Cotto-Alvarez bout is on for Nov. 21 after tough negotiation

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LOS ANGELES (AP) If Miguel Cotto’s fight with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is anywhere near as difficult as the negotiations to get them in the ring together, boxing fans are in for a treat this fall.

After months of strenuous posturing and painstaking discussions, Cotto and Alvarez appeared together in Hollywood on Monday to formally announce their WBC middleweight title bout, set for Nov. 21 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

The fight pits two of the sport’s biggest names in a long-awaited chapter of Puerto Rico’s long-standing boxing rivalry with Mexico. They have circled each other for years, and the negotiations dragged on for so long that both boxers took other fights earlier this year.

But both fighters are grateful the contracts are finally signed for a landmark night.

“Like any big fight, the negotiations are going to be hard,” Alvarez said through a translator. “But I’m honored to fight a guy with his accomplishments. This is a big step in my career.”

Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) had a predictably large fan contingent behind him during their public appearance in Hollywood, and the 25-year-old Mexican star is favored by most oddsmakers against the 34-year-old Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs).

Alvarez’s fans booed Cotto and his camp repeatedly during their news conference. They even jeered beloved trainer Freddie Roach when he predicted Cotto will win by a knockout.

“I don’t know what people say about the fight, and I don’t care,” Cotto said. “I focus on myself, on my training camp. Nothing else matters.”

Tickets go on sale Tuesday morning, but they will be brutally scarce for the smallish Mandalay Bay arena, which doesn’t hold nearly as many fans as the MGM Grand Garden, Madison Square Garden, an outdoor Texas stadium or any other location seriously considered for this bout. Alvarez’s camp wanted the fight in Texas, where Alvarez drew 31,588 Houston fans to watch his stoppage of James Kirkland earlier this year.

Alvarez’s camp was careful not to assign too much public blame for the torturous negotiations to Cotto, a famously deliberate decision-maker, and his new promoters at Roc Nation Sports.

“Let’s put it this way – it was quite interesting, the negotiation,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Alvarez’s promoter at Golden Boy. “But it was fun, because we all wanted the same thing. This is one of the most anticipated matchups in several years, so we all had one goal, and we eventually got there.”

Cotto’s promoters say he’ll be fighting for the biggest purse of a decorated career that includes world titles in four weight classes, a first for a Puerto Rican fighter. He became the WBC’s middleweight champion in June 2014 by beating Sergio Martinez, but is undersized for the weight class.

Alvarez also has never fought as a true middleweight, and they’ll fight each other at a 155-pound catch weight, barely above the super welterweight limit.

Cotto has revitalized his career under Roach, who cut down on Cotto’s heavy cardio work and focused him on workouts designed to keep him fresh.

“Negotiations were tough because you’ve got two fighters who want to be the `A’ side,” Roach said. “We’ve got the title, and he’s got plenty of things on his side. It was a hard negotiation to get through, because everybody wants an edge.”

Still, Roach said he is thrilled the deal got made because “this is the fight I wanted really bad, that I’ve been dreaming about for Miguel.” Roach is confident Cotto’s toughness and veteran skill, coupled with the trainer’s game plan, will allow him to upset Alvarez, whose punching power has been too much for anyone except Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Cotto and Alvarez have both lost fights to Mayweather, and both would welcome a rematch with the pound-for-pound king of boxing in 2016. They also realize the WBC has ordered the winner of their bout to fight the winner of WBC interim middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin’s October pay-per-view showdown with David Lemieux, or be stripped of the title they worked so hard to win.

“I’m only focused on this fight, on this day,” Cotto said. “Everything after that does not matter. It’s a big fight, but it’s just another fight, and I’m going to be the winner.”

‘It’s about time’: Trump pardons late boxer Jack Johnson

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WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump on Thursday granted a rare posthumous pardon to boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, clearing Jack Johnson’s name more than 100 years after what many see as his racially-charged conviction.

“It’s my honor to do it. It’s about time,” Trump said during an Oval Office ceremony, where he was joined by boxer Lennox Lewis and actor Sylvester Stallone, who has drawn awareness to Johnson’s cause.

Trump said Johnson had served 10 months in prison for what many view as a racially-motivated injustice and described his decision as an effort “to correct a wrong in our history.”

“He represented something that was both very beautiful and very terrible at the same time,” Trump said.

Johnson was convicted in 1913 by an all-white jury for violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral” purposes, for traveling with his white girlfriend.

Trump had said previously that Stallone had brought Johnson’s story to his attention in a phone call.

“His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial,” Trump tweeted in April. “Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!”

Johnson is a legendary figure in boxing and crossed over into popular culture decades ago with biographies, dramas and documentaries following the civil rights era.

He died in 1946. His great-great niece has pressed Trump for a posthumous pardon, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have been pushing Johnson’s case for years.

The son of former slaves, Johnson defeated Tommy Burns for the heavyweight title in 1908 at a time when blacks and whites rarely entered the same ring. He then mowed down a series of “great white hopes,” culminating in 1910 with the undefeated former champion, James J. Jeffries.

McCain previously told The Associated Press that Johnson “was a boxing legend and pioneer whose career and reputation were ruined by a racially charged conviction more than a century ago.”

“Johnson’s imprisonment forced him into the shadows of bigotry and prejudice, and continues to stand as a stain on our national honor,” McCain has said.

Posthumous pardons are rare, but not unprecedented. President Bill Clinton pardoned Henry O. Flipper, the first African-American officer to lead the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War, and Bush pardoned Charles Winters, an American volunteer in the Arab-Israeli War convicted of violating the U.S. Neutrality Acts in 1949.

Linda E. Haywood, the great-great niece, wanted Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, to pardon Johnson, but Justice Department policy says “processing posthumous pardon petitions is grounded in the belief that the time of the officials involved in the clemency process is better spent on the pardon and commutation requests of living persons.”

The Justice Department makes decisions on potential pardons through an application process and typically makes recommendations to the president. The general DOJ policy is to not accept applications for posthumous pardons for federal convictions, according to the department’s website. But Trump has shown a willingness to work around the DOJ process in the past.

Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

Lomachenko stops Linares in 10th, wins lightweight title

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NEW YORK (AP) Vasiliy Lomachenko stopped Jorge Linares in the 10th round of their lightweight championship fight Saturday night, winning a title in his third weight class in just his 12th pro bout.

Lomachenko landed a hard left to the body during a flurry of precision punches that sent Linares went to a knee. Linares finally got up just as the count was reaching 10 but referee Ricky Gonzalez called an end to the fight at 2:08 of the round.

Linares knocked down Lomachenko in the sixth and the fight was all even after nine rounds before Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) put an overpowering end to his first fight at 135 pounds, adding that title to his belts at 126 and 130 pounds.

Linares (44-4, 27 KOs) hadn’t lost since 2012 and used his size advantage to do some damage, but in the end Lomachenko did more in an exciting Madison Square Garden match.

The fighter widely known as Vasyl said this week he prefers to use Vasiliy, his legal name. And now he can be called lightweight champion after picking up the WBA’s version of the belt in front of a crowd of 10,429 that chanted “Loma! Loma!” and waved blue and gold flags for much of the night.

It was Lomachenko’s eighth straight victory by stoppage, but this one was much tougher than a recent stretch of clinics in which his last four fights ended when his opponents’ corners wouldn’t let them take more punishment from the Ukrainian.

Lomachenko had joked he should be called “no mas Chenko” for his habit of making opponents quit, but Linares made him earn this victory.

The Venezuelan was on a 13-fight winning streak and was giving the two-time Olympic gold medalist the test he wanted, one that he said would bring out the best in what many already consider the most skilled fighter in the world.

Each fighter was ahead 86-84 on a judge’s card, while Julie Lederman had it 85-all after nine rounds.

Lomachenko said Thursday he needed to finally be put in danger to show his complete array of skills, and then on display in the 10th round with a series of shots that Linares couldn’t defend, especially the left to his midsection that took the biggest toll.

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