NICOLAS ROCHE and former Tour de France winner Alberto Contador are breathing a sigh of relief after their Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank team was granted an automatic spot in the top tier for next year's elite races.
The status of Bjarne Riis' team was under threat after Saxo Bank finished outside the top 15 of the 2012 World Tour; had they missed out on a place in the top division, they would have been left relying on invitations to participate in the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia, the Tour of Spain and several top one-day and one-week races.
Saxo Bank's inclusion amongst the 18 elite teams came at the expense of world No 1 Joaquim Rodriguez's Katusha team.
Katusha finished second in the list of the top 15 teams by sporting value but were rejected for other reasons.
World No 1 Rory McIlroy has been awarded the 2012 Golf Writers' Trophy ahead of Europe's Ryder Cup team.
The 23-year-old Holywood star had a spectacular season, winning the US PGA Championship by an eight-shot margin as well as four other tournaments.
The Ryder Cup side, of which McIlroy was part, came second in the voting, followed by Ian Poulter.
The knockout of the former eight-division world champion – his second successive defeat – came in the sixth round of their non-title fight in Las Vegas and resulted in his wife, Jinkee, and mother, Dionisia, making tearful appeals for the Filipino to quit.
But Pacquiao (33) said: "I'm looking forward to a rest and then I'll be back to fight."
IRELAND team-mates Joe Ward and David Oliver Joyce will be on opposing sides when the British Lionhearts host the German Eagles in London in the World Series of Boxing at Earl's Court on Friday night.
Ward, the European light-heavyweight champion, is in against Germany's Kevin Kunzel, while Joyce meets England's Sam Maxwell at lightweight.
Joyce's inclusion in the German side led to speculation that he would face John Joe Nevin, who has moved up to lightweight for the Lionhearts. However, Nevin, who claimed bantamweight silver at the 2012 Olympics in London, will not line out again before Christmas.
Dubliner Sean Turner will make his debut for the USA Knockouts away to the Ukraine on Friday.
It remains to be seen if Michael Conlan, a bronze medal winner at London 2012, will be included in the American side, who are bottom of Group B.