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Ali’s cemetery opens to public, and fans pay homage at grave

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) He carried a dozen roses into Cave Hill Cemetery and headed for a patch of grass in the back corner that seemed too ordinary for the man buried beneath it.

Farzam Farrokhi had worried there would be a horde of people Saturday morning elbowing for a place among the first to see Muhammad Ali’s grave.

Instead he found a quiet and reverent stream of visitors. There was not yet a headstone marking the spot. No rope cordoned off those wishing to kneel, pray or kiss the grave.

It would have looked like any unremarkable rectangle of fresh sod had people not been snapping photos. A few brought flowers, one left a tiny set of boxing gloves. A man unfurled an Islamic flag and laid it alongside the grave.

Farrokhi, a native of Iran, drove 12 hours from his home in Queens, New York, for Ali’s funeral. He was grateful for no massive crowds so he could sit and reflect on the life and the death of The Greatest, who suffered for years with Parkinson’s disease.

“I can’t imagine a heart like Ali’s being stuck in a body where he can’t do what he wants to do. Now he can be free,” he said. “Maybe he’s shaking up the next world already.”

Ali was buried Friday in a corner of his hometown’s historic Cave Hill Cemetery, 300 acres famous for its beauty and wildlife.

Ali picked the site himself. He toured the cemetery’s twisting paths and towering trees and decided on this spot just across from a flower patch and a lake, with a fountain that babbles day and night. Four geese moseyed across the road nearby Saturday morning.

His headstone will be simple when it’s installed, in keeping with Muslim tradition. It will be inscribed with just one word: Ali.

Jake and Janell Bessler drove from Evansville to see it Saturday. On the way, they told their 4-week-old daughter, Violet, sleeping in her car seat, about the boxing great and what he meant to the world.

“We told her `this is history, you get to be a part of it,” Janell said. They sat her in front of the grave and snapped a photo, so she’ll be able to see it one day.

Visitors trickled in from near and far. James Terry, a Louisville native, carried a map of the cemetery, marking the family plot on the other side where he will one day be buried. He delighted at the idea he will share the same dirt as The Champ.

Roy Johnson, a long-haul truck driver from Colton, California, was delivering a load a paper to New Jersey when the heard about Ali’s death. It broke his heart, he said. Ali made him believe, as a little black boy, that greatness was possible if he fought for it hard enough and never wavered.

Johnson was planning to visit his son, stationed at Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee border during his trip. He drove about 100 miles out of his way to be among the first to see Ali’s grave.

“My heart is beating really fast right now, I’m in awe of this moment,” he said. “I never got a chance to meet him when he was alive. Now he’s just a few feet away. It’s just beautiful to be standing here.”

Farrokhi stopped at a florist on the way and surveyed the bouquets of roses. They had bunches in red and yellow and white. Then he found one that mixed all the colors.

“When you think of Ali’s fans, they’re every color,” he said. “It seemed right, that’s how he wanted the world to be.”

He pulled the flowers off the stems one by one, crushed the petals between his fingers and sprinkled them on top of Ali’s grave, rows of magenta yellow, red and white. He repeated it 11 times until he got to the last flower, a pale pink one.

He kneeled and laid it whole at Ali’s feet.

Golovkin and Alvarez to meet in May 5 rematch

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Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez will meet in a May 5 rematch with the middleweight title on the line once again, promoters said Monday.

Still to be announced is the location, though Las Vegas is considered the front runner for the fight on Cinco de Mayo weekend.

Golovkin and Alvarez fought to a controversial 12-round draw in September, after which both fighters said they wanted a rematch. It took promoters months to negotiate the terms for what is expected to be one of the biggest pay-per-view fights of the year.

The two fighters have only one loss between them, with Golovkin 37-0-1 with 33 knockouts and Alvarez 49-1-2 with 34 knockouts.

Boxer LaMotta, immortalized in ‘Raging Bull,’ dies at 95

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MIAMI (AP) Jake LaMotta, the former middleweight champion whose life was depicted in the film “Raging Bull,” has died at the age of 95.

His fiancee, Denise Baker, says LaMotta died Tuesday at a Miami-area hospital from complications of pneumonia.

The Bronx Bull, as he was known in his fighting days, compiled an 83-19-4 record with 30 knockouts.

LaMotta fought Sugar Ray Robinson six times, handing Robinson his first defeat. He lost the middleweight title to him in what became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

In his previous fight, LaMotta saved the championship in movie-script fashion against Laurent Dauthuille. Trailing badly, LaMotta knocked out the challenger with 13 seconds left.

LaMotta threw a fight against Billy Fox, which he admitted in testimony before a U.S. Senate committee. He said he was promised a shot at a title.

On June 16, 1949, he became middleweight champion when Marcel Cerdan couldn’t continue after the 10th round.

The 1980 film “Raging Bull” was based on LaMotta’s memoir. Actor Robert DeNiro won an Academy Award for it.