The return to WWE that Edge never thought was possible

  • WWE on ESPN Editor

THE CROWD AT Minute Maid Park in Houston counted along as the clock ticked down to zero. Twenty people had already entered the men’s 2020 Royal Rumble match, and the anticipation of who would step out and enter the bout next was palpable.

Almost no one in attendance could have anticipated the shredding electric guitar riffs of “Metalingus” by Alter Bridge, but as Adam “Edge” Copeland ran out of the dugout, the crowd reached a fever pitch. After almost nine years away from wrestling and triple-fusion neck surgery, Edge made his seemingly impossible return to in-ring action. After a moment of intense emotion during which he stared toward the heavens, he charged toward the ring and reclaimed a dream that had seemingly been snatched away for good.

“Once the music hit, and that reaction … I mean, I truly feel like I could have beat King Kong’s ass,” Edge told ESPN. “It was all surreal, kind of like a dream sequence, but everything’s so focused and hyperfocused that I can’t really explain it. But I think when you look at the video of me walking out, I think you see it in my eyes.”

How did Edge, eight years removed from his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, make his way back to the ring at the age of 46, looking fitter and leaner than he had at any other point in his career?

Strangely enough, it all began after he crashed his mountain bike.

“IT STARTED DAWNING on me that this could be a possibility when Sheamus came to town, and we were filming an episode of his Celtic Warrior workout show. He wants to do different challenging things that he hasn’t done before, and I love to mountain bike. … In the process of doing that — this stupid competitive thing — I’m flying down a mountain, I hit this one jump, and I wiped out.

“It’s a pretty gnarly wipeout. I was going probably 20, 25 mph, landed on these stones, rolled right up to my feet. But I’m fine. I was all cut up, but my neck was fine. Couple that with doing all of these fight scenes over the years on sets — some pretty physical stuff, especially with ‘Vikings’ — and I thought, ‘OK, I feel really good.'”

Edge wrestled until he retired suddenly in April 2011. Even though the thought crossed his mind time and time again, no wrestler had ever come back from triple-fusion surgery.

“My family doctor just said, ‘Let’s get some pictures on it, just see where you’re at, and we’ll see a spine specialist here in Asheville.’ [I] did that, met with [the specialist]. He said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. Obviously, it’s working for you,’ and that’s when I floated out the, ‘But what about wrestling?'”

Edge eventually set up an appointment in Birmingham, Alabama, with Dr. James Andrews’ team and Dr. Andrew Cordover.

“That’s when we started to realize this could actually happen.”

Even with that level of clearance, WWE has a medical team that focuses on head and neck injuries, led by Dr. Joseph Maroon in Pittsburgh. There was also an added level of stress beyond getting cleared.

Once he got the green light from WWE — and publicly denied the idea of a return to the ring — Edge still had to get into ring shape.

“I talked to [Triple H, Paul Levesque], and I said, ‘I can’t go to a ring anywhere because people will start seeing me. I can’t go to the PC.’ So they sent me a ring. I got a warehouse space, and I set up a ring and basically had my own personal ‘Field of Dreams,’ and I just got in there and got to work. Thankfully, I’m married to another Hall of Famer who can pick up and body slam me, which you can’t say for a lot of wives. The Revival, they both live in Asheville, so they’d come, and they’d get in there with me, and they’d put me through my paces.

“I was keeping up with them. I wasn’t tired, and I wasn’t sore, and I thought, ‘OK, this is going to happen, and this is going to happen at a level that I wanted.’ I didn’t want to come back and be anything less than what I was. I’m going to have to work differently. I’m going to have different limitations … I still want to be able to go in there and be able to go half an hour.”

EVEN AS HE started feeling good about what was happening in the ring, as the calendar flipped to 2020 and the Royal Rumble drew closer, Edge started feeling something he had never felt before when it comes to wrestling.

“The one place I never had any doubts was in a wrestling ring,” Edge said. “That felt like that was my one sanctum that I didn’t have questions. I felt like this is where I could go and always have that under control. This was the first time where I felt nervous because there were so many different variables that I never had to encounter before. I’d never wrestled having children before. I cannot get hurt, and I’m also doing it with two neck surgeries under my belt, and [I’ve been] retired for nine years. Nine years is a long time.”

Still, he was committed to the vision that had entered his mind, and he was on a train that wasn’t going to slow down. He arrived in Houston, remained sequestered for most of the day and then got himself ready for one of the biggest moments of his career.

It was time for Edge to write the final chapters as he envisioned. He said goodbye to the small group he was hanging with backstage, which included his wife, Beth Phoenix, who had already performed on the show, as well as his longtime friend and tag team partner Christian, and Shane McMahon.

“I became so hyperaware of everything,” Edge said of the moment before his return. “All of your senses go to this different place. Thankfully, the two people that were at the curtain were Lance Storm and Hurricane, who I’m very, very close with. Lance sent me through the first curtain, and then I got to Hurricane, and he’s like, ‘OK, man.’ He saw that I had a different look in my eye that he’d probably never seen before. And he’s like, ‘You’ve done this. You’ve done this a thousand times. You’ve got this. Go show them who you are.'”

“As soon as I slid in the ring, it went right into just instinct. That’s when all nerves dropped and everything just went back to, ‘This is what I do. This is what I know better than anything else.’ I’m running toward a guy that I just have so much chemistry and history with. It had to start with Dolph Ziggler. He set the entire tone for this whole thing with that one bump he took from the spear.”

Edge reconnected with former tag-team partner Randy Orton as both an ally and an enemy, and he was a factor until late in the match. But his return to the ring wasn’t the only big moment for the Copeland family that night.

“What was incredible about it is Beth got asked to do the women’s Rumble four days before it. All of a sudden, it goes from, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m getting ready for the Rumble after nine years,’ to, ‘Oh, man, we’re both doing this. Holy crap.’ But it was so much fun. What a moment that you’ll never have again. As husband and wife, both retired, both Hall of Famers, we had really just assumed it was all done, and for it to suddenly be back in our laps, we both love this.”

Edge believes there’s no way he could’ve made this comeback a reality without the support of his wife, with whom he has two daughters, 6-year-old Lyric and 3-year-old Ruby.

“She knows me so well that she was able to pick up on when I needed that boost and when I needed that support. I said through this whole thing, she’s my Adrian,” Edge said. “She just knew what to do for me to remind me of what I did and what I can still do.”

For Beth, the moment she watched her husband reclaim his dream was nearly indescribable.

“It was an out-of-this-world, out-of-body experience to see him again,” she said in an interview with WWE after the Rumble. “It was really special and fantastic to share that and just experience Royal Rumble from a different set of eyes. Just share in his joy and see the look on his face because I know the journey that it was to get there.”

The return at the Rumble was just the start on the way to a new normal for the Copeland family. Between his appearances on WWE TV and Phoenix’s role on the NXT broadcast team, Edge admits that the past few months have been a bit chaotic.

“It’s been a lot of juggling,” Edge said, “but we’re a team. We’ve always tried to do whatever we can to make sure that one of us is home. … We need to get those creative things out in order to feel complete and in turn make us better parents, I think.

“Beth would fly to NXT, I’d get the girls ready for school, I’d drop them at school. I’d go home, work out, go to the ring, go back and pick them up. Then on Thursdays, I would drop them off at school. I’d go get Beth, we’d go straight to the ring, she’d be running on two hours’ sleep, and we’d wrestle and then go back to the house and work out, then go get the girls. Just mapped it out — a lot of dry-erase notes on the fridge — but it was a good challenge because my top priority is to be Dad, and everything else falls behind it.”

EDGE NOW STANDS on the precipice of WrestleMania 36 and a “Last Man Standing” match against Orton. It won’t be at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa in front of tens of thousands of fans, as originally planned. Instead, it will take place inside an empty WWE Performance Center in Orlando. Although there’s obviously some disappointment, Edge is keeping it all in perspective as he has his first one-on-one match in nine years.

“For so long, I never thought this would happen again, right? What that taught me is to appreciate it all,” Edge said. “And no matter what it is, you pull the positives. That’s all you can do. The positives are always there. … And it’s a strange time, but it’s also a time where we can hopefully help people for a few hours enjoy themselves. And for me, as a performer, that’s an honor and a privilege, and that’s not lost on me after not being able to do this particular form of entertainment for nine years.

“Is it disappointing that it’s not in front of an audience? Of course it is. I’m not going to lie. But at the same time, I look at the challenge, and I go, ‘OK, how do you tell a compelling story?’ And in my mind, I picture everyone at home and how they’re going to react and how they’re going to come out of their chairs and how they’re going to get angry and just get lost in it. And if we can do that, then that’s all we set out to do.”

EDGE’S ULTIMATE PLAN stretches beyond a single WrestleMania match. He has whet his appetite with his appearances thus far, and even though he isn’t joining the road crew once WWE kicks back into gear, he sees big things to come. His second chance isn’t ending here.

“Physically, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with that grind that all the young ‘uns are doing right now. I put in my 15 years of that, so now I can come back, and honestly, more than anything, I just want to help teach. And the best way for me to teach is to be in there in the ring with you and show you how to listen.”

While Edge is appreciating every moment he gets to add to his career, he isn’t going to sit back and have just a couple of matches, either.

“I have a vision. I believe if you can visualize it, you can make it happen. I have a vision for the whole thing,” Edge said. “I’m not going to spoil it, though. When it is time to walk away, I want people to say, ‘Oh, my God, I think he was better this time.’ That’s the challenge. This story has never been written before. No one has ever taken nine years off. No one has ever come back from a triple-fusion. It’s a blank canvas, and the story I want to try and tell, I just want it to be compelling. I want it to be fun for everybody.

“Like I said in the first promo back, man, I just hope you come along for the ride with me because I am going to have a blast.”

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Anthony Joshua opponent Kubrat Pulev to pledge half of £4m purse to coronavirus battle

Anthony Joshua’s next opponent Kubrat Pulev is to donate half of his estimated £4million fight purse to the battle against coronavirus. Joshua vs Pulev was supposed to take place on June 20 in London but was postponed because of the pandemic.

Coronavirus has wreaked havoc across the world and has either cancelled or postponed the globe’s biggest sporting events.

This summer’s 2020 European Championships and the Tokyo Olympics were put back to 2021.

And all European football has been halted until the spread of the virus can be reduced and it’s safe to do so.

JUST IN: Anthony Joshua lifts lid on Tyson Fury sparring session

Boxing has also been affected, as all major events until June have been postponed in the UK and the U.S.

Joshua’s clash with Pulev, which was due to take place midway through June at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, was pushed back on Friday.

A new date and possible venue has yet to be decided but July 25 at Spurs seems to be where Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn is aiming for.

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But in the meantime, Joshua’s opponent Pulev has promised to donate half of the money he makes from his clash with AJ to the battle against coronavirus.

“I will give doctors, nurses and hospitals the necessary equipment to deal with this devilish virus,”| he told BILD.

“I will donate 50% of the money I earn from the match with Joshua to the tireless heroes in the fight against the coronavirus.”

Joshua sent a message out to the NHS workers last week, praising them for their efforts In combating the spread of the virus and calling them ‘real heroes’.

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“Listen, I’m not a politician, I’m not part of the government, I do take note, even people like me who would love to be out there doing the most right now,” he said on Instagram last week.

“I’d love to be on my dirt bikes, sparring, going to the boxing gym.

“Yesterday would have been my first day of training camp preparing for my fight, defending my championship belts.

“But I’ve got to follow the guidelines to make sure we get through this together.

“And to my loved ones, all the ones suffering, you’ve got my love and support, especially the ones we take for granted.

“The NHS, you’re the real heroes, one love to all of you guys, thank you so much.”

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Joshua insists he and Fury are denied the respect they deserve

‘We never get the respect from the world media’: Anthony Joshua insists he and Tyson Fury are denied the plaudits they deserve as heavyweight star opens up over ‘real tough year’ following shock Andy Ruiz Jr defeat

  • Anthony Joshua is the reigning WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion
  • Compatriot Tyson Fury holds the WBC title after defeating Deontay Wilder
  • Joshua won back his world titles in December in a rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr 
  • However, he has relived his ‘real tough year’ following his initial loss to Ruiz Jr 

Anthony Joshua has claimed that British boxers are not given enough respect overseas despite their recent success.

Joshua is the reigning WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion, while compatriot Tyson Fury recently defeated Deontay Wilder to win the WBC equivalent, with a mega-fight between the pair in the pipeline somewhere along the way.

Joshua’s comments come after regaining his world titles in December following a victory over Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia.

Anthony Joshua believes British boxers are not given enough respect by overseas media

The win came six months after a shock loss to the Mexican on the Brit’s United States debut where he was floored four times in a seventh round stoppage loss.

The 30-year-old admitted the rollercoaster period in his career had been a testing period.   

‘It was a difficult time in my career. Last year was a real tough year, he told Sky Sports.

Joshua holds three heavyweight titles, while compatriot Tyson Fury is the WBC equivalent

‘As a British heavyweight fighter, we never get the respect from the world media, which is governed by America to a certain degree, because we’re British.

‘Americans are going to take care of Americans. So when I lost… you take challenges, the goal is to win 100 per cent.’

Joshua was set to defend his world titles against Kubrat Pulev at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 20 before the coronavirus chaos led to its postponement. 

Andy Ruiz Jr celebrates after his dramatic victory over Joshua in New York in June 2019

 

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WrestleMania 36 match grades: Undertaker better than expected; Strowman, Goldberg produce a stinker on Night 1

WrestleMania 36 is taking place under unique circumstances because of the COVID-19 outbreak. WWE’s annual blockbuster event is being presented over two nights and before no fans at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla.

Everyone tried as hard as they could on the opening night Saturday and some good matches did take place, but the show also produced one of the worst matches in WrestleMania history as Braun Strowman captured the Universal championship from Goldberg. In the main event of Night 1, The Undertaker beat AJ Styles in a Boneyard Match.

SN’s wrestling experts watched the first half of WrestleMania 36 and graded each match.

WrestleMania 36 match grades

Cesaro def. Drew Gulak

Steven Muehlhausen: Baffled this only went about five minutes when they had plenty of time. The match was just getting good when Cesaro hit the forearm and then followed with the airplane spin for the win. Like the fact Cesaro sold an injury so he couldn’t perform the Neutralizer. Don’t know the last time an airplane spin was used as a finisher.

Grade: C

Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross def. The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka and Kairi Sane) to win ‘Smackdown’ tag team titles

Andreas Hale: A match that went way too long and ended with Bliss hitting a Twisted Bliss to the knees of Sane to give her team the titles. Much of the match was a drag, with slow spots and uninspired offense. Asuka continues to be a bright spot while Sane remains underutilized despite all her talent. It was obvious they had to move the titles but this match just wasn’t it.

Grade: C-

Muehlhausen:  Not sure how this match went longer than Cesaro vs. Gulak. It was nothing to write home about. Thankfully, Asuka and Sane were around to make it passable. Hard to fathom why Cross kept clapping when no spectators were inside the venue. A title change was due, but not with this team.

Grade: C-

Elias def. King Corbin

Hale: Yet another match that didn’t have much going for it. Elias and Corbin had way too much time for a feud that didn’t have a great deal of momentum. A year removed from sending Kurt Angle into retirement, Corbin lost on a rollup and a liberal use of the tights. It wasn’t terrible; it was just kinda there.

Grade:  D+

Muehlhausen:  All kinds of bad here. Both guys looked to be going through the motions and the match had the feel of something you’d see from two beginners. Corbin had an argument with the referee and Elias came up from behind to roll up Corbin with a grab of the tights for the victory. Thankfully, that ended the match.

Grade: F

Becky Lynch def. Shayna Baszler to retain the ‘Raw’ women’s title

Hale: This had the potential to be a bad match, but these two managed to pull off a solid outing; however, the fact this match was under 10 minutes makes you wonder how much stock Vince McMahon had in Bayzler entering it. Nevertheless, the eight minutes they had were valuable; they exchanged submission attempts and hard strikes. Unfortunately, Lynch using the same pin that Bret Hart used against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania 8 felt underwhelming. Where does Shayna go from here?

Grade: C+

Muehlhausen:  Give Lynch and Baszler credit: They stunk up the joint at Survivor Series but provided a better-than-expected contest here. Short was better, considering Baszler has been underwhelming as a member of the main roster. Baszler helped change that narrative as she mixed her power and submissions quite well. Creative finish with Lynch flipping back to lock in the pin to remain the champion. Also have to wonder where Baszler goes from here.

Grade: B-

Sami Zayn def. Daniel Bryan to retain Intercontinental title

Hale: This was the one match that deserved, at minimum, 15 minutes. Bryan and Zayn were working toward an instant classic, and then the match was cut off at the knees. It’s no secret that Zayn is one of the most underutilized talents on the WWE roster (along with Cesaro, Nakamura and Gulak) and Bryan clearly put himself in position to put him over. It was pretty darn good while it lasted, but it deserved so much more.

Grade: B

Muehlhausen:  How these guys weren’t allowed to go 15 minutes is beyond me. Bryan is one of the top workers in the business and Zayn is no slouch in the ring. Glad to see Zayn retain because he deserves to be in a prime position, and working with Bryan will keep him there.

Grade: B

John Morrison def. Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso to retain the ‘Smackdown’ tag team titles

Hale: This was, by far, the best match of the night. Despite the fact The Miz was pulled after getting sick, this trio tore down the house in a ladder match. Everyone worked their tails off, with each high flyer from the respective teams showing off tremendous athleticism. The match was given the time it needed, and it delivered a brilliant finish with Kofi and Jimmy battling over the tag titles before Morrison stole them away. Excellent match with a fantastic ending.

Grade: A-

Muehlhausen: Not to shine a light on The Miz being sick, but it’s a good thing he wasn’t in this match because Morrison was exceptional, with Kingston and Uso not too far behind. All three worked hard and they were given the most important thing: time. The finish was excellent; all three were tugging at the belts, and then Kingston and Uso head-butted Morrison, who grabbed the belts and fell off the ladder. Morrison showed that it’s time for him to break from The Miz and go the singles route. 

Grade: A

Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins

Hale: Two Ring of Honor standouts were given a great deal of time to put on a show, and they delivered on all accounts. Owens and Rollins worked extraordinarily hard in a hard-hitting match. It appeared for a minute that Rollins was going to get the last laugh with a DQ finish after hitting Owens with the ring bell, but Owens demanded that the match continue and took it to another level. He hit a daredevil elbow drop through the announcer table and finished the job with a stunner in the center of the ring. Well-booked with a great finish.

Grade: A

Muehlhausen: The match lived up to the hype. Both men were given ample time and they busted their butts the entire match. It was enjoyable to see Owens and Rollins trash talk each other while simultaneously delivering a beating. Owens got the match to continue by invoking No Holds Barred rules. From there, Owens was in control. He hit the elbow drop from the top of the WrestleMania sign and then put Rollins back into the ring, where the latter wanted no more.

Grade: A

Braun Strowman def. Goldberg to win the Universal title

Hale: What was this? Well, I’ll tell you what this was: WWE booked itself into a corner by putting Goldberg over on The Fiend in Saudi Arabia for the purpose of having Roman Reigns beat him at WrestleMania to become Universal champion. Reigns being predictably taken out of the match and replaced by Strowman with no rhyme or reason made little sense. The result was a “WWE 2K” match with a spamming of finishers that resulted in Strowman pinning Goldberg for the belt after a series of power slams. This was bad.

Grade: F

Muehlhausen: How does one define “horrendous”? Yes, this falls on WWE for having Goldberg win the belt from The Fiend at Super Showdown. The premise made sense: Use the biggest star, Reigns, to beat him and win the title at the biggest event of the year. The match should have been canceled after Reigns pulled himself, but WWE, being stubborn and not knowing how to get out of its own way, instead booked Strowman. What resulted was one of the worst headliners in WrestleMania history. 

Grade: F-

The Undertaker def. AJ Styles

Hale: For what it’s worth, the fact this match was produced in advance rescued it from having Undertaker having to work. Instead, we ended up with a Boneyard Match that took itself a little too seriously but still ended up being relatively entertaining. It’s a challenge to figure out what this match was. It was kind of a brawl with some goofy aspects. Nevertheless, Undertaker managed to bury Styles at the end and endured some interference from Gallows and Anderson, along with some guys who were dressed in hoods for reasons unknown. It was what it was, and it ended up being somewhat entertaining.

Grade: C+

Muehlhausen: Give WWE credit. It made what would have been a rough situation inside the ring because of The Undertaker’s limitations into something people will at least talk about. The movie-style shots were well done; they gave the match a feel you don’t see too often. We also saw The Undertaker talking smack, which is out of character for him. Not a classic, but not bad. 

Grade: C+

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Dillian Whyte reveals how excruciating injury prompted doctors to write off his career

Dillian Whyte was advised to never fight again as he laid in a hospital bed after his brittle body finally shattered following a brutal battle with Anthony Joshua.

With his shattered hand in a cast, Whyte had been determined to fight on earlier that year and tried to avoid a face-to-face meeting with promoter Eddie Hearn, who was eager to secure a September showdown against Joshua.

When the Matchroom Boxing boss eventually met Whyte in a Brixton pub, he cursed loudly at the sight of the south Londoner’s left fist, but negotiations for a big domestic clash would only be delayed by a matter of months.

“I’m quite tough, probably a bit stupid as well,” Whyte told Sky Sports. “It’s still my mindset now to be honest. As soon as the cast came off, I went back to training. I had some 20 ounce gloves, I just started using them and then I went straight back to training.”

The Brixton man had bludgeoned his way up the rankings, relying more on brute force and raw power, rather than refined skills, and placed further strain on his creaking joints in a high-profile warm-up fight for his inevitable showdown with Joshua.

Brian Minto posed few problems to Whyte, who had hoped for a more physically imposing foe, but his eagerness to impress, while sharing the same O2 bill as Joshua, would aggravate a serious underlying injury.

“I thought it was maybe a bit of stiffness and stuff in my shoulder. I’m not somebody to really complain. I just get on with it,” said Whyte, who quickly broke Minto’s resolve with clubbing punches in the third round.

“I wish I had got it sorted back then. It ended up setting me back a long time – and I ended up heading towards my first defeat as well.”

Whyte begrudgingly made his first ever visit to a physio, and after struggling to manoeuvre his left arm behind him, was swiftly referred to an orthopaedic consultant.

Trainer Chris Okoh had been absent from Whyte’s corner since April, having been left seriously hurt in a hit-and-run incident, and American Johnathon Banks would oversee his preparations.

Banks, the cornerman in the latter stages of Wladimir Klitschko’s career, would unknowingly worsen Whyte’s physical decline as he was urged to become overly reliant on his injured left arm, while training sessions had to be fitted around the Ukrainian world champion’s schedule.

In spite of his impaired punch power, Whyte ploughed ahead with the Joshua fight, a reunion of feuding Londoners who had met before in the unpaid ranks. Whyte had floored and defeated Joshua on points in his first-ever amateur bout, and the demeanour of the Olympic champion darkened whenever he shared the stage with his adversary.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=gXMJlLAk9NE%3Ffeature%3Doembed

Cortisone injections, an accepted medical procedure in boxing, were needed to numb the pain in Whyte’s shoulder in the days ahead of the fight, and news of his opponent’s injury reached the ears of Joshua’s camp.

“They knew about my shoulder. Even in the press conference, he kept on saying to me: ‘Make sure your shoulder is alright. If you need a good physio, I will get one for you’.”

An enraged Whyte demanded a ‘straightener’ with Joshua after their fight on December 12 and had long since dismissed any suggestion that he should not renew hostilities with his fellow Londoner.

This stubborn desire for battle was so nearly rewarded.

In the midst of a wild brawl, with incensed entourages even entering the ring, Whyte picked his moment in the second round, uncorking a left hook that sent shock waves through Joshua, but he was unable to deliver a fight-ending punch.

“I was like, ‘Listen, it’s my opportunity. All I’ve got to do is – get the left hook off and that will be enough’, because Joshua when he attacks, he leaves his right side open all the time. But obviously the shoulder was so bad.

“I actually did land the punch I wanted to land, but when I landed it, my whole AC joint shattered. The pain was intense. My adrenaline was pumping, so I was just trying to keep it in, but the pain was crazy man. Every time I was jabbing or hitting him, it felt like the bone rubbing on bone and there was no power, no snap in the joint anymore.”

An exhausted Whyte, who had never fought longer than four rounds, wilted by the ropes in the seventh, with the referee swiftly signalling a stoppage. The fight was over, and he was later advised that his boxing career had also concluded.

He had been advised that surgery was necessary, even before the fight, and the ensuing operation revealed a series of issues as bones were shaved down to reconstruct his shoulder joint, which had also been severely hampered by arthritis.

Sitting in a hospital ward, Whyte produced a defiant smile as he posed for a picture that was released on social media, a few days after the fight, but behind the grin, he feared for his future.

“I thought to myself my career was finished,” said Whyte, who was informed that he would not regain the strength in his shoulder for two years, if ever.

Looks like surgery has been successful. Big thank you to Dr Jon Houghton and surgeon Livio Di Mascio. Thanks to all for your support & wishes. I will be back stronger next year #TEAMBODYSNATCHER #HEADACHEMAKER #

A post shared by Dillian Whyte (@dillianwhyte) on

“I’m not going to lie to you. It took me about a year before I really started to get that confidence and self-belief back.

“I’d just suffered my first defeat as well, my shoulder was shattered. But I thought, at least I fought for the British title. I gave it a run, I had 16 fights, or whatever it was. At least I gave it a try.”

But the loss of his unbeaten record instilled fresh motivation as Whyte sought advice on rehabilitation and strength and conditioning to rebuild his broken physique. He also learned to restrain his all-out aggression under the tutelage of new trainer Mark Tibbs, having tweaked his troublesome shoulder in a comeback win over Ivica Bacurin.

Whyte preferred to use new-found ring craft in commanding victories over David Allen and Ian Lewison, although a hard-fought points win over Derek Chisora proved that he could withstand a punishing encounter for 12 rounds.

An explosive showdown with Lucas Browne would finally signal the end of his lengthy rehabilitation following stringent training sessions at Loughborough University.

Whyte stormed out for the sixth round and gave a reminder of his concussive power.

💥DILLIAN'S EQUALISER💥

Two years ago today @DillianWhyte landed THAT left hook on Lucas Browne 😱

Can you think of many better heavyweight KOs in recent years? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/mkKqL9o8rh

“Against Browne, I had the training camp, and we did loads of shoulder mobility. I wasn’t getting so much pain in it anymore.

“I just got so much more confidence. All I need to do is, set this guy up, get the timing right, and I’m going to put this guy to sleep.”

Browne toppled face first on the canvas. Whyte was back. Joseph Parker and Chisora were both blasted to the canvas by left hooks as Whyte continued his charge towards a world title.

Alexander Povetkin, a fearsome puncher himself, is next in line for Whyte at Manchester Arena on July 4, live on Sky Sports Box Office, as he works towards a WBC mandatory title fight on February 2021.

But what about that Joshua fight? A chance for a rejuvenated Whyte to gain revenge?

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WrestleMania 36 location: What to know about WWE’s stage, empty-arena shows after Tampa cancellation

The “Grandest Stage of Them All” actually won’t be the grandest stage at all.

While the WWE Performance Center is birthplace of a lot of WWE and NXT superstars in the past few years, it’s playing home to a much more important event on Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5: WrestleMania 36.

Following the coronavirus pandemic, WWE called an audible, but it wasn’t for the play people expected. Rather than pushing the event back, Vince McMahon and Co. decided to push the event across the state, shifting from the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla. to the family-friendly environment of Orlando.

Here’s what you need to know about the show’s locale change:

WrestleMania 36 location

Originally scheduled to take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., WWE moved its signature show to the Performance Center in Orlando, Fla. While the state of Florida has hosted WrestleMania in the past — three times, in fact — Tampa will have to wait a little while longer to host their first show. 

Fans won’t be able to make the 90-minute drive from one spot to the other, as WrestleMania will be closed off to fans in attendance. Abiding by the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, many major sporting events have been closed off to the public as the coronavirus pandemic stretches across the globe.

If WrestleMania wasn’t going to be pushed back, moving the event to a closed, controlled facility was probably the next safest and wisest option for the company. They’ve had varying degrees of success on their most recent weekly shows, which have also taken place in the Performance Center.

In another twist, the show will not be live, as tapings for the show have reportedly already concluded.

WrestleMania 36 stage

WWE has been known for its elaborate stage and set designs for WrestleMania in years past, and with this year’s event taking place in a small, confined venue with limited personnel, that will likely not be the case.

WWE has held “RAW” and “SmackDown” shows from the Performance Center in recent weeks, with the gussied-up venue looking fairly natural, even without the fans:

While no official stage has been shown for WrestleMania 36 yet, a YouTube concept video shows what could have been in Tampa:

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What is a Boneyard match? The Undertaker vs AJ Styles WrestleMania match explained

WrestleMania 36 takes place over both days this weekend with AJ Styles facing off against Undertaker in a Boneyard match. But what is the WWE match and how will one of them win the contest?

AJ Styles has called out Undertaker in recent weeks which has led to the Boneyard match.

With the WWE extravaganza not taking place at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa as was planned because of coronavirus they have had to get creative.

That has led to the announcement of Styles vs Undertaker in a Boneyard match which has never been seen before.

However, Styles has revealed the contest is essentially a Buried Alive match but because of the connotations of calling it that, the WWE has opted to change the name.

Undertaker has made his name over the years in several Buried Alive matches with the likes of Kane and Mankind.

“Let me just say this about The Undertaker and AJ Styles,” Styles explained ahead of the match.

“I feel like AJ Styles has got this guy right where he wants him.

“He has baited him into a match that he can’t win, and I’m talking about The Undertaker can’t win, and we’re talking about a Boneyard Match, which is in a graveyard, which is wide open. Anything can happen.

“Think about that.

“AJ Styles is the bad guy. He doesn’t play fair. There’s that, a pretty smart play by AJ Styles if I do say so myself.

“So, let me make myself clear on the Boneyard Match — a Boneyard Match means anything can happen. It’s in a graveyard and there will be a grave. Does that kind of put it into perspective? There will be a hole.”

When pointed out that the match was literally a buried alive match, a stipulation they’ve used in the past, Styles explained why they chose the name.

“There’s a reason why I think it’s called a Boneyard Match. Because we didn’t want to say cemetery or a graveyard. You know, everything that’s going on, it sucks. Boneyard is slang for graveyard, it really is.”

WrestleMania gets underway at midnight both Saturday and Sunday in the UK and be watched on the WWE Network if you sign up to a free trial.

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Chris Eubank Jr hits out at Billy Joe Saunders & Callum Smith for ‘waiting around’ for Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez

Chris Eubank Jr has criticised Billy Joe Saunders and Callum Smith by insisting he would “not put his career on hold” by waiting for Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.

Saunders pipped Smith in a race to land the lucrative and career-defining opportunity to face Mexican icon Canelo on May 2 but the fight was never announced amid the coronavirus pandemic and is currently uncertain.

But Eubank Jr has mocked the British pair of super-middleweight world champions by claiming “I don’t think either actually wants to fight Canelo”.


Asked if he would have shown the same patience as Saunders or Smith in negotiations to face Canelo, Eubank Jr exclusively told Sky Sports: “Absolutely not. They are waiting around for scraps.

“I would never put my career on hold for anybody.

“There are too many belts, too many other great fights, that can be made.

“Canelo is young with a huge fan-base and will continue fighting so there is no need to stall your career for him. If anything, being active is the best way to fight him because the more wins you have, people will say: ‘Let’s see what you can do’. Being active is the best option.”

Eubank Jr said about Saunders and Smith: “They say they are [negotiating] – I don’t think either actually wants to fight Canelo. They may want a pay-day but they don’t want to fight.

“Each of their previous performances were terrible so there’s no doubt in my mind that Canelo would stop them both.”

Saunders ended Eubank Jr’s unbeaten start in 2014, with both rivals taking separate paths since then, and the Hatfield man holds the WBO super-middleweight belt, while Liverpudlian Smith is the WBA ‘super’ champion at 168lbs.

Canelo was looking to solidify his grip over four divisions by targeting a belt at super-middleweight and was expected to confirm a challenge against Saunders when the coronavirus outbreak began.

My Sincere Apologies. pic.twitter.com/5AtmiF2tJh

Saunders’ licence was suspended this week by the British Boxing Board of Control for a video that he posted on social media.

Eubank Jr said: “It would be a more exciting fight with me [against Canelo] rather than Saunders or Smith.

“The entire world knows that Saunders would run for 12 rounds in a boring fight then would be caught and knocked out. That is not a fight I’m interested in seeing. I don’t get the interest. Saunders has a belt which is the only reason he has this opportunity but, who knows, maybe that belt won’t be with him for much longer if he’s banned after what he’s done.

“Smith’s performance against John Ryder? We saw a lot of weaknesses in his game. Canelo is a far superior version of Ryder in terms of his style – come-forward, inside-fighting. Smith couldn’t deal with that against Ryder so what are they thinking? He barely got past Ryder.

“I think Ryder won that fight. I should be the next man at middleweight.”


Eubank Jr completed a career-best win last year by beating James DeGale then marked his US debut with a stoppage of Matt Korobov, who withdrew injured in the second round.

The 30-year-old is the WBA interim middleweight champion – Canelo holds the full championship but is now targeting a title in the division above.

“Technically, my fight with Korobov should have been for the full world title, not the interim. So it’s annoying that Canelo is able to do what he’s not supposed to be doing. His name gets him certain privileges.”

Eubank Jr, who is currently training in America during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, has given his backing to Chain of Hope, a children’s charity.

“I would like people to help me support the Chain of Hope which is a charity that is close to my heart who offer life save operations for children in need,” he said.

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Anthony Yarde loses grandmother to coronavirus within week of father’s death

British light-heavyweight Anthony Yarde has announced his grandmother has died from the coronavirus, just a few days after his father’s death as a result of the pandemic.

Yarde’s father, who the boxer said had been “fit with no health issues”, died last Friday.

And the 28-year-old fighter says his grandmother passed away on Thursday – and again appealed to people to stay at home.

🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/8rWOiEpKtS

“It’s serious!” Yarde wrote on social media.

“People are still going out when they don’t need to.

“I know there’s a lot of opinions about Covid-19 and I have mine but I just know opinions ain’t worth risking your life and others.

“Just stay home.”

Yarde’s next fight was set to be against fellow Brit Lyndon Arthur on 11 April, but the event has been delayed until 11 July because of the pandemic.

Yarde’s promoter Frank Warren wrote on Twitter: “We are extremely sad to learn that Anthony Yarde has now lost his Nan to the Coronavirus.

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Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev postponed as Eddie Hearn drops hint when fight will happen

Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The bout was due to take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 20 in what would have been the Britain’s first fight on home soil in two years. 

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Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has revealed talks are taking place with Premier League giants Tottenham about rescheduling in July or August.  

“We’re speaking to Tottenham, we’ve postponed the 20th date,” promoter Eddie Hearn told Sky Sports.

“We are working with them for dates in July and early August as well, when we hope we’ll be back.

“Hopefully we see that fight take place at the end of the summer.”

JUST IN: Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder called for amid Tyson Fury talk

Joshua’s defence against Pulev is the latest high-profile bout to fall victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tyson Fury’s trilogy fight with Deontay Wilder – which was due to take place in Las Vegas on July 18 – has been postponed until October.

Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing had a contingency plan in place in the event of Joshua’s clash with Pulev not being able to go ahead as planned, reserving use of Tottenham’s stadium on July 25.

Pulev recently admitted he expected the bout to be pushed back to that date.

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“Despite humanity’s most difficult fight to date and the underestimation of the effects on the world of the coronavirus,” the two-time world title challenger said.

“We will be forced to learn to live in a new, not so pleasant, way that millions of people around the world will be mildly unhappy.

“Despite the difficulties, we must find new opportunities to smile, to transform our lives so that despite all the unpleasant things, to remain happy and to believe in a better future, and that all of this is, after all, for good!

“This is exactly why, despite my real view of the situation, I strongly believe that a world title match can be held on the new date of July 25.”

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