Friday, December 31, 2010

Talk of Klitschko-Haye in Las Vegas is silly

Rumors continue to swirl around a possible Wladimir Klitschko fight against David Haye. The fight hasn't come together yet, nor has a site. There's buzz about Golden Boy Promotion wanting to bring Haye to the U.S. Sunday, ABS-CBNNews in the Philippines was reporting that Las Vegas is still a possible destination. 

Talks between Haye and Klitschko's promoters were held this month in Las Vegas and the fight looks likely to be held Stateside.

Yahoo! Sports' lead boxing writer Kevin Iole says the fight makes sense, but holding it anywhere in the U.S. really doesn't.

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Boxing fans get mini-tournaments this weekend on HBO and Showtime

These are the kind of weekends that can bring boxing back. Putting on quality fights and avoiding gaps on the schedule is huge. HBO is going to focus on the 140 pounders while Showtime has the smaller guys down at 118. Four greats fights and no pay-per-view! 

The Showtime bantamweight card (9 p.m. ET/PT) should produce fireworks in Tacoma, Wash., and it features fighters with a combined record of 102-4-3.

Abnes Mares battles Vic Darchinyan while Joseph Agbeko will try to grab Yonny Perez's IBF title. The winners will face off in 2011. 

Darchinyan's promoter almost wishes he could just be a fan for the night.

"Thanks to the fighters. Thanks to Showtime. Actually they should be thanking us for bringing them two great fights and four great fighters," Shaw said. "The television crowd will be rewarded on Saturday. I wish I didn't have any fighters in the ring so I could just watch on my couch and enjoy."

The Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana fight headlines the HBO card (9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT), with the strong possibility the victor will face the winner of the undercard fight, Victor Ortiz versus Lamont Peterson. Loser vs. loser would be great too.

But unlike the Showtime set up, this isn't officially tournament. 

Tim Smith of the N.Y. Daily News says the junior welterweight division could be the future of boxing:

For much of this year everybody in boxing has been transfixed on the two boxers at the top of the sport – Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.  Bubbling underneath the surface has been the action in the 140-pound division – the most competitive and talent-laden in the sport.

With Khan and Maidana fighting on Saturday night and Bradley and Alexander, the two best in the division, fighting a month later, the 140-pound pot is about to reach a boil. And the sport of boxing will be better for it.

Bradley and Alexander square off in Detroit on Jan. 29. Golden Boy Promotion has to be rooting hard for Khan, but he's far from a lock to win the fight. The power-punching Maidana (29-1, 27 KOs) is super confident.

"This is a very important fight for my career," Maidana said through a translator. "But not the hardest."

Khan gives Maidana respect, but thinks people are sleeping on his power.

"Maidana is a big threat in the division and I only want to fight the best," Khan said. "When they put this together, it was said to be a ‘boxer’ vs a ‘fighter’… But I really think that I come into this fight as a puncher. People are taking my power away saying that Maidana is the bigger puncher. We’ll let everyone think that."

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Robbed: Thieves take nearly every trophy Sampras won in career

During his legendary tennis career, Pete Sampras earned dozens of trophies, medals and plaques for his on-court achievements and acquired the treasure trove of memorabilia you'd expect from one of the most famous athletes in America.

Most of it is now gone, stolen from a storage unit in which Sampras had been keeping the objects. The 14-time Grand Slam champion told Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times that he discovered the theft three weeks ago.

The 14 Grand Slam trophies Sampras won  are safe, with the exception of the award from the 1994 Australian Open. The other 13 are at his home or in Portland's NikeTown. Everything else, though -- the 64 trophies from non-majors, rewards from his two Davis Cup wins, an Olympic ring, his six year-end trophies for finishing No. 1 -- was stolen.

Sampras said he doesn't know whether the memorabilia was targeted or whether the thieves wanted to take his furniture (also stored in the units) and ended up with a lot more.

[Related: Another tennis champ's $525,000 watch stolen from locker

The married father of two had the memorabilia at the storage facility in West Los Angeles because his family has moved homes so many times in the past few years. He tells Dwyre that it never occurred to him that his items might not be safe.

Other items stolen included magazine covers, newspaper clippings and autographs from famous admirers like Eddie Vedder, Elton John and Carlos Santana.

[Photo: Stolen car found oddly placed on golf course]

Sampras didn't seem to be as disappointed in the loss of the trophies, but rather in the history lesson they could provide for his two sons, who are ages 5 and 8. He told The Times:

"I'm not one to gloat about trophies, or show them off. I've never been like that. I just want them for my kids to see. They didn't see me play, but I'd like them to see these things. [...]

"For me to have it for my kids is priceless. I just hope it hasn't already been destroyed. That's why I wanted to get the word out now. I know this is a longshot, but I'd regret it if I didn't at least try. Maybe somebody knows something.

"That's all I can hope for."

Just like stealing a Van Gogh, there can't be too much of a legitimate market for stolen tennis trophies. What do the robbers plan to do with this stuff? I'm pretty sure somebody will get suspicious if the 1996 winner's trophy from Kitzbühel, engraved with the name Pete Sampras, pops up on eBay.

[Rewind: Wild stories of stolen World Cup trophies

Police are investigating the thefts.

Other popular stories on Yahoo!:
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Months after beating breast cancer, Navratilova climbs Kilimanjaro

This week, Martina Navratilova will attempt to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the world's tallest free-standing mountain. Should she be make it to the top, it will be only her second-greatest achievement of the year.

The 18-time Grand Slam champion finished radiotherapy treatments in June after she was diagnosed with breast cancer two months earlier. She says she's doing fine and even played exhibition matches at the French Open as she was undergoing treatment. After all that, climbing the tallest peak in Africa should be a breeze.

Navratilova is climbing Kilimanjaro as part of the Laureus Sports for Good Foundation, which helps disadvantaged youth around the world by instituting sports programs in their communities. The peak, at 19,340 feet, should take six or seven days to reach. During that time, the 53-year-old will be writing daily blog posts updating her progress.

"I've been planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro since early this year, even before my breast cancer diagnosis, so it feels really great to finally be underway," Navratilova told reporters before her and her team's departure, according to "I'm feeling well prepared for the challenge, and although I'm sure we'll all be in for a tough few days of climbing, I am determined to reach the summit."

Determined to reach the summit? She's Martina Navratilova; greatest tennis player of all time and recent breast cancer survivor. There's no doubt in my mind this journey will be just as successful as all of her others. 

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Kevin Garnett Could Miss Two Weeks With Strained Calf

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Kevin GarnettBoston's Kevin Garnett could miss two weeks with a strained right calf -- and that's just fine by GM Danny Ainge.

Garnett missed the entire 2009 playoffs with a right knee injury that eventually required surgery, so Ainge was initially concerned after seeing the All-Star forward limp off the court Wednesday in Detroit. But an MRI performed Thursday confirmed the team's postgame prognosis: Garnett suffered a simple muscle injury that's unrelated to his previous ailment.

"It's a muscle injury, a strained calf," said Ainge in a radio interview with Boston's WEEI. "It's actually the softer side of the leg below the knee. It's not anything to do with his knee, which is great news, and it's one of those injuries that he may be out for a couple of weeks at the most. That's my guess. It's always a guess. I'll just say two weeks. I think that's on the conservative side."

Garnett was hurt when he jumped for a dunk with 2:38 left in the first quarter of a 104-92 loss at the Detroit Pistons. The forward, who is averaging 15.4 points and a team-leading 9.8 rebounds, limped down the court before leaving the game.

As Garnett goes on the shelf, Rajon Rondo could return -- although it's unclear if that will be Friday against the New Orleans Hornets or sometime soon after. Rondo has missed the last six games with a sprained ankle.

"Rajon is getting better," Ainge said. "It was a pretty severe sprain. Rajon is in a situation where he could play, but he's in pain still. He has pain on both sides of the ankle and we just don't want to get him back on to the court until he can play hard."


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Flory reflects on the Als' evolution, Giffin looks to the future

For Montreal guard Scott Flory, it may be yet another Grey Cup, but that doesn't mean he isn't excited. Flory's been with the team since 1999 and is entering his eighth Grey Cup week, but he said at the Alouettes' media lunch Thursday that he still has the passion he had in his first Grey Cup week in 2000.

"I'm approaching this one with the same seriousness and same intent to win as I did with the first one in my second season in 2000," Flory said. "It's a personal drive. It's part of a standard of excellence within this organization that's something that's really been ingrained from the top down."

Flory said Montreal's been so successful over the years because of a philosophy that values continuity and stability.

"We have a core of guys, we fill in the pieces around them and try to create something special in our locker room, and we've done that," he said.

That philosophy of continuity has remained over time, but the Alouettes' identity has changed. As I wrote Wednesday, this is no longer the party-crazy 2002 team Arash Madani profiled brilliantly this week. Flory agrees with that.

"That team, back in '02, we were all a bunch of mid-20s kids, all kind of from the same place," he said. "This team, we've got a lot more married guys, family guys. Each team takes on its own dynamic. It's definitely a different vibe and that doesn't make it any better or any worse."

The Alouettes have won two of their eight Grey Cup appearances this decade, the 2002 one under head coach Don Matthews and last year's victory under current head coach Marc Trestman. Flory said Trestman has played a significant role in this team's evolution.

"Marc has really brought such a different dynamic than Don Matthews," Flory said. "He brings a real serious approach to our locker room, but it's not without fun. He is as detailed as a guy there is. He cares, he's got passion, he's such a smart man and real personable. What he's done with our team in the last three years since he's arrived, how he's got guys to buy in and really have success has been remarkable. He's a great coach."

Flory said that doesn't necessarily make this team better than previous ones, though.

"I can't compare teams," he said. "That's something maybe for when I'm done, but I'm not going to compare because each team is so unique and so different. Each year has such a different vibe. Every year I've been in this league, it keeps getting better. We just keep forging on and keep trying to have some success."

Flory may be 34 and a 12-year CFL veteran, but he isn't contemplating retiring yet.

"I have no intentions of retiring. I love football and I care about this league too much. I'm having too much fun doing it. I'm still young."

Facing the Riders is déjà vu for Flory in more ways than just a reprise of last year's Grey Cup. He was born in Regina and played CIS football for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. However, his thoughts are more on his current team these days.

"I'm proud of this team for being here," he said. "We have an opportunity on Sunday to do something special."

The other notable story from the lunch came from Alouettes' fullback and special teams player extraordinaire Mike Giffin (pictured, left, with former Laval quarterback Benoit Groulx and former Bishop's/current B.C. Lions running back Jamall Lee). After a tremendous CIS career at Queen's (where I covered him back in my Queen's Journal days), Giffin went to Montreal last year and initially struggled to find playing time. He also battled injuries and was hurt most of Grey Cup Week last year, but managed to play in the game and hurt himself again.

This year, Giffin has bounced back and become one of the league's top cover men on special teams, finishing second in the league with 22 tackles (oddly enough, the man he's behind, Toronto's Bryan Crawford, is also a former Queen's running back). He may be taking on another Queen's grad Sunday on special teams, as this year's top draft pick Shomari Williams has shone all year for Saskatchewan. Giffin had some interesting thoughts on his comeback, among other things:

"I feel great this year," he said. "Everything's coming together well. I feel a lot more comfortable out there on special teams, I feel like I've done a great job so far, and I hope it continues in the playoffs."

Giffin still follows his former team at Queen's. The reigning Vanier Cup champion Golden Gaels went 3-5 this season and fell to McMaster in the first round of the OUA playoffs. Giffin said that was disappointing to see, but somewhat expected considering their rebuild.

"They lost a lot of starting players, and especially to lose their quarterback in [Danny] Brannagan, it must have been a rough year," he said. "I'm sure they'll bounce back in years to come."

Brannagan, Giffin's former backfield mate at Queen's, wound up with Toronto this year and actually got into their final game against Montreal, making him the first Canadian quarterback to take a snap for the Argonauts since Frank Cosentino did it in 1969. Giffin said it was terrific to see Brannagan doing well, even on the other team.

"It was great, actually," he said. "It was nice to see a Canadian out there at quarterback. I'm sure everyone's been talking about it. He actually got his first couple of reps against us so it was awesome to see him out there on the sidelines."

Giffin's excited about the recent announcement that the Vanier Cup will be held in conjunction with the Grey Cup next year, a development he thinks will bode well for the CIS game.

"All the Grey Cup fans are in town, so I'm sure they'll have a great reason to go to the game," he said. "It's going to be great."

Giffin's optimistic about the state of Canadian talent in the league at the moment, and he thinks it's only going to get better. He thinks Montreal and Saskatchewan's success using Canadians in key roles will cause other teams to follow suit.

"That's the blueprint," he said. "That's what you've got to do to build a successful team in this league."

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ESPNEWS Anchor Will Selva Plucks Column for Lead to Highlights

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In his lead-in to narration of the highlights to Tuesday's San Antonio-Los Angeles game, ESPNEWS anchor Will Selva advised Lakers fans not to worry about the team's loss to Miami in the much ballyhooed Christmas Day meeting with Miami. Instead, they'd be better served, Selva said, being concerned with the Spurs.

It was an interesting thought. Too bad someone else had already expressed it.

Nearly word for word, Selva used the lead of a column written by Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register to advance the game. Think not? Here are the first three sentences of Ding's piece:
Christmas isn't over yet, Lakers fans. The big game, it turns out, will be the game after the supposed Game of the Year. In San Antonio on Tuesday night, the Lakers will be out to give themselves and their fans the much-needed gift of hope.
Here's a transcript of Selva's lead to the highlights:
Christmas isn't over yet, Lakers fans. The big game, it turns out, is the game after the supposed Game of the Year. In San Antonio on Tuesday night, the Lakers were out to give themselves and their fans the much needed gift of hope.

Save for a couple of verb tenses, Selva's lead sounds identical to what Ding wrote. And Ding thought so, too. In a blog post, Ding noted the sensation of returning to his hotel room after the game and hearing what he had written coming through the TV, without receiving credit for having written it.

"Honestly, it wasn't my best lead, come to think of it. Sorry about that, Will. Unbelievable," wrote Ding.

We're awaiting comment from ESPN .

Oddly enough, the half-hour ended with a segment called, "No, He Didn't."

We couldn't make that up.


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Tentative All-Star Game voting results are here

The second round of NBA All-Star Game voting is in, and you probably won't be surprised at who the fans have voted to start for this February's midseason classic:

Out East, the fans would like to see Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo at the guards, with LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard up front. Pretty fearsome, and despite Rondo and KG's recent injury woes, pretty accurate.

Out West is a bit flightier. Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul would start in a backcourt for the ages, but Yao Ming is slated to start at center, with Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant up front.

Two out of the last three are a big miss, which is why we're glad voting doesn't end until late January.

We'll get into our picks for the team when, say, nearly a half-season has been put together, but Yao (who is out for the year, and played just a week's worth of hoops to start it) is clearly the wrong choice. Kevin Durant deserves an All-Star nod, as he continues to score like a mad man, but he struggled overall to start the year. Carmelo Anthony certainly hasn't been playing better basketball than Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol (who we'd love to see listed as a center, NBA, if you could be a bit more flexible), Blake Griffin, or Kevin Love.

There's still time to remedy that, of course. And still time to get the word out about the reserves in order to sway the usually way-way wrong assistant coaches that vote to fill out the All-Star benches. Because players like Love and Griffin should not be penalized for having to share court time with Wayne Ellington or Rasual Butler.

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No La U? Marc Trestman passed up in Miami

After intense rumours last night that the University of Miami Hurricanes would hire Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman (pictured, right, with the 2009 Grey Cup) as their new coach, it appears they've gone in another direction. ESPN's Bruce Feldman is reporting that the Hurricanes have instead decided to offer the job to Temple head coach Al Golden, another name who had been mentioned prominently over the last few days. Tyler Bieber adds that it isn't official yet and Golden hasn't apparently accepted the deal yet, but it's hard to see him passing up this chance.

That's surely going to please a lot of the fans of "The U" who had been complaining about the Trestman rumours. Trestman's resume's very impressive, including his time as an NFL offensive coordinator where he turned Rich Gannon into a Pro Bowl quarterback and led the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl appearance and his three Grey Cup appearances and two victories in his three years as a CFL head coach. People don't pay a ton of attention to the CFL south of the border, though, which is why we've seen posts including phrases like "Who the heck is Marc Trestman?" If anything, Trestman being passed over in first Minnesota and then Miami for coaches with arguably less stellar resumes reinforces just how poor the perception of the CFL is in the U.S.

Of course, Trestman was never a lock to succeed in the NCAA. Despite his terrific variety of experience, he hasn't spent a ton of time at the American college level, and there are significant differences between it and the NFL and CFL games. For one thing, the NCAA is becoming more and more a cult of personality these days. In a sport without a draft or trades, where your player talent pool is entirely based on who you're able to recruit, Trestman's somewhat bookish and analytical personality would have been a bit of an outlier at least. That doesn't mean it wouldn't have worked, as Miami still has a tremendous local recruiting area and a solid national profile from their glory days, and Trestman could have brought in more flamboyant assistants to aid the recruiting cause, but it does explain some of the doubts some had about him.

Moreover, Miami perhaps depends more on perception than many other schools, and much of their image over the years has been about swagger. Trestman's Alouettes have displayed some of that, but nowhere near as much as the team had in the Don Matthews days. Trestman is more reminiscent of Randy Shannon, the efficient and effective coach Miami just fired, than he is of the outlandish bravado of a Jimmy Johnson or a Howard Schnellenberger. Despite his connections to the school (he worked as a graduate assistant there in the 1980s) and the area (he's a member of the Florida bar), the Trestman to Miami rumours always seemed a bit off in terms of fit from the time Herb Zurkowsky first floated them

Like the way he wasn't chosen in Minnesota, this certainly increases the likelihood Trestman will return to the CFL this coming year. It doesn't make it a lock, however. He's now been prominently targeted as a candidate in two high-profile NCAA searches, and his name is all over the college football radar at the moment. There are other, smaller schools out there with existing vacancies that might make him an offer, and there may even be some other big vacancies that open up between now and next season. There also are plenty of NFL jobs that either are open or may become available, and that might make even more sense; Trestman has more NFL experience, and he might be a better fit in a league where he doesn't have to recruit players, one that's more about knowledge and schemes than flamboyant personalities.

Trestman really doesn't have a lot to gain by spending more time in the CFL; even if he goes and wins the Grey Cup again next year, American teams don't seem too likely to put much more credence in that than his current CFL record. It's certainly far from out of the question that he's back on the Montreal sidelines this coming year, but it definitely isn't a lock either. Keep in mind that NFL and NCAA salaries are considerably higher in general: Trestman's current salary is generally believed to be between $300-400 thousand, while Minnesota was apparently offering upwards of $1 million and Miami was offering close to $2 million. Even a small school could probably double his current paycheque, and it would also offer him an increased profile in the U.S., a chance to be closer to his family in North Carolina and a chance to move up to an even better job if he did well. Trestman definitely isn't gone yet, but even the Miami job falling apart doesn't necessarily mean he's patrolling the CFL sidelines this coming season.

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East vs. West, Riders' bias and the state of the league

One of the key issues raised this morning at the state of the league address given by CFL commissioner Mark Cohon (pictured, right) this morning was complaints made by several Alouettes players about favouritism, which made headlines from Edmonton to Toronto to Montreal [French].

Here's what Boulay had to say:

"It seems like a slap in the face to me, I'd be crazy to think otherwise. It's obvious that they've put Saskatchewan in the five-star hotel where they have a nice fitness room. ... They have proper meeting rooms. They put us in a little hotel with inadequate meeting rooms. There is no pool, no whirlpool, no way to have ice baths."

And Proulx:

"It seems like the league wants to create problems by imposing all sorts of somewhat bizarre things (on us). It's clear they want Saskatchewan to win the (Grey Cup) game. ... I'm making a shocking statement, but I don't care because I've seen this going on since I've been in the CFL. ... It's even worse this year than last year. Once again, we are in the inferior hotel, there is no workout room in our hotel; we don't have an ice bath or a pool. We have the small visiting dressing room and we're not allowed to use the weight room (at Commonwealth)."

The complaints, originally made on Montreal's CKAC and quickly gaining notoriety as "Hotelgate" (credit to Bruce Arthur), were a hot topic at Cohon's press conference and were raised in the very first question, from a Radio-Canada reporter:

"Alouettes players have been critical of the facilities they've been using so far this week," he said. "How do you explain the fact that the league gave the Grey Cup to a city where the facilities might not be where some players would like them to be?"

Cohon said he wouldn't respond to that, but talked about the Alouettes' organization instead.

"I heard some of those comments from players that I'm not going to dignify with a response, but there are a couple of things I'd like to step back and talk about that are important," he said. "The Als are a class act. If you look at our franchises across this country, and the success our franchises have had the Als are at the top; selling out every game, rebuilding football in Quebec from 3,000 kids playing to 40,000 kids playing. I don't think in any way this will affect their performance on the field because they are such a class organization."

He said he doesn't think the situation's going to be a big deal.

"It really comes down to availability and what's available at the time," Cohon said. "It's unfortunate, but as I said, in talking to Coach Trestman about this yesterday, we had a very good conversation about this, and in no way will it impact the Als in terms of their performance on Sunday."

Cohon also took umbrage at the suggestion that Edmonton's facilities were inferior or that the league was somehow biased against the Alouettes.

"Regarding Edmonton, Edmonton is a city like no other that's putting on an amazing festival," he said. When we go and book our hotels, we go and book the best possible hotels. Just so you know for your own information, when we're in the West, the West is always the home team and when we're in the East, the East finalist is always the home team. We look for the best hotels. If the Tiger-Cats were in or the Argonauts were in, that would be the hotel they'd stay in."

Proulx and Boulay's comments focused on conditions at their hotel, the Chateau Lacombe, where the media lunch was held yesterday. The Riders are staying at the Sutton Place Hotel, which has hosted most of the league events, including this morning's state of the league address. There was no easily perceptible difference between the two hotels from my time at each, but the Alouettes' concerns apparently centre around pool/gym access. According to, the Chateau Lacombe (which has a 7.4 rating overall and a 69 per cent recommend rating) does have fitness facilities, but how extensive they are isn't specified. By contrast, the Sutton Place has an 8.0 rating and a 89 per cent recommend rating. It mentions a sauna and spa tub, plus discounted access to a nearby fitness centre (which the Riders are apparently using), so there might be something to the Als' complaint that Saskatchewan has a nicer hotel.

Similarly, they do have a point on the locker rooms. The Riders are using the Eskimos' room, which was newly renovated earlier this year (and featured by the league this summer). It includes massive hot and cold tubs, more equipment storage and more room overall; it's reasonable to expect the visitors' locker rooms the Alouettes are using aren't as nice.

However, concluding that this shows league bias in favour of Saskatchewan is just wrong. For one thing, locker rooms are assigned based on which conference is hosting the Grey Cup. The 2007 and 2008 editions saw Toronto and Montreal host the game, so Winnipeg and the Alouettes got the home locker rooms. The 2009 and 2010 editions were in Calgary and Edmonton, so Saskatchewan received the home locker room both times. That's not bias, that's established precedent. The hotel situation is more questionable, but I find it hard to believe that's out of intent on the league's part. Perhaps there wasn't anything with more fitness facilities available, or perhaps the league just didn't investigate the setup thoroughly. Either scenario seems far more likely than the CFL setting out to sabotage one of its teams.

It's understandable why there might be a perception of bias in favour of the Riders, though. After all, they continually drive TV ratings and merchandise sales, and Saskatchewan fans were honoured with the Commissioner's Award Thursday night. That subject also came up at the press conference today, with one journalist asking "What does giving a trophy to Riders fans say to the other fans around the league?"

"When you look at our fans, we have the greatest fans in this country," Cohon responded. "Rider Nation, they're celebrating 100 years, but when you look at their fan base, 10 of the 18 games with over a million viewers were games the Saskatchewan Roughriders were in. When you look at visiting teams filling up stadiums, they fill our stadiums. They're about half of our licensing business, so they ooze pride, and that pride actually helps the entire league. In no way are we saying that they're better than other fans. I love walking out there and spending time with Lions' fans and Als' fans. It's recognizing people who have had a profound impact on our game and celebrating that."

Another journalist asked "How beneficial is it to the league's bottom line to have the Riders in the Grey Cup?" Cohon's response focused on the merchandising and TV ratings aspects, saying "When the Riders are in, the numbers are big." It's not hard to see how another team could look at that and conclude bias. However, it's important to remember that the league doesn't have any reason to favour a team in this game; both fanbases will tune in regardless. If anything, you could make a case that the league would have an interest in who gets to the Grey Cup, not who wins it, and it would be incredibly dangerous for them to take any action on that front. Competitive integrity is crucial to sports, and once the questions start being raised, it's tough to get away from them; take a look at the issues the NBA is still dealing with.

Cohon also was asked about Canadian content in the league and the questions he faced around that at last year's state of the league address, with a potential decrease in Canadian players perhaps considered in this year's new collective bargaining agreement. That didn't happen, and Cohon said he's proud of his record on Canadian talent.

"You have to trust us that we understand how important Canadians are," he said. "We proved that with our collective bargaining agreement, we have a Canadian quarterback in the league right now, we've done some changes to bring Canadian quarterbacks to E-camp, to bring Canadian quarterbacks to training camp without taking up a roster spot and to bring CIS quarterbacks to training camp as well, so we're proud of what we've done to focus on the Canadian content."

I asked about the appearance Canadian quarterback Danny Brannagan (pictured, right) made for Toronto this year, what that meant for the league and the Canadian quarterback movement and if the league would ever consider changing their rule that doesn't consider quarterbacks' nationality (unlike every other position on the field). Cohon's response wasn't definitive, but it did provide some hope for those of us who would like to see more Canadian signal-callers under centre in the CFL.
"Sitting here as commissioner, I love that Danny is in our league," he said. "I love that he got to play some time against the Als towards the end of this season. Do you know how many e-mails I got from fans that were excited? People saying ‘My kid is watching'? I think what we've done is we've made some steps. We brought him out to E-Camp, Jim Barker saw him and said "I'll give him a chance." We're making those steps, and I think in the offseason and in the coming years we're going to focus those discussions with our general managers and with our owners. There is potential, and I'd love to see more Canadian quarterbacks."

Another issue Cohon was asked about by CBC's Malcolm Kelly was why Atlantic Canada is perennially mentioned in expansion rumours while Quebec City isn't. He delivered a bit of a curious response, citing Laval's role in the market.

"One, I think it's the stadium there," Cohon said. "Number two, with the Rouge et Or there, they already have their football there."

He also said that the Alouettes have territorial rights to the entire province, something that surprised many observers.

"Their territorial rights are all of Quebec," Cohon said.

He said he's spoken with Laval officials in the past, but they didn't show much interest in the CFL.

"In 2007, I did have a discussion with officials from the university on expansion money for their stadium, and it was focused on the university, it wasn't focused on building a [CFL] stadium," Cohon said.

Cohon also said the Alouettes might be open to the possibility of a Quebec City team, but it would involve substantial negotiations.

"That would be a negotiation we would have to have," he said. "We haven't had those kind of discussions yet with them, but if we ever did go there, it would have to be a negotiation, because those are part of those rights.

For now, he's focusing on the possibility of Atlantic expansion.

"How do we unite this country and this league coast to coast?" Cohon asked. "One of the potentials is certainly a team in Atlantic Canada."

Speaking of uniting the league coast-to-coast, Cohon said that every CFL market should be able to host a Grey Cup in the near future; Winnipeg and Hamilton after getting new stadiums, while the rest could play host at any time. In particular, he said another Grey Cup in Saskatchewan doesn't rely on having a new facility there.

"Every market will have a Grey Cup," he said. "Going back to Regina is not predicated on a new stadium."

Speaking of stadium issues, Winnipeg's appear to be heading towards resolution. Cohon backed up comments he made to me at breakfast Thursday when asked about the Winnipeg situation by Gary Lawless of The Winnipeg Free Press.

"I don't want to steal any thunder from any announcement the premier will make in short order following the Grey Cup, but I'm confident things are moving forward and I'm confident that stadium project is moving forward," Cohon said. "The specifics of that, in terms of the economic model, what it means for the team, what it means for the community teams involved, are to come."

TSN's Dave Naylor asked about the possibility of bringing in American officals, which Cohon shot down, citing the difficulties in adapting to the Canadian game for officials unfamiliar with it.

"I think you really have to come up in our game," he said. "I'm proud of the work our guys do."

Cohon also weighed in on the NFL Network deal the league signed this year. He said it's drawing decent ratings that the NFL is happy with, but it's also providing prospective American players more glimpses of the CFL and allowing families of current players to watch.

"It's a great recruitment tool for us," Cohon said.

The deal was only for this season, but Cohon expects to have talks with the NFL about renewing it.

"We'll have those discussions, probably in the new year."

He also spoke about the importance of the Grey Cup, citing the 43 per cent of Canadians who watched last year and the $100 million in economic activity it usually provides to host cities.

"This is mission critical to our league," he said.

Cohon said he's focused on bringing young people to the game through the web, social media and other initiatives. He recognizes that football isn't an exclusive market any more, especially among young people.

"75 per cent of our fans are also NFL fans," he said.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing, though, as it allows the league to pick up some younger fans who might have only followed the NFL previously.

"Young people are coming to our game," Cohon said. "There are a lot of things we're doing on the social media side to draw a new generation."

Overall, Cohon's quite happy with where the league is at.

"We're resolutely proud of where we've come," he said. "We're looking forward to the future because the future is bright."

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Carlos Moya, first Spaniard to reach No. 1, retires

For a time, Rafael Nadal was only the second most famous tennis player from the small Spanish island of Mallorca.

Carlos Moya, born nine years before Nadal, was the first; winning the French Open in 1998 and later becoming the first Spaniard ever to reach No. 1 in the ATP rankings. Though he never challenged for another major after defeating Alex Corretja 12 years ago in Paris, Moya grinded for the next decade, his ranking oscillating between the top 10 and top 40 throughout the 2000s. He finally dropped out of the top 100 last August.

A nagging foot injury was to blame, and it was that ailment which forced the 34-year-old into retirement this week. When he lost 6-0, 6-2 on the clay of Madrid in May, Moya said he knew his career was over. He wanted to go out in a Slam, but opted instead to play one more tournament in his home country before calling it quits.

Moya's powerful groundstrokes helped propel him to the top of the tennis world in the late-'90s as part of the first wave of Spaniards who set the stage for the dominant clay courters of today like Nadal, Fernando Verdasco and David Ferrer. Though Moya was only No. 1 for two weeks in 1999 (the second-shortest stint in rankings history), he was a constant threat, especially on clay. His 16 titles on the surface are tied for 10th most all-time.

Early in Nadal's career, Moya played a sort of big brother role to the future king of Mallorca. While Nadal was known just as much early on for his sleeveless shirts and capri pants than he was for his tennis prowess, it was a style he took from Moya, who first introduced the look to tennis.

The pair were asked a lot about their relationship, with Moya always downplaying his role in Nadal's development. "I don't think he learned anything from me," Moya said of Nadal in 2007. "And if he learned it, he did much better than me."

Be that as it may, Carlos Moya did it first. 

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jose gives himself 11 out of 10 for 2010, expects thanks from Rafa

With the year coming to end just so we can do it all over yet again, but a little bit older and a little bit closer to inevitable death, now is a time when people look back on the last 12 months and evaluate just how disappointing it was.

Unless you're Jose Mourinho, of course, in which case it's just another opportunity to publicly announce how awesome you are.

Said Mourinho to prior to his side's 10-man victory over Sevilla on Sunday: 

"This has been the best year in my career. I would give myself an 11 out of 10. I won every championship I played in last season and we currently have lost none of our chances to win titles at Real Madrid. The league is very open still. We've qualified for the Last 16 both in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. We also were the best side in the Champions League group stage. This season has been perfect for us so far."

Well, that 5-0 loss to Barcelona might have made it a smidge less than perfect, but he still has a point. Winning the treble with Inter and then preventing the galactic weight of Real Madrid from imploding in on itself within his first half year on the job would qualify as the best year in most anyone's career.

Speaking of Jose's old club, he's standing by his statements at the start of the season and still maintaining that the team belongs to him, as do the trophies Rafa Benitez wins with the club.

From Soccernet:

"I am very happy and feel very proud for Inter Milan's success in the FIFA Club World Cup. It was a great pleasure to train them, just as it is to coach Real Madrid. I thought Rafa Benitez would thank me for practically winning the title for him, but... Inter Milan fans would tell you how they really feel about it."

How do Inter fans really feel about it? Well, they feel orgasmou. Naturally. 

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Federer picks up Nadal from airport; rivals hang out in Zurich

In the greatest tennis carpool ever, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal drove together to an exhibition match in Zurich. Federer picked up the world's top-ranked player at the airport and took a jaunt through downtown before heading to the stadium.

Nadal arrived in Switzerland on Tuesday morning for the first of two exhibition matches this week with Federer, his long-time rival. He was met on the airport runway by the all-time winningest Grand Slam champion and then hopped in Fed's red Mercedes SLS AMG with gullwing doors (retail price: around $200,000).

[Rewind: Nadal's $500,000 watch stolen from locker

The world's top-ranked players are competing in an exhibition on Tuesday afternoon in Zurich and then will fly to Madrid for another exhibition in Nadal's native Spain on Wednesday. Both matches will be broadcast by ESPN2 (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET; Wednesday, 1 p.m. ET). Proceeds from the exhibitions will go the players' respective charities.

These sorts of matches are great for the sport and it should be an enjoyable event to watch. Some will try to take meaning from the results, but those will be just as important as the final score of a preseason football game. It's meaningless, frivolous fun. Expect two three-setters (gotta give the fans their money's worth) and for each man to win the match in his homeland.

[Related: Tennis great predicts Nadal will top Federer

But forget all that. I'm more interested in this Federer airport pickup. It's like Nadal is his Keith Hernandez. What do you think these two talked about while driving down the streets of Zurich? (Closes eyes and imagines the conversation, as twinkly music plays in the background.)


Nadal: "Did you watch the Davis Cup."

Federer: "Not really, no."

Nadal: "Me neither."

(more silence)

Federer: "So, uh, how's Spain."

Nadal: "Good, good."

(longer silence)

Nadal: "How are the twins?"

Federer: "They're good. They're good. Getting to that really, really cute age."

(even longer silence)

Federer: "Man, that Sampras is an idiot."

Nadal: (loudly) "I know, right!"

(give high-fives)

[Rewind: Federer's mystery comment censored

More pictures after the jump. (All from Federer's Facebook page.)

They look remarkably similar there, no? Maybe it's the gray and the fact that their hair is the same color and parted the same, but this could totally be a Christmas Card picture for some G5-owning family.

[Related: Nadal's family congratulates Federer

"I painted a picture of a butterfly! I tuned the piano!"

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NFL Draft Order 2011: Projecting What Final Order Will Look Like On Jan. 2

2011 NFL Draft Order is a surefire candidate to take over as one of the top items of interest in this, the final week of the league's regular season. 

Here is a projected breakdown of what the final 2011 NFL Draft Order will look like after this weekend's games: 

1.) Carolina Panthers: Jimmy Clausen has to wonder if his time as the Panthers' starting quarterback is up with Andrew Luck projected as the first pick. 

2.) Denver Broncos: With a quarterback possibly off their to-do list, the Broncos could look to give Tim Tebow a supporting cast member or beef up their shaky defense. 

3.) Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals could add Georgia's A.J. Green to rookie standout Jordan Shipley for a powerful young duo. 

4.) Buffalo Bills: After a solid year from Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson emerging as the No. 1 running back, the Bills can build around them to compete in the AFC East. 

5.) Arizona Cardinals: A quarterback is a must for the Cardinals. Look for either Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker to go here. 

6.) San Francisco 49ers: Another team in desperate need of a quarterback. Cam Newton or the leftover signal caller is a prime candidate to be selected here. 

7.) Dallas Cowboys: With Tony Romo returning from injury and a talented offense, look for the Cowboys to sure up a defensive hole. 

8.) Houston Texans: The need for Houston is on the defensive side of the ball. 

9.) Detroit Lions: Let jokes about drafting another wide out presume. Expect the much-improved Lions to think defensively here, though. 

10.) Cleveland Browns: With Colt McCoy locked in as the potential starting QB for years to come, the Browns are bound to find a wide receiver to build upon. 

11.) Seattle Seahawks: After a whirlwind season, the Seahawks could find the replacement for Matt Hasselbeck. 

12.) Tennessee Titans: The needs are plenty for the Titans. Could they be in search of a quarterback too? 

13.) Washington Redskins: Rex Grossman could be the man to take over. Will Clinton Portis return? If not, expect a running back to be taken here. 

14.) Minnesota Vikings: Joe Webb's recent strong play could have the Vikings reconsidering how to handle this first-round selection. 

15.) New England Patriots (From Oakland): The Patriots were sure hoping the Raiders wouldn't have contended so well this year. Still, an immediate impact pass-rusher could be found at No. 15. 

16.) Miami Dolphins: Another team with a need at quarterback is the Dolphins. But who will be left? 

17.) Jacksonville Jaguars: One can only guess how the Jaguars will select here.

18.) San Diego Chargers: A move to sure up the running back position could be made for the under-achieving Chargers. 

19.) New York Giants: A late-season slide has the Giants in the unenviable position of potentially missing the playoffs and getting a late first-rounder. 

20.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs competed well in arguably the NFC's toughest conference. A move to jump to the next level is necessary. 

21.) St. Louis Rams: It's settled. The Rams will build around the poised Sam Bradford. 

22.) Indianapolis Colts: Expect the Colts to take measures to avoid this year's injury-riddled issues of inconsistency. 

23.) Green Bay Packers: The returns of Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant could allow the Packers to add to their defense.

24.) Kansas City Chiefs: The playoff-bound Chiefs could bolster an already-efficient offense with another wide receiver to play opposite Dwayne Bowe. 

25.) Philadelphia Eagles: The best draft pick the Eagles can make is to sign Michael Vick. Adding a bit of protection for him should be the next top assignment. 

26.) New York Jets: A solid defense can be made better with an athletic addition to bolster the secondary. 

27.) New Orleans Saints: Could the Saints make a move to replace the inconsistent Reggie Bush? 

28.) Chicago Bears: With Jay Cutler supplanted as the man in the Windy City, a bit more offensive line protection would do the Bears well. 

29.) Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens defense is tough, but getting older by the day. This first-round selection could serve to add a bit of youth. 

30.) Pittsburgh Steelers: Offensive line protection has been the issue in their losses this year. 

31.) Atlanta Falcons: A bit more offensive line protection would only help the Atlanta Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan. 

32.) New England Patriots: Another addition to a developing and young defense is a must for the Patriots.

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Video: Top eight men's players talk about fears, kisses and actors

Sky Sports caught up with the eight competitors at the ATP World Tour Finals and asked some in-depth, probing questions about fears, future casting decisions and first kisses. Each of the eight players quickly shows their true personalities (which isn't necessarily a good thing, BERDYCH) so it's a fun way to spend a few minutes:


• "Really? OK, spiders."

• Federer definitely remembers the name of the first girl he kissed. He either doesn't want Mirka to know or it's Mirka and he doesn't want us to know.

• Also, it's no surprise that David Ferrer remembers so quickly.

• "Toothbrush." /falls asleep

• Good to see they wedged in a clip of Tomas Berdych. Just imagine how boring his other answers were.

• "John."

Racquet clap to Forty Deuce

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Margarito's appeal may help Pacquiao outdraw his first Cowboys Stadium visit

Dallas-area fans have had plenty to be passionate about in the sports world. The Texas Rangers made an amazing playoff run to the World Series. Cowboys Stadium has been a host to several huge college football games and, of course, there's the NFL team that plays there too. OK, that hasn't gone so well, but it has produced passion because of the Dallas Cowboys' 1-7 start. Now the area gets another event to get hyped about and decide whether it wants to plunk down the money to see hero Manny Pacquiao against villain Antonio Margarito.

There's no lack of confidence in the camp of Top Rank Promotions.

"Boxing is a world sport, and this is played to a world stage," said Todd du Boef, president of Top Rank. "The Rangers and Cowboys are localized products. The Super Bowl is a global product, and that's what championship fights bring. It brings global products."

Bob Arum is banking on the Mexican fanbase, especially when it comes to the walk up ticket buyers Friday and Saturday.

"They say when they do Mexican soccer games, the walk-up is more than the advance sales," Arum said. "If you have an event that appeals to Mexicans, they tend to be the last-minute buyers."

At minus-450, Las Vegas may not believe Margarito has much of a shot but that's not what casual fans think of the "Tijuana Tornado." And those are the people who can push this crowd to the 60,000 level. Top Rank has been wise in dropping the cost of many of the high- and medium-priced tickets and there's still plenty of cheapies at just $59.

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DT Exclusive: Robinho talking Kaka out of joining Man City

Robinho is claiming that he talked Kaka out of joining him at Manchester City two years ago, saying, "I told him what it was like to live in Manchester; that it is cold, it always rains and offers little." The following is a transcript of how we imagine that conversation went. 

Kaka: Hello?

Robinho: Manchester will eat your babies and give you leprosy! Don't come here!

Kaka: Who is this? Robinho? Why are you calling me at 3 a.m.?

Robinho: I had to warn you before it's too late! Manchester is cold, it always rains and it offers little!

Kaka: Well, it gets cold and rains in Milan, too. I can deal with that.  

Robinho: But does it rain knives in Milan?

Kaka: Of course not. Does it rain knives in Manchester?

Robinho: It might!

Kaka: I, uh, I don't think it does. I'm sorry, friend, but I am very tired. Can we talk about this tomorrow?

Robinho: No! You must know how little Manchester offers!

Kaka: What do you mean?

Robinho: The entire time I've been here, I've only found one decent Rod Stewart impersonator!

Kaka: So what's the problem?

Robinho: Only one!

Kaka: How many do you need?

Robinho: At least nine.

Kaka: OK, I think -- I think we should talk about this later. 

Robinho: Wait! I didn't tell you the worst part yet!

Kaka: What's the worst part?

Robinho: Sir Alex Ferguson roams the streets of the city late at night, hunting for souls to feed on so he can remain strong and powerful. Every night you hear the screams, but everyone ignores them, hoping that Ferguson finally gets his fill, praying that they won't be next. It's called "Fergie Time."

Kaka: Oh my! That's horrible!

Robinho: It is. I heard that he also sometimes has pizzas delivered to random people's houses so they have to pay for them even though they didn't order them.

Kaka: This place sound terrible! Thank you for the warning, my friend. But I, uh, I was never seriously considering going there, anyway. 

Robinho: You weren't?

Kaka: Haha no.

Robinho: I hate you.

[Robinho hangs up]

Photo: Reuters

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Vikings look at CFL players Fantuz, Hunt, Green and Bolden

As I mentioned in yesterday's Secondhand Eight, it's been well-known that the CFL's leading receiver this past season and Most Outstanding Canadian Andy Fantuz was going to have some opportunities to try and catch on with NFL teams. He worked out with the Pittsburgh Steelers Tuesday and the Minnesota Vikings today.

What comes as more of a surprise, though, is that Fantuz is far from the only CFL player the Vikings brought in. According to Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, the team also worked out Winnipeg defensive end Philip Hunt (pictured above chasing down Calgary quarterback Henry Burris in a July 31 game), Hamilton defensive tackle Demonte' Bolden and Montreal wide receiver S.J. Green.

Zulgad adds that the team can't bring any of them in immediately thanks to the terms of the NFL-CFL agreement, but the Vikings do have a long history of looking at the CFL. They famously hired Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Bud Grant in 1967; Grant remains the winningest coach in franchise history and led the team to four Super Bowl appearances. Grant also acquired quarterback Joe Kapp from the B.C. Lions for Jim Young in one of the most famous NFL-CFL transactions; Kapp went on to star in the NFL for a few years before winding up in some notable contract disputes and court cases, including one where he won an anti-trust case that forced the NFL to amend its contract policies. He also went on to an acting career and was the head coach at Cal before returning to B.C. as the Lions' general manager. More recently, the Vikings brought in Edmonton linebacker Kenny Onatolu, who remains a key contributor for them on special teams.

The player who might have the most chance of catching on with the Vikings or another NFL team is Hunt. In an interview I did with Shutdown Corner's Doug Farrar back in September, I listed Hunt as one of the league's top five players and mentioned him as one of the five players most likely to jump to the NFL. A few months later, both of those statements look pretty good. Hunt is a tremendously athletic defensive end who led the league with 16 sacks this year; his closest competitor, Montreal's John Bowman, had 12. He was also solid against the run, recording 53 tackles over the course of the season. What's crucial is that Hunt has the combination of both stats and measurables; he's 6'1 and 250, which would be very small for an NFL defensive end, but he's got the combined speed and size to perhaps play linebacker, especially as a pass-rushing specialist.

The biggest factor in Hunt's favour might be the success Cameron Wake has found with the Miami Dolphins. After demonstrating enough promise last year for the Dolphins to go retain him over a pair of bigger names in Jason Taylor and Joey Porter, Wake has turned into one of the league's best defensive players this year. He currently leads the league with 14 sacks, but he's become an every-down player who can also perform well in coverage and against the run. As I wrote last year, the story of NFL innovation is generally one team thinking outside of the box, finding success and then spawning a legion of copycats; consider how the Wildcat was panned when the Dolphins first started using it, but soon spread across the league.

A similar tale could happen with Wake's success, which might inspire more NFL teams to look at converting successful CFL defensive ends to pass-rushing NFL linebackers. Unlike Wake, Hunt doesn't have the benefit of playing linebacker in college (he was an all-conference defensive end for Houston), but he has the measurements and history of similar success to cue memories of another CFL star, and he's the most logical candidate to follow in Wake's path. For a small sample of what he can do, just look at the athleticism Hunt( 53) shows here in this Oct. 2 game against B.C., beating tackle Jovan Olafioye (63) and getting around running back Jamal Robertson (25) before bringing down quarterback Travis Lulay:

Green is also an intriguing candidate for the NFL. He had a solid college career at South Florida, has shone with the Alouettes over the last several years and even spent several months with the New York Jets earlier this year. He's not the fastest player out there (his college recruiting profile at Rivals lists his 40 time as 4.6 to 4.7, which is respectable but not afterburner quality), but he's got the size (different profiles list him everywhere from 6'4'', 200 to 6'2'', 216) and athleticism to make big plays. Just look at the catch he made in this year's first game:

Unlike Hunt, Fantuz and Bolden, Green is an outright CFL free agent rather than in the option year that allows CFL stars to test the NFL waters. That may or may not come into play here.

Fantuz's case is one that depends more on stats than measurables, and that's an area the NFL hasn't always taken into account. Still, Fantuz (pictured at right in a photo he tweeted of himself with Vikings' quarterback Brett Favre) was the league's top receiver this year with 87 catches for 1,380 yards, the first Canadian to accomplish that feat since fellow University of Western Ontario alumnus Dave Sapunjis did it in 1995. He was also named the league's Most Outstanding Canadian. There are some factors that might entice him to stay in Saskatchewan if he doesn't get a firm NFL offer, but if a south-of-the-border team makes him a strong proposal, there's a good chance he'd jump at it. Despite paying more than a CFL team likely would, they could be getting a bargain: Fantuz has some of the best hands you'll see anywhere and is known for his consistency and football IQ, but he can also make spectacular plays, like the one shown below:

Bolden is the most surprising name on this list, and he's a guy that not even a lot of CFL fans would recognize. He didn't make any of the all-star teams and didn't even put up particularly notable stats this season, recording 39 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. Still, he had a solid (if not spectacular) career at the University of Tennessee. He's reasonably big (6'3'', 290), but doesn't seem as quick as many NFL defensive ends (he notched a 4.9 40 time at his pro day; many DEs put up 4.6 or 4.7 times), and I think he'd be undersized as an NFL DT. Still, the Vikings at least seem to have some interest in him. I couldn't find any CFL highlights of him, so here are some college ones:

As I pointed out in the Cameron Wake piece, the CFL to NFL transition doesn't go well for the vast majority of players. 18 CFL players signed with NFL teams this past offseason, but none remain on active rosters, and John Chick (Indianapolis) is the only one even still on a practice roster. Most wound up coming back to the CFL partway through the season, so the odds aren't in the favour of any of these guys making a big NFL splash. Still, the success of players like Wake, Stefan Logan and Onatolu proves that the CFL to NFL path can work out in some cases. We'll see if that happens with Hunt, Green, Fantuz or Bolden.

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Catch-weight nonsense continues with Williams-Martinez fight

Two of the major 160-pound titles are up for grabs this weekend when Sergio Martinez defends against Paul Williams. There's one little hitch. Neither fighter will be allowed to actually weigh 160 when they step on the scale in Atlantic City today at 5 p.m. ET.

The same ridiculousness went down last week before Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito waged war for a 154-title. Margarito was not allowed to weigh above 150.

Are fighters legitimately winning titles in multiple weight classes when these stipulations are put on the title fights? It's a hot button issue for some fans around boxing, but Williams says it's bunch of bunk.

"All this talk about the catch-weight really doesn't matter," Williams said. "We wanted the catch-weight because I didn't want to bloat myself (by putting on too many pounds). But both of us will be weighing more than 160 on Saturday night, anyway. When we get into the ring, all that other stuff doesn't matter."

Williams didn't have to bloat himself at all. Why couldn't he just come in at 158 if he wants to and allow the middleweight champ to come in at the limit? Martinez isn't happy but without Williams there wasn't a major fight on the horizon.

"It's ridiculous," said Martinez. "I had to accept it for this one or otherwise there wouldn't have been a fight. But I don't believe in it."

Martinez wouldn't feel comfortable asking the champ for the special conditions.

"Personally, I'd be ashamed to ask for a catchweight. I would never do it. If you want to challenge someone for their title, be a man and fight at the right weight."

Whether you like it or not, two of the middleweight strap will be up for grabs in this 158-pound fight. We can do our own mini-protest by refusing to speak of the belt as anything significant. Can you really brag about winning titles in multiple weight classes and set records under these circumstances?

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Foreman's record in jeopardy: Hopkins shoots for WBC 175-pound title

Bernard Hopkins is living proof that 40 is the new 30. In fact, make that 46. The veteran boxer still hasn't hung up the gloves and is taking a shot at history tonight (Showtime - 10 p.m. ET/PT). 

Less than four weeks away from his 46th birthday, Hopkins (51-5-1, 32 KOs, 1 NC) is still close to the top. He's not just climbing into the ring for payday, Hopkins is actually challenging for a world title.

If Hopkins can pull the upset on 28-year-old Jean Pascal, he'll be the oldest fighter to ever win a world championship. He's 38 days older than George Foreman was when the grill master shocked Michael Moorer back in 1994.

Hopkins is proud of what he's doing. He can be mentioned in the same class as athletes like Mariano Rivera, Brett Favre, Randy Johnson and Chris Chelios.  

"I want everyone to know this is unique," Hopkins told the AP. "Brett Favre got old. I'm by myself here."

Physically, Hopkins may not be what he was 15 years ago, but he's got other inherent advantages. 

"Instead of looking at 45 as a negative, I'm proud to say that as of today, I'm an example of good fortune and also taking care of your yourself," Hopkins said. "And knowing the art of boxing. The art boxing is plain and simple: Hit and not get hit."

Hopkins says he'll have one demographic on his side. 

"There's a lot of 40 year olds running around, dropping their canes, putting their teeth in and rooting for me," Hopkins said.

BHop better hope some of those Americans who are 40-plus show up tonight in Quebec City. The fight, just 165 miles from Pascal's hometown of Laval (just outside of Montreal), sold out in minutes. The 16,500 at the Pepsi Coliseum will be squarely behind Pascal. 

Pascal may not think Hopkins is on top of his game anymore, but he knows the future Hall of Famer carries a name with a lot of weight. 

"It's going to be a good start for me to beat a legend to become a legend one day," Pascal said. "Hopkins was the name out there, was the big name and that's why I chose to fight him because I want to fight the best to prove that I'm the best."

It is a huge fight for Pascal (26-1, 16 KOs). He's coming off an upset win over Chad Dawson, but didn't get the pop he deserved for that victory. Frankly, because Dawson's camp has done such a lousy job of promoting their guy over the years. A win for Pascal over Hopkins should resonate with casual fight fans. 

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CFL titan Calvillo carries the world, but comes out on top

Knowing you have a potentially cancerous lesion must be tough enough. Knowing this when your family's been hard-hit by cancer in the past makes it even tougher. Knowing all that, and somehow putting it out of mind long enough to concentrate on football and lead your team to their second-straight Grey Cup championship? That's absolutely unbelievable for most mortals, but that's what Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo just did.

Calvillo and the Alouettes delivered a tremendous performance today, beating Saskatchewan for the second-straight year, but in a vastly different style of game. Instead of last year's offensive shootout that ended with a Montreal missed field goal, a crucial Saskatchewan mistake that led to a penalty and let Montreal make the second field goal to win 28-27, this one was a knock-down, drag-out defensive brawl that finished 21-18, appropriately enough after Montreal's defence made one more play. They almost brought down Darian Durant, who tried to throw the ball away and avoid the sack, but wound up getting picked off by Billy Parker. It was an appropriate end to a defensive struggle and an emphatic stamp on the Als' dominance as the first team to win back-to-back Grey Cups since former Alouettes' coach Don Matthews did it with the Toronto Argonauts in 1996-97.

Yet, within minutes of the final whistle, all the jubilant celebrations fell hollow and the football contest itself paled by comparison when Calvillo stepped to the podium for his post-game press conference. Prior to that, the discussion had been mostly about the game, with small digressions to investigate the futures of head coaches Marc Trestman and Ken Miller. Neither revealed much, as expected, so many thought today's stories could solely focus on football.

They were soon proved wrong, though. After an initial question about what this championship meant to him, Calvillo could no longer hold in the secret he'd lived with for most of the season. After suffering an apparent bruised sternum against Winnipeg in August, Calvillo was hospitalized. Doctors examined him and found out he had a lesion in his throat, and one that they weren't able to identify as cancerous or benign. Calvillo missed a couple of games, supposedly with the sternum injury, but then came back and continued his Most Outstanding Player-calibre season without a word to anyone outside the locker room about what he was dealing with. He was the league's most efficient quarterback, completing more of his passes (67.6 per cent) than any other starter, throwing 32 touchdowns against just seven interceptions and finishing with a 108.1 quarterback rating, again higher than any other starter. He led his team to the highest of highs, the Grey Cup, and he somehow did all that while playing under this pressure and not knowing if this was something that would threaten his life or his career. He's compiled one of the greatest CFL quarterbacking careers ever, and is still at the very top of his game. Now, after a week of vacation with his family, he'll have to face an even bigger challenge; going into surgery.

"The biopsy came back inconclusive," he said. "They're going to have to take out half my thyroid."

It must have been particularly hard for Calvillo and his family to deal with this, considering that his wife Alexia Kontolemos learned she had cancer in October 2007, just a week after giving birth to their second daughter. She fought a long battle against B-cell lymphoma, and eventually managed to win. Now, their family was facing their second cancer scare in a few years, and they couldn't tell anyone about it.

Calvillo wanted it reinforced that he was not putting football ahead of his health. He mentioned that he made the decision to finish the season after thorough consultation with a variety of doctors, who said that these types of lesions can often be left for a while in particular cases (such as pregnant women).

"They have a lot of experience in this, and there's no rush," he said.

It's also notable that many others, including reporter Alex Ruiz, have had similar surgeries successfully. It's quite possible this could be quite minor, they could find it's benign, and Calvillo could be ready to return for another year of football if he chooses to do so.

Yet, even if there were no health risks from leaving this alone until the season ended, it's almost unfathomable that Calvillo could continue to focus on the game. Football is such a mental and cerebral sport, especially at the quarterback position, where everything depends on learning plays, reading coverages, making snap decisions and changing your mind in a split second. Doing all that, while knowing that you might have something much bigger to worry about, while knowing your family's perhaps in for another tough battle and while dealing with the pressure of keeping a gigantic secret? Mortals can't do that, but perhaps titans can, and tonight Calvillo demonstrated he belonged in that second class.

"Football gave me an opportunity to not think about it, but now I don't have football."

Finally after the goal had been reached, after he'd claimed his third Grey Cup and his second consecutive one, Atlas revealed the weight he'd been carrying on his shoulders. "Next week or so I'm going to be having surgery on my thyroid to remove a lesion," he said. "We're not sure what it is." He said it almost as matter-of-factly as any of the usual sporting cliches, like "Both teams played hard" or "We gave it 110 per cent." As soon as he said it, though, everything else seemed to diminish. The win, the loss, the entire game; all faded into the rear-view mirror. This Grey Cup is the story of one titan who held up the world for half a season, and somehow still came out on top.

Tara Conner Drea de Matteo Trista Rehn Moon Bloodgood Kristin Kreuk