Venus Williams withdraws
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams has withdrawn from her Australian Open warm-up event in New Zealand because of “health reasons,” placing her participation in the year’s first Grand Slam in doubt. Williams, who has been receiving treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome, an auto-immune disease, had been given a wild card for the Jan. 2 to Jan. 7 Auckland Classic. “After playing a number of recent exhibition matches, Williams told her agent Carlos Fleming she was not ready to play in Auckland,” a statement on the tournament’s Web site said. “We are disappointed to have lost a player of her caliber. While withdrawals of this nature are part and parcel of sport, we sincerely feel for the fans who will also be disappointed by the news of Venus’ withdrawal,” tournament director Richard Palmer added in the statement. Williams withdrew from September’s US Open with Sjogren’s, a disease where white blood cells attack moisture-producing glands that can cause dysfunction of organs and body systems.
Berto to face Ortiz again
Andre Berto will try to avenge the only loss of his career when he faces Victor Ortiz in an all-US welterweight fight on Feb. 11 in Las Vegas, promoters announced on Monday. Southpaw Ortiz won a unanimous decision over Berto in April in a fight that saw Berto knocked down in the first round, Ortiz flattened in the next round and both fighters sent to the canvas in round six. Ortiz took the World Boxing Council welterweight title, but lost it in September to unbeaten US star Floyd Mayweather in a controversial fourth-round knockout while Ortiz was distracted while talking to the referee. “I’m prepared to go to war again with Berto,” Ortiz said. Berto, 28-1 with 22 knockouts, won the International Boxing Federation title in his most recent bout when Slovenian Jan Zaveck retired after five rounds because he could not see out of his right eye, but Berto dumped the title so he could make the 12-round rematch against Ortiz, 29-3 with 22 knockouts.
Hopkins must face Dawson
Bernard Hopkins has been ordered by the World Boxing Council to fight Chad Dawson in a mandatory rematch after their first meeting was ruled no contest after a controversial finish, but Hopkins, who remains the World Boxing Council light-heavyweight champion and the oldest champion in history — he turns 47 on Jan. 15 — and Dawson were given a clause that opens the door to possible interim fights. The order came after Hopkins’ first fight against Dawson in October was changed from a loss to a no contest after the referee did not call a foul on Dawson for slamming Hopkins to the canvas. Hopkins landed on his shoulder, suffering an injury that stopped the fight.
Knox out for the season
If the Chicago Bears are going to reach the NFL playoffs, they will have to do it without receiver Johnny Knox, who was lost to season-ending back surgery on Monday. Bears coach Lovie Smith said on Monday that Knox would not play again this season after being carted off the field early in Sunday’s 38-14 home loss to Seattle. He had surgery to stabilize a vertebra in his lower back. The Bears said that Knox’s injury is not considered career threatening. Knox had the ball knocked from his grasp after making a catch on Sunday and as he moved to retrieve the ball, he was struck by Seattle’s Anthony Hargrove and bent backward. He was on the field for almost 10 minutes before being carried off and to hospital.