Neymar to play Olympics, miss Copa America

BARCELONA - Barcelona's Brazilian star Neymar will miss the Copa America Cetenario in the US in June, but will be released to represent his country at the Rio Olympics in August, the Catalan giants announced Wednesday. "FC Barcelona thanks the Brazilian football federation and their president Marco Polo del Nero, who have accepted the proposal made by the club that Neymar only play in the Rio Olympic, which take place between August 3-21," the club said. "In this way, Neymar is freed from playing in the Copa America which will be played in the United States between June 3-26." Brazil coach Dunga had been hoping to have his captain available for both tournaments, but Barcelona have insisted that Neymar needs to have adequate rest over the summer before the start of the next season.–AFP

Joshua to make first title defence

LONDON - Newly crowned IBF world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will make his first title defence on June 25 in London against an as-yet unnamed opponent, he announced. The 26-year-old British fighter produced a routine second-round knockout of American Charles Martin to claim the title earlier this month in his 16th professional fight and will return to London's O2 Arena to defend it. Potential opponents for Joshua include Bermane Stiverne, Eric Molina and Dominic Breazeale. "I've been speaking with my coach and I want the closest fight date possible because I'm feeling good," Joshua said. “I can't wait to get back into the training camp and pick up where we left off. The date to put in your diary is June 25, back at the O2 Arena for my first title defence and a jam-packed undercard.”–AFP

Levy outshines Bubba in Shenzhen

BEIJING - Alexander Levy fired six-under 66 to hold the joint lead in the lightning-affected Shenzhen International on Thursday, as two-time US Masters champion Bubba Watson made a slow start. France's Levy won his first European Tour trophy in the 2014 Volvo China Open at Genzon Golf Club in southern China and said he felt the good vibes as he returned to the course. "I just played great today... I feel my game is in a good way," the 25-year-old said in comments posted on the European Tour website. "It's nice because you have some big memories and, for me, it's really nice to play on this place." Levy shared the lead with South Korea's Lee Soo-Min, while South African Brandon Stone was a shot further back with one hole to play when the round was suspended for bad light.–AFP

Fakhar takes lead in Amateur Golf

LAHORE - Fakhar Imam of Defence Raya Golf and Country Club played a spectacular round on Thursday, in the four-round National Amateur Golf Championship in progress at the par 72 Defence Raya Golf Course. Fakhar started the day with a regulation par on the first hole and followed it up with a birdie on the following hole and thereafter the showing was virtually blemish free except the bogies on holes 5 and 15. All through the first round, he consistently produced copybook shots and ended the first nine holes in 35, fetching six pars and two birdies on two holes with a bogie on the 5th hole. On the back nine the excellence was duplicated, every shot a treat to watch and the regulation pars came in regular succession, a total of six, with a birdie on the closing 18th hole managed through gutsy execution of the tee shot, the fairway wood shot and then the chip with a soft touch. "I am so pleased with my game of the first day. I am determined to make a match of it over the next three days,” Fakhar said. –Staff Reporter

Kashif cleared after completion of ban

LAHORE - Former State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) cricketer Kashif Siddique, who was banned over doping two years back, has now been cleared to participate in the sports activities after the expiry of the ban. According to NCA Resident Sports Physician Dr Riaz Ahmed, Kashif had received a letter from Anti-Doping Organisation of Pakistan chairman Dr Waqar Ahmad, saying he was banned for two years with effect from January 8, 2014 for taking part in any sports/sports related activity due to presence of banned positive substance in his urine. Upon completion of two years ban effective from Jan 9, 2016, Kashif was given an opportunity to appear before the anti-doping panel, where he was tested twice and no prohibited substance has been detected, which declared Kashif clear for any sports/cricket.–Staff Reporter