Brotherly bond: Ali and Jim Brown shared passion, purpose

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CLEVELAND (AP) When Muhammad Ali fought against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, Jim Brown was in his corner.

The boxer and the football legend, two transcendent American sports icons, were fiercely loyal friends. Not only were they connected by their athletic greatness, Ali and Brown shared a social conscience and passion to see justice for all.

Undisputed champions for the world.

“He represented what a man should be in an America that’s free because he made people accept him as a man, as an equal and he was not afraid to represent himself in that way,” the 80-year-old Brown told the Associated Press on Saturday night. “That’s what I loved about him. He could have definitely played it a different way.”

They admired each other and Brown said his deep affinity for Ali was based on his fearlessness and willingness to take chances. When others turned and ran or looked the other way, Ali stood firm, defiant.

“I had the admiration for him because he took it upon himself to risk everything for his manhood and to be a good American,” Brown said. “As I’ve thought about it, it’s about all of us being a part of this country and enjoying the equal rights as citizens in this country and because he was such a great athlete he was able to use the spotlight and use it probably like nobody else in history.”

A superstar running back for the Cleveland Browns, Brown retired at the peak of his career, walking away from his fame on the field to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. That, too, was dangerous but nothing compared to the stand Ali took against the war.

Citing his religious beliefs as a Muslim, Ali refused to enlist in the U.S. Army, and his viewpoint angered and outraged white Americans. He was eventually stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967.

Never one to back down himself, Brown wanted to help and invited several other prominent athletes, including Celtics star Bill Russell and UCLA’s Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to a summit in Cleveland. But before Brown and the others showed their public support for Ali, they questioned him for five hours to gauge his motives.

In the end, they were satisfied Ali’s intentions were genuine.

“He was asked every question that you could ask a person and he came through as totally sincere,” Brown said, “and it was his sincerity that made us become a group of one and we decided we would back him all the way and do anything we could do to bring attention to his situation and to let everybody know he was actually genuine about his position on the war based upon his religion.”

Whether playfully sparring with him at his home in California or visiting Ali when he trained in England, Brown always enjoyed being in his company.

Ali had a gift, and he wanted to share it with everyone.

“This man loved people, and everywhere I was ever with him, he always respected people and he loved good human beings,” Brown said. “He was definitely not prejudiced. The thing that he stood for was based on him being equal and having the freedom that everyone else had, but he always loved people.”

Pacquiao plans to return to the ring Nov. 5

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Manny Pacquiao isn’t ready to give up his night job just yet.

Pacquiao, who said before his last fight in April that he would retire, now plans to return to the ring in November against an opponent who has yet to be selected.

Promoter Bob Arum said Tuesday that Pacquiao got permission to take a break from his new duties as a senator in the Philippines to take another fight. It will be held Nov. 5, likely in Las Vegas.

“He likes to fight and he likes the attention,” Arum said of Pacquiao’s return.

Pacquiao looked impressive in his last fight in April, returning from a layoff to knock down Timothy Bradley on his way to a unanimous decision. After the fight he wavered on his previous plans to retire.

“If you ask me to come back I don’t know,” Pacquiao said. “I may be enjoying retired life. I’m not there yet so I just don’t know.”

Pacquiao, who was formerly a congressman in his native country, was elected to the Senate in May and there were fears that increased duties would prevent him from fighting again.

But Arum said the head of the Senate told Pacquiao he was free to fight after the country’s budget is settled on Oct. 15.

“He would train in the Philippines and leave on the 16th to come to the U.S., train for two weeks and then come to Vegas,” Arum said. “The only issue is getting an arena for the fight.”

Arum said he is talking with MGM Resorts about an arena to host the fight. He had reserved the Mandalay Bay arena for Oct. 15, but Pacquaio can’t leave his Senate duties that early.

The fight also could be at the UNLV campus arena, he said, though UNLV would have to move a scheduled basketball exhibition from the date.

There were reports that Pacquiao might fight Adrien Broner, but Arum said he wanted the same money as Pacquiao, which was a non-starter. Another possible opponent would be Jesse Vargas, who fights for Top Rank, and holds a piece of the welterweight title.

Pacquiao was off for nearly a year after losing in May 2015 to Floyd Mayweather Jr., healing from a shoulder injury. But he seemed reinvigorated after beating Bradley in April in a performance that got good reviews from most, including trainer Freddie Roach.

“When I see Manny Pacquiao like that, this is the best Manny Pacquiao,” Roach said after the fight. “He hasn’t missed a beat. I would like to see him fight again.”

Laila Ali, Jaime Foxx pay tribute to Muhammad Ali

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Laila Ali paid tribute to her late father, sports icon Muhammad Ali, during the BET Awards on Sunday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

Ali, a retired boxer herself, started to choke up as she spoke about her father’s legacy and the outpouring of support since his death at the age of 74 on June 3 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

“My father, Muhammad Ali, lived his life with conviction and purpose,” Ali said. “He is known as the greatest athlete of all time, a man who fearlessly faced opposition both in and outside the ring.”

Actor Jamie Foxx, who starred in the 2001 biopic about the icon’s life, “Ali,” as Ali’s cornerman Drew Bundini Brown, also spoke about the legend, noting that he stood up when no one else was doing so.

After getting a standing ovation, Ali stood in front of a photo of her father holding her as an infant and talked about her father’s evolution in his heart, mind and spirit over the course of his lifetime.

“These past few weeks my father’s generosity and love has been matched by a worldwide outpouring of love and reverence for him and our entire family,” Ali said.

“If he was here today, he would humbly ask you to pray not just for our family, but for all of mankind.”