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Timothy Bradley on Teofimo Lopez: ‘He kind of reminds me of a young Roy Jones Jr.’

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Teofimo Lopez emphatically announced his entrance into boxing superstardom on Saturday by defeating Vasiliy Lomachenko to claim lightweight world titles from all four major boxing sanctioning bodies. Lopez shocked the world, and not by utilizing his potent knockout power, which was the way most in the boxing world believed the underdog could do it, if he could find a way to beat one of boxing’s greatest technicians.

From Round 1 on, Lopez put his own timing and technical prowess on display and outboxed Lomachenko.

So what do you do when you manifest your dreams into reality? Two-division world champion and ESPN broadcaster Timothy Bradley Jr. breaks down the most pivotal night of Lopez’s career, from how he managed to defeat Lomachenko to what lies ahead as Lopez hopes to continue to build his star in the boxing world.

How surprised were you about how the fight ultimately played out?

I knew he had a lot more to his game than just being a puncher, and I said he had exceptional timing, but I really liked the way that he took control of the range and dictated the pace early on — he proved he’s a boss in there.

We were all well aware heading into this fight that Lomachenko is a slow starter. Yes, he downloads information — I understand that — but while he was downloading information, Teo took advantage of it. He controlled, I believe, the first five out of six rounds, and maybe the second round might’ve swayed slightly to Loma, but I wouldn’t argue if someone was to say Lopez won that round.

Lopez came out and fought every minute of every single round. But it wasn’t just Lomachenko making his calculations — he was clearly frustrated with what he was seeing. It was the timing. It was the speed. I don’t think Lomachenko really understood how fast Lopez was. He was actually faster than Loma, as well as longer, stronger and just bigger.

Lomachenko just poured on the gas a little bit too late. He started coming on in Round 7, and took control in Round 8. By that time, Lopez had a huge lead going into the championship rounds.

Why was Lopez able to succeed where so many fighters had previously fallen short against Lomachenko?

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2:12

Teofimo Lopez breaks down his unanimous decision victory over Vasily Lomachenko, saying he had to dig deep if he wanted to win. He also previews what could be next for him.

A lot of fighters who have stepped in with Lomachenko were overwhelmed by the way that Lomachenko fought them. Lomachenko figured them out, took them into deep water and then finished them as the rounds went on. Positioning was a key factor in all of those fights, and Lopez didn’t fall for that. He stayed calm and poised and kept popping his jab out there which isolated the offense of Lomachenko.

What I really liked about what Lopez was doing was that every time Loma would do something, he would react. This is something that I talk about with a lot of young fighters coming up. The best fighters in the world, they each have this ability to not get hit, and then hit themselves. It’s the transition game. So every time Loma did something, Lopez countered, or at least tried to counter. Early on, he had Loma skeptical about attacking because of the power, because of the speed and the accuracy and the supreme skill of the young Lopez. Every time Lomachenko tried to create an angle, Lopez rolled with him.

Every time Lomachenko would try to do something or step in on Lopez, he would get a reaction from Lopez, and it wasn’t the reaction that he wanted to see. It was an educated reaction, and Lopez was either ready to punch or punch right back with the counter.

Lopez had every punch that was needed to interrupt the rhythm of Lomachenko. The hook was key. Did you see Lomachenko spin around Lopez once? He couldn’t. Every time he tried to, Lopez stepped with him. That’s ring IQ. That’s experience.

Lomachenko did not want to get caught exchanging, so he took a very cautious route. Even when he opened up in those later rounds, Lopez took the damage and didn’t let himself get dragged down, even though it got pretty intense at a few points. He was smart, and he stayed calm enough to weather the storm.

What was your reaction to his performance in the 12th round?

That last round was the defining moment, I felt, and it was the reason why I felt like Lopez won that fight. Loma had Lopez on his heels at the end, and Loma felt that Lopez was starting to fade, and he did look like that, especially in the 10th and 11th. But Lopez stayed resilient.

Even at 23, he had the experience and the confidence to dig deep in the 12th. He also had the experience to not listen to his father in the last round when he said it was a blowout. When it comes down to scorecards, shoot, you don’t want to leave anything up to chance, and you don’t know how they’re scoring some of the close rounds in any fight.

He faced down that championship round, fought past his exhaustion, and he went out and threw 90-plus punches. Lopez showed what he was made of. Lomachenko tested him — tested his spirit, tested his ego, tested his conditioning — tested everything. Both of those guys, in that last round, showed what they’re made of.

Lopez just had a little bit more. That was it. It doesn’t take much. If Loma was going five miles an hour, Lopez was going six. That’s all it takes.

Where do you think Lopez currently stands in terms of boxing’s best?

Lopez impressed me. I knew that he was special, but on Saturday he showed everybody that he’s a superstar. There are stars and there are superstars, and superstars typically do things just a little bit different than a typical star to reach that next level. The attributes that Lopez has — how brash he is, how confident he is — add in his timing, his power, — all of those things together make him a superstar.

He kind of reminds me, with his speed, his timing, his reflexes and quick decisions on the fly, of a young Roy Jones Jr., one of my favorite fighters of all time.

So what’s next?

One of the things that Lopez needs to understand is that there’s a lot more he can do in boxing. It might not feel that way, because he’s at the top of 135 already. With this one fight, it catapults him there easily, not to mention the No. 2 or No. 3 spot easily on any pound-for-pound list. Maybe you can even argue that he’s No. 1, because according to the ESPN rankings, Lomachenko was the No. 1 P4P fighter in the world.

I’ll temper that a little bit, because you have to think of guys like Terence Crawford, Naoya Inoue, Canelo Alvarez, who have been in the business a very long time and have been consistently effective and destructive.

He’s done at 135. He beat arguably the best pound-for-pound guy in the world at 135 and he took all the straps. He has no business left at 135, and he doesn’t have to struggle to make that weight anymore. He has the ball in his court now. It’s time to go up to 140.

Lopez has to continue to challenge himself. He just fought arguably the best fighter in the world. Where do you go from here? I’m not going to say I’m a mad genius, but I’ll just put it this way. He’s already been a part of a historic event. If he wants to be a part of another one, there’s two fighters at 140 that are going to be unifying the titles, likely at the beginning of 2021.

Why not go after the winner, whether it’s Josh Taylor or Jose Ramirez. Top Rank has both of those guys under their promotional banner, and the fight can easily be made. So you’ll have the undisputed 135-pounder (or unified champion, depending on how you want to put it, because Devin Haney was basically handed his title) versus the undisputed at 140 pounds. He will move up and he will face the undisputed champion at 140.

Where does Lomachenko go from here?

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1:37

Vasily Lomachenko discusses his loss to Teofimo Lopez, saying he thought he took control in the later rounds and did not agree with the judges’ decisions.

This 14-month layoff did Lomachenko no justice. A fighter with that many fights, at that age, you have to stay active, and that’s how you stay sharp.

Lomachenko will be looking for a rematch. There’s no doubt in my mind, because he’s a winner, and he came up a little short in this fight. No matter what the scorecards say, it was a close fight — I had it as a two-point edge for Lopez, 115-113. Loma just started late. The speed, the size. I mean, there’s a lot of things that he had to worry about.

I don’t know if Lopez would give him that, because there was no rematch clause in the contract. If Lopez doesn’t grant him the rematch, Lomachenko needs to go back down to 130 and try to just see what he can do there. Lomachenko still has the skills, and the ability. We saw what happened when Lomachenko opened it up and started putting the pressure on Lopez late in that fight.

He is a fantastic fighter, and let’s not take anything away from him and what he’s done in his career. One loss to a top-level opponent doesn’t mean that he is not great. Lomachenko has already cemented his resume, and cemented his name in the history books. He’s still a fighter that I want to see fight.

Lomachenko should go down 130 pounds where I think things will be a lot more suitable for him. I think the weight definitely played a factor in this fight, along with the punching power.

What I admire about Lomachenko is that he wants to not only be good, he wants to be great. He wants to be excellent. He’s willing to take the necessary risks to chase history. You have to take risks to be great. And Loma took risks — he knew he was risking it all. He came up a little short, and that’s OK. But the battle is not over. Go back down and wait, build himself back up, and he can become an undisputed champion at 130.

You look at Muhammed Ali, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roy Jones Jr., Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield. All these guys had losses, and they’re still talked about today. It’s not over for Lomachenko.

If I know one thing about winners, it’s like death to them when they lose. They’d rather die than lose.

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

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– 2020 MLS Playoffs: Who’s in, schedule and more
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Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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2:00

Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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