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Russian pro Artur Beterbiev won’t try for Olympic slot

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LOS ANGELES — Unbeaten light heavyweight Artur Beterbiev is the latest professional boxer to decide he won’t try to win a spot in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The two-time Russian Olympian announced his decision through his Canadian promoter, Yvon Michel, on Wednesday.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) recently voted to allow professional fighters to compete for spots in the Rio field, but the Olympic sport’s governing body is finding very few interested pros outside of AIBA’s in-house professional competitions.

The Dagestan-born Beterbiev (10-0, 10 KOs) fought as a light heavyweight in Beijing and as a heavyweight in London, losing to the eventual gold medalist each time. He turned pro in 2013 and moved to Montreal.

The 31-year-old Beterbiev strongly considered taking a third Olympic shot, but ultimately decided against it.

“After analyzing all situations, we came to the conclusion that the current situation was not favorable,” Michel said. “The short-term goal for Artur Beterbiev is to become world champion in the pro ranks. He will be back in the ring in September.”

Beterbiev joins a growing list of pros who have decided they won’t crash the Rio Games for numerous reasons. AIBA already has ushered in major changes to the Olympic sport since London by removing the men’s headgear and introducing a pro-style scoring system, but the fighters in Rio apparently will be almost entirely from the Olympic-style sport.

The Rio tournament’s daily weigh-ins, frequent fights and Olympic-style fighting have combined with the short time frame to keep most pros away. What’s more, most national governing bodies, including USA Boxing, already have a set Olympic team, and they’ve declined to change their qualifying rules for Rio.

Several prominent professionals who have already turned down the short-notice opportunity to attempt to qualify include Manny Pacquiao, Wladimir Klitschko, Sergey Kovalev and two-time gold medalists Vasyl Lomachenko and Zou Shiming.

Other pros have yet to declare their intentions, but they’re nearly out of time: More than 200 of the 250 men’s Olympic berths have already been claimed, and only two qualifying tournaments remain. The AIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament begins Thursday in Azerbaijan, and a final qualifier for AIBA’s own professional boxers is in Venezuela in July.

Britain’s Amir Khan initially expressed interest in fighting for his ancestral Pakistan, but the Athens silver medalist was knocked out by Canelo Alvarez last month, likely making his medical eligibility problematic. Press Association reported Wednesday that Khan has decided against pursuing a Rio spot, which could have led to a two-year suspension by the WBC, the sanctioning body that has outspokenly criticized AIBA’s pro ambitions.

Boxing Canada President Pat Fiacco has said his team will attempt to send pros to the Venezuela qualifying tournament. Other nations without full teams are likely to do the same, but those pros are unlikely to be prominent prizefighters.

The Rio decision was AIBA’s latest attempt to bring boxing onto the level of most Olympic sports, in which pros already compete, while creating a more attractive television product.

While most professional fighters apparently aren’t interested in Rio, Lomachenko and others believe the field for the 2020 Games in Tokyo will be studded with older professional fighters.

AIBA already pays many fighters through its World Series of Boxing and APB fighting series, but most are from nations without an established professional boxing structure.

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.