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WEEKEND PREVIEW: The BIG 7

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Nigeria’s Fast Rising Boxer Within Whiskers of a Title Shot

On Friday night, Larry Ekundayo will begin his defence of the IBF European Welterweight title he won against British boxer John Thain at York Hall five months ago.

Ekundayo (15-1-KO3) will defend his crown against the undefeated challenger Louis Greene (9-0-KO5), whom he admits he had never heard of until the fight was announced. Although it’s a strange position to be, Greene is a really good and hungry fighter.

For four weeks leading up to this bout, I have followed Larry’s training sessions closely. He is a 36-year old win the ambitions of a 21-year old; to conquer the world in his weight class.

Larry may have been in England for over a decade, but he wants a world title shot because he says he “desires to bring a world title bout to Nigeria.”

Interestingly, should Ekundayo successfully defend his title, he would be in pole position to do just that.

Since the fall of Bash Ali and Samuel Peter, Nigeria has not had top ranking boxers in the position of world title bouts; as much as Nigerians wish Anthony Joshua well, he is more a British boxer than Nigerian. But Larry has positioned himself kindly for a world title shot, and he is only, night away from making his dream a reality.

Closing weekend of the National Sports Festival

The National Sports Festival has been on for a week now, but by Sunday it will be all over and then we can evaluate and reach a conclusion.

For now, I absolutely love the first eight days of the festival. We have been thrilled, seen raw display of talent, the grit against professionalism and yes, the upsets.

At this festival, a 14-year old, Imaobong Nse won the Women’s 400m event, setting a new festival record of 52.35s in the process, beating her own previous record at the Youth Games 55.73 – she is slightly behind Patience Okon George who’s 51.49s remains the time to beat.

At this festival, we saw Funke Oshonaike and Segun Toriola crash out in the Table Tennis mixed doubles event, that itself is an anomaly.

Cases such as this justify the inclusion of established stars in this event. It gives the newbies something to chase, a record to beat and big-name athletes to defeat. A seemingly insurmountable challenge which could unearth the best version of themselves, and they haven’t disappointed.

Oh, Super Sand Eagles!

What the Supersand Eagles – the National Beach Soccer team of Nigeria – have done is a stuff of magicians. When they return from Egypt, regardless of the outcome, those boys need to be “tested for Alien DNA” like my colleague Austin Okon-Akpan will demand when an athlete pulls off an astronomical feat.

How can you explain or analyze a team that went to a major tournament with no preparation whatsoever, but have found themselves in the final of said tournament? Or what would you ascribe their motivation to; infinite intelligence?

Now that the world cup ticket is secured the Supersand Eagles will aim to get one better over Senegal. The team that defeated Nigeria on opening day – their only loss which came via penalties – and the only team to have defeated Nigeria in the final of Africa Beach Soccer Cup of Nations twice. This time, Abu Azeez and his teammates can end the ugly run but even if they do not, this team is cemented in history.

 Klopp vs Jose or Liverpool vs Man United, which one will prevail

This game is the definition of rivalry; two rival teams managed by two managers who hate to see eye to eye, coming together in one of the most difficult venues in British football: Anfield.

No one embodies the rivalries as much as Sir Alex Ferguson,everything seemed personal to the Old Trafford legend. He hated being dominated, and if he senses a team springing up with the potential to dominate him, he will instantly earmark such team as a rival to destroy. Same scripts rinse and repeat, different manager at the dug-out, same ideology: Jose Mourinho.

It’s about that time when you can tell Jürgen Klopp’s philosophies have been ingrained at Anfield and although Manchester City remains favourite to win the title again this season, it will be unwise to write-off Liverpool – top of the log by the way.

Liverpool will be buoyed by their recent Champions League knockout phase qualification but Manchester United is the most difficult team to beat in this sort of games. Expect a cagey affair and not even an early Liverpool goal will change the rhythm.

The Turin derby

Juventus lose for only the second time this season, this time in an inconsequential game away at Young Boys, and although they may have lost their perfect start to the league, they are still unbeaten.

Juve’s superiority over every opponent in the past seven years is unprecedented and you can only expect it to continue this weekend.  Torino has been relatively successful this season, but there is a reason they are 13 points behind Juve after 15 rounds of games, and haven’t defeated Juve in their last seven meetings an only once in 17, Juve is at a different level.

FIFA Club World Cup

Although the South American and European champions won’t join until mid-way through next week, one can still delight in this format of the FIFA Club World Cup that will no longer exist after 2018; to prepare for the new Global League that FIFA intends to kick-start soon.

How much time will Monaco give Thierry Henry

It is understandable that at some point this season AS Monaco was without 13 first team members which equally coincided with a terrible patch that led to the sack of Leonardo Jardim with the team languishing in 18th place, change was needed.

Sadly the much needed change hasn’t improved the team instead, Monaco is worse off. Thierry Henry took up an impossible job and as the poor run continues, it becomes even more difficult to salvage.

 However, if there is ever a game that can restore their confidence, it will be against Lyon. A topside currently floundering behind Lille and Montpellier on the log, 16 points behind PSG and haven’t won in each of their last four games across all competitions. It’s about time, Henry.

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