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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.

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.

Canelo and Golovkin fight to controversial draw

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gennady Golovkin retained his middleweight titles Saturday night, fighting to a draw with Canelo Alvarez in a brutal battle that ended with both fighters with their hands aloft in victory.

The middleweight showdown lived up to its hype as the two fighters traded huge punches and went after each other for 12 rounds. Neither fighter was down and neither appeared seriously hurt but both landed some huge punches to the head that had the crowd screaming in excitement.

Golovkin was the aggressor throughout and landed punches that had put other fighters to the canvas. But he couldn’t put Alvarez down, and the Mexican star more than stood his own in exchanges with Triple G, from Kazakhstan. The two were still brawling as the final seconds ticked down and the fight went to the scorecards.

One judge had Alvarez winning 118-110, a second had it 115-113 in Golovkin’s favor while the third had it 114-114. The Associated Press scored it 114-114.

Golovkin, who has never lost in 38 fights, retained his middleweight titles with the draw. But Alvarez showed that he could not only take Golovkin’s punches but land telling punches of his own.

A frenzied crowd of 22,358 at the T-Mobile Arena roared throughout the fight as the two middleweights put on the kind of show that boxing purists had anticipated. They brawled, used sharp jabs and counter-punched at times, with neither one willing to give the other much ground.

“Congratulations all my friends from Mexico,” Golovkin said. “I want a true fight. I want a big drama show.”

There was plenty of drama late in the fight as Alvarez seemed to rally and rocked Golovkin with uppercuts and big right hands. But just as soon as he landed he often took one back from the slugger so feared that most other fighter avoided him.

“I won seven-eight rounds easily,” Alvarez said.

It was a battle from the opening bell as Golovkin tried to walk Alvarez down but often found himself getting hit from sharp counter punches.

“Today, people give me draw. I focus on boxing,” Golovkin said. “Look my belts, I’m still champion. I’ve not lost.”

Golovkin predicted before the fight that the late rounds would resemble a street fight, and in a way they did. Both fighters were willing to trade, and both had no problems landing hard shots to the head.

Golovkin had chased Alvarez for nearly two years, trying to get the signature fight that would pay him millions and make him a pay-per-view draw on his own. Alvarez finally agreed after Golovkin looked vulnerable earlier this year against Daniel Jacobs in a decision win that stopped his knockout streak at 23 fights.