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20/08/2016

. Memphis had won 16 of its last 20 games coming

LOS ANGELES -- Vasyl Lomachenko arrives at the Wild Card Boxing Club with his gloves crammed into a large brown paper bag, and he wears the striking blue-and-yellow gear of the Ukrainian Olympic team when he climbs into the ring. Kelly Oubre Jr. Wizards Jersey . His father and trainer, Anatoly, clicks the stopwatch around his neck while Lomachenko does everything from standard bag work to a two-man wheelbarrow crawl around the canvas. Later, Lomachenko puts on a cap with a small ball attached by a springy cord. He jabs the ball repeatedly away from him, treating it like a speed bag in an astonishing display of co-ordination. As anybody who saw the most accomplished amateur boxer of his generation in Beijing or London could attest, Lomachenko has an inimitable style. When the two-time Olympic gold medallist makes his pro debut Saturday night at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, hell continue to do things in a way few fighters could imagine. "If everything works out the way we hope, this kid will be the hottest thing in all of boxing," said Bob Arum, his star-struck promoter. "Ive seen some things Ive never seen in my life. He could revolutionize the way things are done." Instead of several short warm-up fights to build his experience and confidence, Lomachenko will debut in a 10-round bout with Jose Luis Ramirez (24-2-2), a respected Mexican featherweight. Instead of a gradual move toward the top, Lomachenko is contractually guaranteed a 126-pound world title shot in his second fight if he wins his first. No fighter in Arums near half-century of promotion has moved so quickly -- not even Leon Spinks, who had to wait until his eighth pro fight to upset Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title in 1978. After dominating the headgear-and-punch-scoring amateur version of the sport for several years, Lomachenko sees no reason he should wait. In fact, he insisted upon it when he interviewed Western promoters this summer. Lomachenko didnt want a seven-figure signing bonus. He wanted a title shot in his very first time in a pro ring -- and he missed by only one fight. "I want to make history," Lomachenko said through his adviser and translator, Egis Klimas. "I dont want to be just a regular great fighter. I want to be the best." Assuming Lomachenko wins his debut this weekend on the pay-per-view undercard of Timothy Bradleys welterweight title bout with Juan Manuel Marquez, hes likely to return in New York in January for that title shot. Hed face the winner of Orlando Salidos bout for a vacant title against Orlando Cruz on Saturday, or maybe WBA champion Nicholas Walters. "He did the smart thing," Arum said. "Because now, based on his performance, hell be making relatively huge money, and hell have earned it instead of making us pay him at the start." Top Rank still gave top-shelf treatment to Lomachenko, renting an apartment just off the water in Redondo Beach and putting the car-loving fighter behind the wheel of a Mercedes C63 AMG. But Lomachenko spends most of his time in the gym with his father, honing his athleticism with their unique workouts. Anatoly said he started his son in boxing at 4 years old, but pulled him out of the gym at 9 and put him in a dancing school for four years. At 13, Anatoly put the gloves back on his son and honed the footwork skills gleaned from dance. Lomachenko mastered the amateur sport during his two Olympic runs, but he did it in a crowd-pleasing, big-punching style that seems well suited for the pro game. He also won six fights in the International Boxing Associations World Series of Boxing before signing with Arum, but Top Rank isnt counting those bouts as professional fights. "Hes very quick, and hes very heavy-handed," Arum said. "Hes everything you want in a professional boxer." If Lomachenko is as good as the boxing world expects, its not tough to imagine him following in the footsteps of the Klitschko brothers or Manny Pacquiao as a fighter from a pugilistic outpost who became a worldwide figure on the strength of his sheer talent. Lomachenko acknowledges his supreme confidence in his skills, but refuses to predict immediate results. "Its not in my character to say what Im going to do and how its going to go," Lomachenko said. "Im going to try to do my best, and well see what happens." Now 25, Lomachenko has a wife and two children back home in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, a port city near the Black Sea in southern Ukraine. His son is already playing around with boxing gloves, while his daughter was born on the same day Lomachenko signed his pro contract -- and they named her Victoria. Klimas claims Lomachenko plays soccer, rides horses, swims in the Black Sea and runs the occasional marathon when he isnt in the ring. But Top Rank and Lomachenkos coterie of advisers still put together a full team to prepare their fighter. Hes increasing his speed with a trainer who specializes in NFL players, and hes working with Marko Yrjovuori, the Los Angeles Lakers Finnish massage therapist. "This is very hard work!" a grinning Lomachenko said in English. Arum envisions a showcase in Macau next year featuring Lomachenko, fellow two-time gold medallist Zou Shiming and the rest of Top Ranks Olympic heroes on the same card. He dreams of matching Lomachenko against Guillermo Rigondeaux, the Cuban 122-pound champion. Lomachenko also is likely to move to Los Angeles next year, continuing his pro career in his unique way. "I dont want to be like any other boxer," Lomachenko said. "My goal is to be a champion in my own style." DeMarre Carroll Raptors Jersey . -- For the second consecutive night, the Memphis Grizzlies slowed down Houston and walked away with a win. Vince Carter Magic Jersey . Nearly half the field, including defending champion Charl Schwartzel, failed to complete their rounds on the West Course following a four-hour afternoon delay because of thunderstorms at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Bobcats have relied heavily on Al Jefferson to put them in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. On Saturday night, they proved they could win without their veteran centre having a big night. "It shows that we have other guys that can step up," point guard Kemba Walker said. With Jefferson double-teamed most of the night, Walker elevated his game, pouring in 31 points to help the Bobcats defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 92-89 for their fourth win in five nights. Charlotte is 4-0 since the All-Star break, marking its longest winning streak since March 2011. The Bobcats won despite Jefferson being held to just six points -- tying a season-low -- on 2-of-13 shooting. Jefferson came in having scored 29 or more points in eight of his last 11 games and at least 20 points in 17 of the last 19. The Bobcats used an 18-3 run in the fourth quarter to break open a tight game and then held on down the stretch with Walker making four free throws in the final 25 seconds to snap Memphis four-game win streak. It was the second straight night Walker hit four free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal a victory. "I shoot so many free throws in practice Im just thinking, "Hey, make them," said Walker, who was 10 of 10 from the foul line. Charlotte had lost the second night of a back-to-back eight straight times before winning two this week. "To win four in a row against good teams and to play this well in a game like that that was hard fought, you have to feel good about it," Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. But now the Bobcats face a four-game stretch against the NBAs four best teams -- San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Miami and Indiana -- with the first three games on the road. The Grizzlies were led by Mike Conley, who had 16 points, but twice missed 3-point attempts when he had a chance to tie the game on Memphis final possession. Marc Gasol had 15 points, and Zac Randolph had 12 points and 11 rebounds for Memphis, which fell two games behind Dallas in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Bobcats trailed 66-64 early in thee fourth quarter when Anthony Tolliver got hot from the outside, igniting an 18-3 run with three 3-pointers to give Charlotte a 13-point lead. Grant Hill Magic Jersey. Tolliver finished with nine points. The Grizzlies battled back to take the lead when Conley knocked down an 18-footer with 51 seconds left. But Josh McRoberts sank two free throws to put the Bobcats ahead for good with 38 seconds left. Conley missed a jumper on the other end and then fouled Walker as he was heading up the court. Walker made two free throws to push the lead to three with 24 seconds left. Gasol answered with an inside layup, but Walker hit two more free throws with 10.7 seconds left to push the lead back to three. Conley had two open looks in the final 6 seconds, but couldnt connect. "We wanted to win, but the Charlotte Bobcats were the aggressors," Memphis guard Tony Allen said. "They were physical. Coach told us before the game that their talent doesnt jump out at you, but what does is just how hard they play. Theres no excuse because they were the aggressors and they pretty much outworked us tonight." The Grizzlies game plan was to make sure Jefferson didnt beat them, aggressively double-teaming the 6-foot-10, 289-pound centre every time he touched the ball in the low post. They limited Jefferson to four points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half and held Charlotte to 39 per cent shooting to build a 48-42 halftime lead. "Hes shooting it up and theyre going to him a lot," Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. "We just kept staying in front of him and making his shots tough." Jefferson picked up his third foul with 2:52 left in the first half -- a call that didnt sit well with Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, who was slapped with a technical foul for arguing. It was his seventh technical foul of the season. NOTES: Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson and former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad were at the game. ... Memphis had won 16 of its last 20 games coming into Saturday night and three straight against the Bobcats. ... Memphis is 6-5 this season on the second night of a back-to-back. 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