FRIENDLY? THAT’S A DIRTY WORD

FROM STEVE BRENNER IN MIAMI

Charlie Stillitano knows exactly when everything fell into place. “I sat down with José Mourinho in 2003 and he said. ‘I want to play really hard games,’” the New Yorker, who appears to be friends with every football A-lister, tells the Guardian.

“José was the first person to not just embrace it, but demand it. Sir Alex Ferguson later wrote he learned something from José about getting ready to start the season. It was like total stamp-endorsing.”

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A NEW DAWN FOR MIAMI TENNIS

FROM STEVE BRENNER IN KEY BISCAYNE

When the last ball is hit at the Miami Open in Key Biscayne this weekend, tennis sentimentalists will shed a tear. For the past 32 years Crandon Park has hosted a tournament once heralded as the ‘fifth slam’, a moniker which has weakened along with the decay of a venue badly in need of an update it will never get.

Instead, with upgrades blocked by legal wranglings and environmental concerns, the tournament will move north to the recently renovated Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins.

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McGUIGAN WANTS INSTANT REDEMPTION

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STEVE BRENNER AT THE MGM GRAND

Barry McGuigan was not in the mood for false promises. Carl Frampton, the Northern Irishman he reveres like a son, had just fallen to the first defeat of his 24-fight career and had the WBA featherweight title won so brilliantly six months ago in New York wrestled from his grasp by Leo Santa Cruz, the man who was felled on that raucous Barclays Center evening.

No one was begrudging the Mexican his moment of triumph. Santa Cruz was excellent, unleashing to perfection a game plan which forced Frampton to abandon his preferred counter-punching role and instead act as the aggressor.

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FRAMPTON’S MOMENT OF TRUTH

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FROM STEVE BRENNER , LAS VEGAS

Carl Frampton stands close to greatness. The glitz of Las Vegas can easily blur minds yet Frampton’s razor sharp focus has shone like the lights on the strip.

This is his first defence of the WBA featherweight crown he took so gloriously in New York last July from Leo Santa Cruz ,the Mexican three-weight world champion who will stand in the opposing corner on Saturday night aiming to avenge the first defeat of his 34-fight career. With an estimated 5,000 fans from Frampton’s native Northern Ireland here to roar him home, the stakes have rarely been higher.

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THE NEW BOSS. SAME AS THE OLD ONE

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FROM STEVE BRENNER

Bruce Arena’s second coming passed with no fanfare or grandiose predictions.

In a stale, uninspiring telephone conference, the 65 year-old described his delight and drive at landing the job of USA coach over 10 years since being fired by US Soccer president Sunil Gulati, the man who has just reappointed him.

“I view it as Bruce 2.0,” said Gulati, slightly unconvincingly.

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HAITI DREAM OF A NEW BEGINNING

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BY STEVE BRENNER

When the Haitian national anthem permeates the Seattle air on Sunday night , raw emotion will fill a proud nation’s heart.

On hearing the poetic ‘La Dessalinienne ‘ , minds will flash back to Port au Prince , the country’s brilliantly chaotic capital – a battered , beautiful , historic part of the world which has been ravaged with unimaginable hardships no one should ever experience.

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