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Tony McCoy in hospital after Wetherby fall

McCoy rushed to hospital after bloodied jockey is hurt in horror fall at Wetherby

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UPDATED:

14:23 GMT, 2 November 2012

Tony McCoy was left bloodied and bruised after the champion jumps jockey experienced the ups and downs of National Hunt racing in a horror fall at Wetherby.

After landing his 100th winner at Hereford on Thursday he was brought back down to earth with a bang when unseated prior to the start of the first race.

McCoy was unshipped from the hot favourite Mr Watson on the way to the start and had to be attended by paramedics.

Bloodied: Tony McCoy was rusghed to hospital after his horror fall at Wetherby left him bloodied and bruised

Injured McCoy wipes blood away from his mouth

Bloodied: Tony McCoy was rusghed to hospital after his horror fall at Wetherby left him bloodied and bruised

However, the 17-times champion was able to walk to the ambulance and was taken to York Hospital.

Clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson confirmed McCoy would not be taking up his one remaining ride on the card.

He said: 'He's been stood down for the day. He's conscious and walking, but he has been referred to hospital in York – I believe as he has a bad facial injury.

Uncertain: McCoy, who rode his 100th winner of the year at Hereford on Thursday, is due to ride four horses at Ascot on Saturday

Uncertain: McCoy, who rode his 100th winner of the year at Hereford on Thursday, is due to ride four horses at Ascot on Saturday

'I don't know if he'll be riding tomorrow.'

McCoy is booked for four rides at Ascot on Saturday.

When the race eventually got under way, 2-1 shot African Gold got up close home to score.

Matt Prior interview: India beware England"s world-class wicketkeeper

EXCLUSIVE: Prior warning! India beware… England's keeper has gone from mouthy upstart to world beating all-rounder

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 28 October 2012

Matt Prior has come a long way since he was unfairly singled out for being a bit too gobby during his debut Test summer of 2007.

These days, his glovework is barely noticed. His batting average of 42 is the stuff of a genuine all-rounder. And, most pertinently of all as far as England’s tour of India is concerned, it was Prior who phoned Kevin Pietersen during the summer at the height of the texting controversy to find out what on earth was going on.

It’s true that Pietersen was dropped from the Test side the following day. But not before he and Prior had endured a heart-to-heart that history may yet record as the starting point of Pietersen’s ‘reintegration’.

Glove story: Matt Prior has proved himself as top class with gauntlets and bat

Glove story: Matt Prior has proved himself as top class with gauntlets and bat

Prior’s response to this suggestion is that of the archetypal team player. ‘I don’t think I can take any credit because next day all hell broke loose,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘There’s been a bit said about the phone call. I just did what I’d do if it had been anyone: KP or Broad or Swann, or any one of my team-mates.

‘If they’ve got an issue in the dressing room, the right thing to do is to speak to them and say, “what’s up” And I’d do exactly the same if the same thing happened again. But hopefully it won’t.

‘I can see that Kevin wants to be a part of this team — and for us that’s great news.’

The charges against Prior during the 2007 home series against India ranged from the puerile to the pernicious. Not only was he accused of having scattered the jelly beans at Trent Bridge that so enraged India’s attack leader Zaheer Khan. He was said to have bragged to Sachin Tendulkar about driving a Porsche.

Both claims were untrue, yet Prior took them on the chin, knuckled down after subsequently losing his Test place, and is now — like all good keepers — the beating heart of the fielding effort.

If he is still keeping spirits up come the fourth Test at Nagpur in December, we’ll know Alastair Cook’s tourists have punched above their weight.

Prior, who along with his team-mates was due to arrive in Mumbai on Monday following a training camp in Dubai, is pragmatic about the challenge ahead.

Since David Gower captained England to victory in 1984-85, India have lost only four Test series at home out of 40.

Point to prove: Prior says England are still hurt about defeat to South Africa

Point to prove: Prior says England are still hurt about defeat to South Africa

Only Pakistan, South Africa and Australia have triumphed there in that time. ‘India is as tough as it gets for an England cricketer,’ said Prior at Chance to Shine’s Brit Insurance Annual Achievement awards. ‘For this team, it’s the final frontier. We haven’t won there for 28 years, which is longer than it took us to beat the Aussies in Australia.

‘Someone mentioned to me recently that it doesn’t seem as big as the Ashes because it’s not the old enemy and it doesn’t probably capture the nation’s imagination as much as Australia.

‘But for us it’s a massive series, and it will be a huge challenge.’ Prior has spent his time since the end of the English season ‘getting really quite fit and stripping off a few pounds’.

Wicketkeeping under the Indian sun can be a gruelling business. But he is also determined to help erase the memories of a traumatic summer in which England imploded, on and off the field. ‘To win in India would be very special. What would make it more special is that we would have come back from a tough summer.

‘I’m a big believer that team hardships can, if dealt with in the right way, lead to the team being stronger. And that ultimately is the most important thing.’

Is the team still hurting after losing the Test series — and the No 1 ranking — to South Africa

‘There’s hurt whenever you lose a Test series,’ said Prior. ‘The No 1 spot is certainly something we want to get back. But it’s not going to be an overnight thing. With Cooky now coming in as captain, it’s an exciting time for the team to start again, and say, right, that was a good two-year period, and we’re about to start on another period.

Mates: Prior gets on well with Kevin Pietersen and helped his reintegration

Mates: Prior gets on well with Kevin Pietersen and helped his reintegration

‘This is a window of opportunity to see how far we can get over the next year to 18 months.’

Central to England’s hopes of triumphing in a country that has brought them a single Test victory — Andrew Flintoff’s ‘Ring of Fire’ win at Mumbai in March 2006 — from their last four visits will be their batting against India’s spinners. In that regard, England’s three trips to Asia in 2012 have not been auspicious.

‘You can’t keep performing like that against spin on subcontinental wickets,’ said Prior. ‘I think we learned a lot of lessons.’

Chief among them, believes Prior, is that there is no one-size-fits-all method of tackling spin.

‘Maybe where we have gone wrong is that we tried to follow one template,’ he said. ‘I don’t think you can do that.’

Pietersen once claimed Prior was England’s best player of spin. Had he not middled a sweep straight into the midriff of Lahiru Thirimanne at short leg at a crucial stage of a fourth-innings run chase at Galle in March, they might even have won the Test series in Sri Lanka. So what’s his secret

‘I see it as a game of cat and mouse. Rotating the strike is the biggest thing. It’s all well and good hitting boundaries and big shots to release pressure, but if you can rotate the strike, you can release the pressure that way.

‘You’ve got to try to move fielders. That allows you then to hit ones and twos into an area that’s as safe as possible. That’s my way of doing it — but everyone has their own way.’

The modesty is unnecessary, for Prior’s way sounds as thoughtful as any. Besides — as Pietersen will confirm — he has earned the right to be listened to.

Matt Prior was supporting Chance to Shine, the campaign to bring cricket back to schools. To make a donation visit www.chancetoshine.org

Ronaldo deserves to win Ballon d"Or says Jose Mourinho

Forget Messi, Ronaldo deserves World Player of the Year award, demands Mourinho

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UPDATED:

12:39 GMT, 12 October 2012

Jose Mourinho believes it would be a crime if Cristiano Ronaldo lost out to Lionel Messi for the 2012 Ballon d'Or.

Messi has won the award for the last three years but Mourinho hit back after Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova claimed the Argentine was 'the best (player) in the world by a long way'.

'When someone with the same responsibility as me comes out and says: 'Mine is the best on the planet' then I have to say: 'Mine was not born in Madeira, he was born on Mars; he is not from planet Earth, he is the best in the universe,' the Real Madrid boss told Portuguese daily A Bola in an interview.

Main man: Cristiano Ronaldo has been in fine form for Real Madrid

Main man: Cristiano Ronaldo has been in fine form for Real Madrid

'If Messi is the best on the planet, Ronaldo is the best in the universe. It would be a crime if Ronaldo did not win the Ballon d'Or.'

Ronaldo won the award in 2008 and Mourinho said it was time to recognise him again.

'If you are going to give out the
Ballon d'Or because a player is the best, give it to Cristiano or Messi.
But I ask: if the two are on the same level, is it normal that one wins
four and the other one It is not.'

Resting on his laurels: Lionel Messi continues to shine for Barcelona

Resting on his laurels: Lionel Messi continues to shine for Barcelona

In
Sunday's 2-2 La Liga draw at the Camp Nou, Ronaldo became the first
player to score in six consecutive 'Clasicos' with his ninth and 10th
strikes on his 16th appearance against Barca.

Mourinho said a player needed to win big titles to deserve the Ballon d'Or.
'How can you win the Ballon d'Or without collecting titles, without winning anything important Don't come to me telling me about the Intercontinental Cup or the Supercup, this is small stuff. Tell me about fat titles,' Mourinho said.

Demanding: Jose Mourinho

Demanding: Jose Mourinho

The Portuguese coach said Ronaldo had had a tougher career than his Argentine rival.

'It is harder to be Cristiano than Messi. Messi grew up in the team where he plays, with the players with whom he plays. Not Cristiano.

'He was in England, then they put him here in a losing team. He had to grow over the last two years with this team which has been forming,' Mourinho said.

'One (Messi) plays as a (No) 9 and roams around in those 50 square metres where the distance to goal is smaller and defence less intense.'

'The other (Ronaldo) plays as a winger. How does a winger score as many goals as a No 9 Besides, Ronaldo is a player who is not protected by anyone.'

The Ballon d'Or, which merged with the World Player of the Year award in 2010, will be awarded on January 7 in Zurich.

Flower faces biggest test over the Pietersen conundrum as England prepare to gamble

Flower faces biggest test over the Pietersen conundrum as England prepare to gamble

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UPDATED:

20:59 GMT, 7 August 2012

How has it possibly come to this How have England found themselves in a situation where they will approach a Test they must win with all attention centred not on how they will beat South Africa but on the future of Kevin Pietersen

No wonder Andy Flower has not seemed himself during what was meant to be the clash of the best Test teams for the world No 1 status. All has not seemed right with England during this vital series and now we know why.

Make no mistake, Flower faces the biggest challenge of his highly successful reign as England team director in sorting this one out. How on earth does he ensure that his team are focused on winning at Lord’s next week when such an integral member of the side has become so disenfranchised

It does look as though England will pick Pietersen for the do-or-die date and will still offer him a contract to remain playing Test cricket beyond this season, even though Pietersen said so dramatically at Headingley that he cannot guarantee his future participation.

A man apart: Pietersen (right) keeps his distance from Trott, Bell and Strauss

A man apart: Pietersen (right) keeps his distance from Trott, Bell and Strauss

It is understandable they still want to select a man who can raise his game to such a rarefied level, as he did spectacularly in the second Test, but at what cost would that be to the continued success of the team who rose so impressively to the top of the world It is proving a rocky ride at the top for England.

I feel as though I know Pietersen as well as anybody in the media but even I am confused. I just cannot put my finger on what his problem is. Take a look at the cricinfo website and watch the seven-minute press conference Pietersen gave late on Monday in Leeds and tell me if you can make sense of it.

Pietersen clearly did not want to give much away on what is gnawing at him but all he succeeded in doing was to send out a catalogue of mixed messages. It’s not about the money, he insisted. It’s not really about spending more time with his family. As Matt Prior said on Sunday: ‘I’m not sure Kevin really knows what he wants.’

Pietersen kept saying all will be revealed after Lord’s and we can only hope it is.

There certainly seems tension between him and the other England players, which I do not think has been the case until now. He seemed happier to spend time with the South African players than he did the England ones when both teams were on the outfield. And his priority when he reached the best of his 21 Test centuries on Saturday was clearly acknowledging his wife, Jessica, in the stands rather than the home dressing room.

Explosive: Pietersen gives his interview to Jonathan Agnew after the Headingley Test

Explosive: Pietersen gives his interview to Jonathan Agnew after the Headingley Test

It is even said that part of Pietersen’s problem is his fury over the fake Twitter account which parodies his ego, one that is often so cuttingly believable that someone close to the team must be behind it. Pietersen does not see the funny side and apparently has not liked being teased over it.

His relationship with his employers at the ECB, which plummeted when he lost the captaincy three years ago over the Peter Moores saga, is at an all-time low, too. Towards the end of that press conference Pietersen accused the ECB of leaking details of private meetings, specifically his hopes of missing part of next year’s Test series against New Zealand to play a full Indian Premier League campaign.

That is a serious accusation and Flower and Hugh Morris, the man in charge of Team England, will have to decide whether things have become so bad that Pietersen’s position is untenable. Clearly they do not believe it has yet but there are sure to be more tense meetings before Sunday’s announcement of England’s team for the final Test.

Maybe we can also see now why England attempted to rush Ravi Bopara back into the Lions side for the game against Australia A at Old Trafford so soon after the domestic issue surfaced which led him to pull out of the second Test. Perhaps they were hoping to prove Bopara’s readiness to be rushed back at Lord’s if England suddenly needed another batsman in Pietersen’s absence.

That went out of the window when Bopara pulled out of that side at the last moment following an animated conversation with national selector Geoff Miller.

On the attack: Pietersen appears for the Rajasthan Royals

On the attack: Pietersen appears for the Rajasthan Royals

England talked of creating a legacy as one of the best teams of all time when they rose to No 1 by thrashing India last year. Yet they have lost five out of 10 Tests since and will lose that top-dog status if they do not beat the formidable South Africans at Lord’s. With a winter series in India to come they could be sliding back towards mid-table if they are not careful.

Will Pietersen be with them this winter in his favourite cricketing country It is anybody’s guess. What is beyond doubt is that it would be a crying shame if this is the end of his seven-year rollercoaster ride with his adopted country. Mike Atherton, one of the most respected observers in the game, said it is difficult to imagine anyone scoring a better century than the one Pietersen produced at Leeds.

Does he really want to give all that up when he is one century away from the England Test record of 22 and 3,000 runs short of his 10,000 target And all because he wants to play in the whole of the IPL, and earn his full $2million contract with Delhi, as the leading players from other countries are allowed to do.

The ECB are adamant they will not compromise their early season Test series even though we know the Kiwis will arrive next May with a team shorn of their IPL players.

Can something give It is doubtful but Flower will not want to give up on a batsman capable, to quote the fake Twitter KP, of genuine cricketing genius. It will be a gamble if England pick Pietersen next week and beyond but it is one they are prepared to take.

London 2012 Olympics: Taoufik Makhloufi wins 1500m

Riddle of 'injured' Makhloufi’s 1500m gold as Algerian storms to glory

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UPDATED:

21:36 GMT, 7 August 2012

Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi was crowned 1500m champion — just 24 hours after he was thrown out of the Games and reinstated in controversial circumstances.

The 24-year-old was ejected from the Olympics on Monday after officials ruled he had not tried in the 800m heats, but was reinstated after Algerian officials produced a document from a LOCOG medic showing he had been suffering from a knee condition.

His suspect knee did not prevent Makhloufi from racing to gold in a time of 3min 34.08sec, with a blistering final lap.

Shock: Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi (right) celebrates winning the 1500m

Shock: Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi (right) celebrates winning the 1500m

He broke the field running a back-straight 100m in 12.6sec and the last bend in 12.5.

His performance caused BBC commentator Steve Cram, who had queried the runner’s performance in the semi-finals on Sunday, to say: ‘Where on earth did he get that from He’s never done anything like that before in his career.’

Makhloufi won his 1500m semi-final in 3:42.24, surprisingly beating Olympic and world champion Asbel Kiprop.

Injury: Taoufik Makhloufi was reportedly hurt before blitzing the field

Injury: Taoufik Makhloufi was reportedly hurt before blitzing the field

He lined up again in the 800m heats on Monday but went off very slowly before giving up after barely half a lap and wandering off the track. Organisers initially threw him out of the Games for failing to provide ‘a bona fide effort’, but reversed their decision.

Makhloufi was reportedly forced to race in the 800m after Algeria failed to withdraw him from the event before Sunday’s deadline.

London 2012 Olympics: Daley Thompson"s top 10 world Olympians

Daley's top 10 world Olympians: Legend's list of the best from around the globe

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UPDATED:

01:55 GMT, 28 July 2012

Sportsmail's Daley Thompson chose his top 10 Olympians from across the ages and iconic artist Paul Trevillion was on hand to put pencil to paper.

Carl Lewis

1. Carl Lewis (USA)

Los Angeles 1984: Gold 100m, Gold 200m, Gold 4x100m relay, Gold long jump.
Seoul 1988: Gold 100m, Silver 200m, Gold long jump.
Barcelona 1992: Gold 4x100m relay, Gold long jump.
Atlanta 1996: Gold long jump

Just so, so good. I don’t even like the fella and he has to make my list. He was the fastest man on earth and easily the best long jumper, but the only chink in his athletic armour was that he never broke the long jump world record. Mike Powell beat him to it, which was a travesty. Lewis was so physically capable I can't believe he didn't do it.

Viktor Saneyev

2. Viktor Saneyev (USSR)

Mexico City 1968: Gold triple jump. Munich 1972: Gold triple jump. Montreal 1976: Gold triple jump. Moscow 1980: Silver triple tump.

For me, this is the most physically demanding event. The training for it is really tough. Four Games, three golds, enough said.

Birget Fischer
3. Birgit Fischer (East Germany/Germany)

Moscow 1980: Gold canoeing K-1 500m. Seoul 1988: Gold K-2 500m, Gold K-4 500m, Silver K-1 500m. Barcelona 1992: Gold K-1 500m, Silver K-4 500m.
Atlanta 1996: Gold K-4 500m, Silver K-2 500m. Sydney 2000: Gold K-2 500m, Gold K-4 500m. Athens 2004: Gold K-4 500m, Silver K-2 500m.

Sickness has robbed Birgit of competing at the highest level for 32 years of Olympic Games. She was supposed to be here this summer going for gold after winning her first in 1980. To reach the pinnacle every four years for so long is phenomenal, which is why she’s one of my top non-British Olympians. Incredible.

Jim Thorpe
4. Jim Thorpe (USA)

Stockholm 1912: Gold pentathlon, Gold decathlon.

King Gustav of Sweden described him as ‘the world’s greatest athlete’, which was true until I came along! Now he’s the second greatest athlete. Thorpe’s Native American name of ‘Bright Path’ was pretty cool, too.

Lasse Viren

5. Lasse Viren (Finland)

Munich 1972: Gold 5,000m, Gold 10,000m. Montreal 1976: Gold 5,000m, Gold 10,000m.

The first bloke to do the ‘double double’. An amazing achievement. He even finished fifth in the marathon just 18 hours after claiming gold in the 5,000m at Montreal. That blows my mind.

Dawn Fraser

6. Dawn Fraser (Australia)

Melbourne 1956: Gold 100m freestyle, Gold 4x100m freestyle, Silver 400m freestyle.
Rome 1960: Gold 100m freestyle, Silver 4x100m freestyle, Silver 4x100m medley.
Tokyo 1964: Gold 100m freestyle, Silver 4x100m freestyle.

Great personality, great athlete. A typical Aussie who worked hard and played hard. Then played some more. Three swimming sprint golds in a row is seriously impressive.

Emil Zatopek
7. Emil Zatopek (Czechoslovakia)

London 1948: Gold 10,000m, Silver 5,000m.
Helsinki 1952: Gold marathon, Gold 10,000m, Gold 5,000m.

I fell in love with this incredible distance runner because of two brilliant stories. When I was little I read about how he’d train by running while holding his breath and that his wife would go out and find him unconscious.

I was also told that Ron Clarke, probably the greatest athlete never to win Olympic gold, went to visit Zatopek and after he left he found that the Czech had slipped one of his gold medals into Clarke’s bag. Classy gesture.

Fanny Blackers-Koen
8. Fanny Blankers-Koen (Holland)

London 1948: Gold 100m, Gold 200m, Gold 80m hurdles, Gold 4x100m relay.

After all those years of war and deprivation, the world needed a lift and got one. Fanny was just an ordinary person with extraordinary ability.

Jesse Owens
9. Jesse Owens (USA)

Berlin 1936: Gold 100m, Gold 200m, Gold 4x100m relay, Gold long jump.

Iconic. To go to Germany at that time and beat the Germans ensures he’s a shoo-in on this list.

Mark Spitz
10. Mark Spitz (USA)

Mexico City 1968: Gold 4x100m freestyle, Gold 4x200m freestyle, Silver 100m butterfly, Bronze 100m freestyle.
Munich 1972: Gold 100m butterfly, Gold 100m freestyle, Gold 200m butterfly, Gold 200m freestyle, Gold 4x100m freestyle, Gold 4x100m medley, Gold 4x200m freestyle.

I saw from Spitz that you could make a living being an athlete. Everything just added up after I saw him make $1million after he finished competing.

P.S SPECIAL MENTION…

British sports administrator Sir Denis Follows was told not to take a British team to the Moscow Games in 1980 as Margaret Thatcher’s government wanted us to boycott those Olympics. Sir Denis, chairman of the BOA, refused which was certainly good news for Seb and me.

Euro 2012 Andriy Shevchenko is great

Ian Ladyman's Euro diary: Shevchenko is one of the game's great guys

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UPDATED:

20:59 GMT, 26 June 2012

Andriy Shevchenko – currently weighing up an offer from the American MLS – is one of football’s good guys. The 35-year-old returned to his old neighbourhood in Kiev on Monday to open an outdoor football facility he has funded for under-privileged Ukrainian children.

Top man: Shevchenko (left)

Top man: Shevchenko (left)

Salt of the earth

Sky interviewer Geoff Shreeves visited the football pitch at Soledar salt mines near Donetsk this week. Situated 100 feet underground in a cave, everything apart from the goal nets, including the pitch, is made of salt.

Merkel meeter

If you ever wondered what back-up goalkeepers do at major tournaments then speak to Germany’s Tim Wiese. His role is to give a ‘thank you’ speech to chancellor Angela Merkel when she visits the dressing room after big matches. Better than cutting up the oranges, I guess.

Playing it cool: Wiese (left)

Playing it cool: Wiese (left)

Indecision is final

Spain's political boycott of Ukraine is being tested by the team’s success. Prime minister Mariano Rajoy has stayed away but now says he may attend the final if Spain make it because the situation is ‘qualitatively different’. How good of him.

Floyd Mayweather beats Miguel Cotto

Wait for it, Amir: Another year and Floyd may be beaten

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 6 May 2012

Money talks and Floyd Mayweather spoke so eloquently inside and outside the ring in Las Vegas on Saturday night that the whole world sat up and took notice.

The brilliance with which Mayweather repulsed Miguel Cotto’s machismo assault on his unbeaten record spelt out his claim to be recognised above Manny Pacquaio as the best pound-for-pound fighter on planet earth.

Those fight-by-fight exchanges of bragging rights are important since, as Mayweather admits himself: ‘That fight between me and Pacquaio which all the fans want to see is not going to happen.’

Champion: Floyd Mayweather extended his unbeaten record against Miguel Cotto

Champion: Floyd Mayweather extended his unbeaten record against Miguel Cotto

For that he blames the PacMan’s promoter, Bob Arum, but there are also issues about his own demand for the lion’s share of the $100 million-plus purse.

Only one thing was left unsaid at the MGM Grand Garden: If boxing is dead, then nobody has told the corpse.

As each three minute stanza of dazzling intensity came to its climax the sell-out crowd rose to its feet. Not just to roar its excitement but to applaud the celestial quality of what all 16,047 of them had just witnessed.

Boxing still can be a noble art and when it is performed with such virtuosity it deserves its standing ovation.

When it is shot through with such courage as this the protagonists deserve their rich rewards, on this hot night in Sin City a minimum $32million and $8million for Mayweather and Cotto respectively.

Amir Khan would like to share in such a pay-TV bonanza but Mayweather’s master-class sent out another message, once which warned Britain’s Olympian talent to be patient.

In control: Mayweather got the better of Cotto over 12 thrilling rounds

In control: Mayweather got the better of Cotto over 12 thrilling rounds

Before trading with the man who calls himself Money our former – and hopefully soon to be reinstated – world light-welterweight champion should have at least one acclimatising fight at full welter and wait until next year.

Khan seeks to regain his titles in a grudge re-match with Lamont Peterson on this Strip in less than a fortnight. But it is not in his best interests to be the first challenger in waiting when Mayweather comes out of the Clark County jail some three months from now.

Not only does he need to test himself at the heavier weight but by next summer Mayweather will be another year older and Khan another year wiser.

At 35, the not-so-quiet American remains a remarkable athlete and a demonic trainer. But even on this impressive occasion the first subtle signs that Father Time is catching up with him became apparent.

Mayweather explained his willingness to engage in a full-blooded battle with Cotto as a desire to entertain the masses. Maybe so but even the greatest pugilists go through the transition from boxer to fighter as they age.

Tough challenge: Cotto gave Mayweather the toughest fight of his career

Tough challenge: Cotto gave Mayweather the toughest fight of his career

As they become less light on their feet and less fluent in movement – almost imperceptibly at first – they find themselves standing and exchanging punches instead of dancing and dazzling.

It is more dramatic to watch but it takes its toll and for the first time in his 43-win career Mayweather was bleeding from nose and mouth as the battle raged.

Although he won, deservedly, that proved to be a maturing experience. At the final bell he told Cotto: ‘You’re a helluva a champion, the toughest guy I ever fought.’

When the officials gave him victory by a Cotto-insulting 118-110 points on one card and an exaggerated 117-111 on the other two, this man who has always liked to announce himself perfect was the first to voice dissent: ‘This was a night of blood, sweat and tears and Miguel won a few rounds.’
That he did, four of them on my 116-112 scorecard.

Cotto troubled Mayweather with his violent persistence at close quarters, even though he was caught marginally more often by the accuracy of his celebrated challenger’s mix of counter punches and offensive combinations.

Wait: Amir Khan (right) must beat Lamont Peterson before facing Mayweather

Wait: Amir Khan (right) must beat Lamont Peterson before facing Mayweather

The fight was in the balance until Mayweather changed up a gear with four rounds to go, culminating his effort with a grandstand finish in the 12th which had the Puerto Rican staggering.

But Cotto , whose WBA light-middleweight belt was on the line, is nothing if not defiant and when the last bell sounded they embraced in mutual respect.

Perhaps the imminence of the June 1 start to his prison sentence for domestic violence is enabling Mayweather to put his life in more reasoned perspective. It certainly sounded like that as he said: ‘Going away is an obstacle I must overcome by strengthening my mind – and next time I am in a situation like that I hope I will deal with it a different way.’

He spoke after adapting in the ring to become a world champion for the eighth time in five different weight divisions.

Despite the degree of difficult and discomfort which Cotto brought to the equation, Mayweather said: ‘It was a cool fight.’

It is also one which breathes life back into a sport requiring resuscitation.

As Oscar De La Hoya, president of promoters Golden Boy, put it so succinctly: ‘This was a beautiful thing for boxing.’

Warren Gatland gives Wales try scorer Scott Williams reality check

Gatland gives Wales try scorer Williams a reality check

Wales head coach Warren Gatland
brought matchwinner Scott Williams down to earth by telling him his
brilliant late try had simply made up for an earlier botched effort.

Williams, on for the injured Jamie Roberts, had messed up a chance to send Jonathan Davies or George North away to score.

History man: Wales coach Warren Gatland praises his team after they lift the Triple Crown

History man: Wales coach Warren Gatland praises his team after they lift the Triple Crown

And Gatland said: 'I asked Scott afterwards if he felt his try had made up for his earlier effort. He should have passed, and if he had, it would have been a try. But he made amends by scoring himself later.

'It was great to see him ripping the ball out of Courtney Lawes' hands and going on to score because we spend time in training working on doing just that and it paid dividends. It was a great Test match and I said to the guys before that they had a chance in creating history by winning the Triple Crown.

On the run: Scott Williams of Wales breaks the tackle of Tom Croft to score

On the run: Scott Williams of Wales breaks the tackle of Tom Croft to score

'England were at home and desperate, their defence was excellent and I think the occasion slightly got to some of the younger players.'

Gatland, now the hot favourite to be appointed the 2013 British and Irish Lions head coach after this result, reserved special praise for his captain Sam Warburton, who recovered from injury to produce a man-of-the-match display despite putting in no contact training all week.

'You need a genuine No 7 at Test match level because it is such a crucial role and that is what Sam is,' said Gatland.

Singled out: Sam Warburton (left) praised by Gatland

Singled out: Sam Warburton (left) praised by Gatland

'When you consider how little training he has done in the past few weeks, he showed his quality and class here.'

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards praised England's Owen Farrell – who he remembered as a small boy watching his father Andy training alongside Edwards when they were playing rugby league at Wigan.

'Owen played very well and obviously has a big career ahead of him,' said Edwards.

'He's just like his dad. He's mature beyond his years.'

Luke Donald tops European Tour money list as Rory McIlroy falls short in Dubai

He”s in the money! Donald makes history as rival McIlroy falls short in Dubai

Luke Donald has became the first man to win the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season.

Donald was still on the Earth course in Dubai when Rory McIlroy, his only remaining challenger on the European circuit, failed to achieve the win he needed to keep the race alive.

Even then, England”s world No 1 was odds-on to add the title to his PGA Tour crown. He required a top-nine finish and was joint fourth with four to play.

Catch me if you can: Donald (left) has topped the European Tour

Catch me if you can: Donald (left) has topped the European Tour”s money list

McIlroy has been tired and drained after suffering with a viral infection and he said this had simply been a tournament too far at the end of a hectic schedule of playing events.

“I couldn”t get anything going when I needed to. I played a nine-hole stretch, the last two on Friday and the first seven on Saturday, in five over. That”s where the tournament got away from me,” McIlroy said after closing on 279, nine under.

The world No 2 also said he would be skipping next week”s Thailand Golf Championship, the last event of the season on the Asian Tour.

Step too far: Rory McIlroy was unable to stop Donald winning the money list

Step too far: Rory McIlroy was unable to stop Donald winning the money list

“I can”t wait to have a few weeks off,” added McIlroy. “People telling you what to do and where to go.

“Another flight, more sleeping patterns messed up. Next week would have been a big struggle too.

“The doctor told me last night that no matter how bad I”m feeling now I”d be even worse if I played next week.”