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Ward Remains Unbeaten With a Knockout Victory

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward remained unbeaten as a pro boxer, stopping Christopher Holt after three rounds Thursday in Ward’s first fight in his native Bay Area.

U.S. bronze medalist Andre Dirrell and Olympian Devin Vargas also won their bouts. But Ward, born and raised 25 miles away in Oakland, was the main attraction for the small but enthusiastic crowd of 3,107 at the early-evening fight at HP Pavilion in San Jose.

Showing off the speed and superb left hand that earned him gold in Athens, Ward (5-0) hit Holt with quick jabs and body shots, opening a cut above Holt’s eye in the first round.

Holt (12-5) slipped several times before Ward finally floored him with a straight left at 1:25 of the third.

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“I felt good about a lot of the things I did, but there’s always something to work on,” said Ward. “I’m going to watch the tape and find out what I need to do next. It’s a lifestyle for me. I’m always working.”

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Tennis

Top-seeded Roger Federer, third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt, fourth-seeded Marat Safin and fifth-seeded Andy Roddick advanced to the quarterfinals of the Cincinnati Masters at Mason, Ohio.

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Federer defeated Olivier Rochus, 6-3, 6-4, Hewitt defeated Mario Ancic, 6-1, 6-4, Safin beat Dominik Hrbaty, 6-0, 6-3, and Roddick beat Juan Ignacio Chela, 7-6 (4), 6-2, using his big serve to win a tiebreaker.

Roddick used a 145-mph ace to go ahead, 5-4, in the tiebreaker, then got Chela to hit wide on the next two points. He broke Chela in the third and seventh games of the second set.

Third-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, who begins her U.S. Open title defense in 10 days, played despite lower back pain and lost to Gisela Dulko, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (8), in the third round of the Rogers Cup at Toronto.

Injuries have become the theme at the event, and tournament directors received more bad news when 12th-seeded Ana Ivanovic withdrew because of a strained right chest muscle.

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Ivanovic was scheduled to play seventh-seeded Kim Clijsters, who will play 14th-seeded Flavia Pennetta, who advanced when fifth-seeded Serena Williams withdrew on Wednesday.

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Motor Racing

Tony Eury Jr. signed a long-term contract extension with Dale Earnhardt Inc., opening the possibility the crew chief will reunite next season with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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Terms were not released for the deal, Eury’s first contract in his 14 years with the company. Before this, he had always worked with a handshake agreement.

By signing him to an official deal, DEI eliminated the chance Eury could leave with driver Michael Waltrip at the end of this season. The two were paired this year in a wholesale swap of crews and equipment between Earnhardt and Waltrip.

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Badminton

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China’s Lin Dan and Zhang Ning, the top men’s and women’s singles seeds, rallied to reach the quarterfinals of the world championships at the Arrowhead Pond.

Lin recovered from a 5-2 deficit in his first game and a loss in his second for a 15-8, 9-15, 15-5 victory over Japan’s Shoji Sato.

Zhang, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist and defending world champion, came from behind to beat Hong Kong’s Yip Pui Yin, 4-11, 11-3, 11-4.

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Hockey

Goaltender Dan Cloutier signed a two-year, $5-million contract with the Vancouver Canucks.

Cloutier, who has recorded a franchise-record three consecutive 30-win seasons, was 33-21-6 with five shutouts and a career-best 2.27 goals-against average in 2003-04.

Josef Vasicek, who led Carolina in goals, points, games played and game-winning goals in 2003-04, signed a two-year contract with the Hurricanes. It will pay him $1 million this season and $1.3 million in 2006-07.

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Defenseman John-Michael Liles, who made the NHL All-Rookie team during the 2003-04 season, signed a one-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Mighty Ducks signed right wing Jonathan Hedstrom to a two-year contract worth $1.025 million. Hedstrom, 27, played in four games with the Ducks during the 2002-03 season and is expected to vie for a roster spot.

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Pro Basketball

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Free-agent guard Doug Christie plans to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, his agent said.

Christie, who was with the Orlando Magic last season, is expected to sign a multiyear deal, but his agent, Bradley Marshall, wouldn’t reveal any details of the contract.

As expected, free-agent forward Brian Grant signed a one-year, $1.67-million contract with the Phoenix Suns. He has career averages of 10.7 points and 7.6 rebounds with Sacramento, Portland, Miami and the Lakers.

The Boston Celtics signed second-round pick Ryan Gomes. The 6-7 forward averaged 18.4 points and 8.9 rebounds in 116 games at Providence.

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The Philadelphia 76ers signed their second-round draft pick, guard Louis Williams, to a multiyear contract.

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College Football

The Las Vegas Bowl will get the first pick of Mountain West Conference teams beginning in 2006 under a four-year contract extension.

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A week ago, the Pacific 10 Conference extended its commitment to the Las Vegas Bowl through 2009. The Pac-10 plans to send its fourth-place finisher to Las Vegas in 2006 and 2008, and the fifth-place team in 2007.

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Miscellany

The U.S. defeated Australia, 88-68, to advance to the semifinals against Russia in the men’s basketball tournament at the University Games in Izmir, Turkey. Russia beat Turkey, 83-79.

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The Americans were scheduled to play Lithuania, but tournament officials reviewed scores from the second preliminary round and changed the opponent to Australia.

Council Rock-Newtown, Pa., representing the Mid-Atlantic Region, plays West Oahu of Hawaii, representing the Northwest Region, today at 1 p.m. PDT in the opening game of the Little League World Series at South Williamsport, Pa.

In another game between teams in a U.S. pool, Maitland, Fla., of the Southeast Region plays Davenport, Iowa, of the Midwest at 5 p.m. Guam plays Russia at 3 p.m. in an International pool game.


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