LAS VEGAS -- Sergey Kovalev was knocking out everyone put in front of him when his handlers went to HBO a few years back asking for a coveted spot on one of the networks boxing shows.Not so fast, the network said.You got two problems with this guy, promoter Kathy Duva remembers an HBO executive saying. One, hes a light heavyweight. Two, hes a Russian.Two problems, indeed. The combination isnt particularly attractive to boxing fans, or the network that buys many of the biggest fights.But on Saturday, it doesnt matter that Kovalev is a champion at light heavyweight, a division that historically has gotten little respect. Not when hes got unbeaten Andre Ward in front of him in a classic slugger vs. boxer matchup that is perhaps the most anticipated fight of the year.And the Russian part? Well, it helps that Kovalev now lives most of the year in Los Angeles and has quickly picked up the English language.I learned English only with reporters, he said this week, displaying a gift for gab in his new language with a small group of boxing scribes.Seven years after coming to the United States to seek fame and fortune, Kovalev is on the brink of both. A devastating puncher who has not lost in 31 fights, he will try to do what no one has done in 20 years -- win a fight against Ward, the last American man to win boxing gold in the Olympics.If the fight isnt compelling enough, Kovalevs story should be enough for some to pony up the $64.95 to watch it at home. His Russian fans will get the fight free, with the nations Channel 1 lined up to broadcast the bout live in his home country.America gave me opportunity. Its two great countries for me, Kovalev said. I love both countries, which is why I have two houses, in Russia and America.Kovalev comes from a fighting family, though he is the only one to actually put on gloves and do it in the ring. His mother, he says, used to beat up people as a child in Chelyabinsk, a factory town, where she works in a liquid metals plant.My mother fought a lot of times on the street growing up, even with boys, he said. She grew up in poor area.Kovalev grew up poor, too, with the family of five living in two rooms of a three-room apartment they shared with an unrelated elderly woman. He fought in the amateurs, though he never got a shot at making the Russian Olympic boxing team, before deciding to come to the U.S. and turn pro.Hooking up with Egis Klimas, a Lithuanian immigrant who now manages a number of Russian and Eastern European fighters, he fought for a few dollars here and there in tiny places he describes as garages.Kovalev was undefeated in 17 fights but still a relative unknown when he returned home to face Roman Simakov in a fight that turned tragic. Kovalev stopped Simakov in the seventh round of the December 2011 fight, and Simakov fell into a coma and later died.The death devastated Kovalev, and it might have unraveled his career like it has other fighters who have killed men in the ring. He would later reach out to try to take care of Simakovs family, but the pain still lingers to a point he rarely will talk about the fateful night.Kovalevs big break came when he was signed by Duvas Main Events promotional company. Duva would get the HBO dates she sought in that first meeting, and it didnt take long for the boxer they call Krusher to become a regular on the network.He dominated the ancient but still crafty Bernard Hopkins in 2014, forcing him into retirement, at least temporarily. And two knockout wins over Canadas Jean Pascal in Montreal cemented his status as the best 175-pounder in the world.Now he takes on Ward, the former 168-pound champion who has fought only three times in the last three years. Bookies in this gambling town make Ward, a defensive specialist and extraordinary boxer, a slight favorite, but Kovalev believes he will prevail.He doesnt have a punch like Mike Tyson, but hes very smart and has good defense, Kovalev says. Its not dangerous, but hes a tough target. He does very smart things in the ring.Kovalev has been doing some smart things, too. Perhaps none smarter than taking a chance and coming to the U.S. with nothing in his pocket and only his dreams.I love this country, he said. Im very comfortable with the people and the boxing in America.---Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbeg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlbergAir Max 95 Mens Sale . LOUIS -- The New Orleans Saints looked like a team playing out the string. Air Max 97 Off White Cheap . In what the team had called a retirement, Ryan said Thursday that he is resigning as chief executive of the Rangers in a move effective at the end of this month. http://www.wholesale95airmax.com/air-max-95-mens-sale/max-95-blue.html . But by the time the game started, the Toronto Raptors forward felt even worse. And, for three quarters, it showed as Gay shot a woeful three-for-13 from the field. Air Max 97 Womens Sale . Arsenal failed to take full advantage of its main rivals stumbles on Saturday as substitute Gerard Deulofeu levelled with a hard shot from a tight angle in the 84th minute to give Everton a deserved point. Ahead of a crucial fortnight that will see them play against Napoli in the Champions League, Manchester City and Chelsea, Arsenal leads by five points ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea. Air Max 97 Mens Sale .4 million title. Ryan Riess emerged with the title after a session in which he started behind, but used expert skill to gather the chips to his side amid the unpredictability of no-limit Texas Hold em. Riess put his final opponent Jay Farber all-in with an Ace-King.CHICAGO -- Cubs players enjoyed their victory lap Friday, waving to millions of elated fans crowded along miles of city streets during a parade honoring the first Cubs team to win a World Series title in 108 years.The Office of?Emergency Management and Communications told the Chicago Tribune that an estimated crowd of 5 million packed the 7-mile parade route from Wrigley Field to Grant Park, where the party continued with a massive rally to celebrate the Cubs historic win.Team manager Joe Maddon -- wearing a stocking cap, sunglasses and a jersey over a We didnt suck T-shirt -- looked out over a sea of blue.Welcome to Cubstock 2016! he shouted to the fans after carrying the World Series championship trophy onto the stage. This is an incredible moment for all of us. Never have I experienced anything like Wrigley Field on a nightly basis. ... I want to congratulate you fans also. Thank you for being so patient.One by one -- from CEO Tom Ricketts to president Theo Epstein to coaches and players, past and present -- they all were introduced to their adoring, roaring fans. Catcher David Ross?even posed for a selfie before serenading the crowd with a rousing rendition of Go Cubs Go! along with his teammates before fireworks capped the 90-minute rally.Said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who got teary-eyed while speaking at the rally: It happened, baby. It happened!Rizzo singled out 39-year-old Ross, who is retiring and is?affectionately called Grandpa by the teams younger players, before capping his speech by giving Ricketts the ball from the last out of Game 7.A victory party is new territory for long-suffering fans of the Cubs, who hadnt won a World Series title in more than a century before their Game 7, extra-inning thriller against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.?The last time the Cubs even reached the Fall Classic was in 1945.Earlier, on the parade route, throngs of young and old blue-clad fans roared as the motorcade of open-roofed buses carrying the players cruised along Lake Shore Drive. The mood was jubilant, bolstered by an unseasonably warm and sunny November day and clear blue skies.The parade wound through downtown and ended roughly 7 miles south in Grant Park. The route also took the buses over the Chicago River, which the city dyed a bright shade of blue to match the Cubs colors, repurposing a decades-long tradition of dying the river green on St. Patricks Day.Ricketts told the crowd that the players oon the World Series team are going to be Chicago baseball legends.ddddddddddddHe said he was used to fans coming up to him, asking when the Cubs were going to win a World Series. For the thousands of people who have said that to me, there you go, Ricketts said.Vendors hawked pennants and shirts, and selfie-taking teens tried to capture the crowds. Many just beamed.Retiree Jarvis Moffett, 60, arrived at the lakefront park hours ahead of the rally just to take in the atmosphere.Im an old-school Cubs fan, he said, gesturing to the sky and crowds. This is what you live for. It doesnt get any better.Miriam Santiago, 51, said she carried holy water, her rosary and a bright green lucky baseball with her during the playoffs. On Friday, she brought a goat mask with dynamite in its mouth and let other fans pose for photos wearing it outside Wrigley Field. She said she believes her lucky charms helped reverse the curse.Steve Angelo carried his 4-year-old son, Nicholas, on his shoulders. The pair wore matching Rizzo jerseys.The more and more they win now, at his earlier age, the more and more excitement there is, Angelo said.Atop the double-decker buses, some Cubs players posed together for photographs, while others held their children and sat with their families. Center fielder Dexter Fowler had a cigar as the team headed toward the rally that some fans have called the celebration of a century.Fans packed morning commuter trains, causing delays despite increased service and capacity, to get downtown and find a viewing spot before the festivities began.Laurie Winter woke up at 4 a.m. so she and her 2-year-old son, Cooper, could come in from the suburb of South Elgin and be among the fans outside Wrigley Field to see the players.I think everyone is excited about where this team is going, Winter said. We cant wait to see them come out and get crazy.The city estimated 2 million people attended similar events in 2015, after the Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six years. Obviously, with the 5 million estimate Friday, generations of Cubs fans had far more pent-up celebrating to do.Friday was already a scheduled day off for Chicago Public Schools and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner declared Friday as World Champion Chicago Cubs Day statewide.The Associated Press contributed to this report. ' ' '
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