The now veteran but deeply respected Marquez would be an intriguing choice for his June outing, but either way, ‘the Special One’ is moving up in the world.

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ONE Championship leading the way in Asian sports market with MMA booming

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One Championship is set to hit the Philippines in April 2015.

ONE Championship hit Dubai for the first time in August 2014 and has grown to become the number one sports media property in Asia. This is an incredible feat for a mixed martial arts promotion that only burst onto the scene in 2011. 

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With a mix of Olympic level athletes like Welterweight champion Ben Askren and Japanese legend Shinya Aoki, as well as local heroes that viewers can relate to, ONE has the perfect blend of fighters and world-class production to pack out arenas all over Asia. 

It appears that mixed martial arts is becoming increasingly popular in the United Arab Emirates. Last week Abu Dhabi Warriors was on in the capital then Glory 20: Dubai is April 3. Global Fighting Championship, UFC and ONE Championship are expected to return later this year.

ONE Championship, previously known as ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC), entered the Asian market at the perfect time because broadcasting rights are at an all-time high. The Barclays Premier League recently sold broadcasting rights in Britain alone for more than £5 billion over the next three years, while the National Basketball Association struck a nine-year, US$24 billion deal with ESPN and Turner Sports last year. 

As the rest of television moves towards live streaming and subscriptions, live sports’ contribution to premium content on television grows even larger. ONE Championship has leveraged this growth to be broadcast to over 70 countries all over the world, and the number continues to grow at an exponential rate. While the numbers alone are mind-blowing, industry observers who have been watching the explosive rise of sports media rights say it is merely a sign of things to come.

In a global study titled outlook for the sports market, PWC stated: “Media rights are projected to continue growing at the highest rate among the four segments; a compound annual rate of 9.1 percent, from an estimated $12.5 billion in 2013 to a projected $19.3 billion in 2018.”

In 2014 ONE Championship sold-out events in a number of countries as well as the UAE like: Taiwan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. They are looking to expand even further in 2015 as they are set to host 10 events in China alone. 

ONE Championship CEO Victor Cui stated, “Asia is the fastest growing market for sports media rights and sponsorship in the world and ONE Championship is proud to be at the forefront of the exploding sports market.

“It has been my commitment to work with the best, and only the best, in every aspect of our business and as we continue to reach up to a billion viewers around the world with live MMA content, we are confident on delivering an experience that will keep fans hooked.”

ONE Championship’s next event in on April 24 in Manila, Philippines. The MMA showcase is titled Valor of Champions as the unbeaten Askren prepares to put his title on the line against Luis Santos. What a night in store for the a country that adores combat.  

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