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Alvarez beats Cotto by unanimous decision to claim middleweight title

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Canelo Alvarez made a case for himself as boxing’s next star Saturday night, landing the bigger punches to take a unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto and win a piece of the middleweight title.

Alvarez took the fight to Cotto from the opening bell, winning rounds with big right hands and uppercuts. Cotto tried to box and had his moments, but Alvarez was clearly ahead as the crowd stood on its feet as both fighters traded punches in the final rounds.

Alvarez won the WBC version of the title that Cotto vacated days earlier for not paying sanctioning fees. His win set up a possible megafight with Gennady Golovkin, the middleweight champion who was watching at ringside.

“With all due respect if he wants to fight right now I’ll put the gloves on and fight him,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez won by scores of 117-11, 119-109 and 118-110. The Associated Press had him ahead 116-112.

Alvarez, whose only loss came to Floyd Mayweather Jr., set the tone early, winging big left hooks in the first round that Cotto largely avoided. As the fight went on, though, he began landing more of his punches as he patiently stalked Cotto around the ring.

Cotto boxed well at times and landed flurries of punches, but his didn’t seem to have nearly the same power as those thrown by Alvarez. In the final rounds, Alvarez caught Cotto with a series of punches that seemed to shake him some though he was never down and never appeared in real trouble.

“It’s an emotion I can’t put into words,” Alvarez said. “I’m very happy and much respect to Miguel Cotto. I will always respect him and he’s a great champion but now it’s my era.”

Cotto expressed disappointment in the judges’ decision, but left the ring before speaking.

“We thought it was much closer than the scorecards showed,” said Cotto’s trainer, Freddie Roach. “It was a competitive fight.”

Alvarez went into Cotto’s locker room after the fight, telling the fighter he just beat that “I admire you.”

Though the fight was for a 160-pound title it was fought at a catch weight of 155 pounds. Alvarez weighed exactly that the day before the fight, but after rehydrating appeared much larger in the ring than did Cotto, who was 153 1/2 pounds at the official weigh-in.

Alvarez was a 3-1 favorite coming into the bout, largely because he is 10 years younger than Cotto and a bigger puncher. The ages didn’t seem to make a difference, but the ringside judges were surely influenced by the harder punches that the red-headed Alvarez landed.

Cotto was credited with throwing 629 punches to 484 for Alvarez, but Alvarez landed 155 to 129 for Cotto.

Cotto had vowed to pull the upset by using his boxing skills, and at times he was quite effective. But by the third round, Alvarez was landing some of the big punches he was winging at Cotto.

The fight was the latest in the boxing rivalry between Mexico and Puerto Rico. Alvarez, from Mexico, was the clear favorite of the crowd at the Mandalay Bay casino. But Cotto was competitive and a lot of the early rounds were close.

The action picked up in the eighth round, with both fighters trading punches. Again, Alvarez landed the harder shots, using his uppercut effectively and shaking Cotto with punches to the head.

Cotto, who earned $15 million, fell to 40-5, while Alvarez improved to 46-1-1.

In a wild fight on the undercard, Francisco Vargas seemed to be taking a beating and was half blinded before coming back to stop Takashi Miura of Japan at 1:31 of the ninth round.

Vargas won a piece of the 130-pound title, but paid a price to do it. He was knocked down once and staggered at the end of the eighth round, and the ring doctor looked closely at his swollen right eye before allowing the fight to continue in the ninth.

When it did, Vargas landed a sudden right and left that knocked Miura down. He followed it by chasing the champion around the ring, finally landing a series of shots to the head that prompted the referee to step in and stop the bout.

Vargas, of Mexico, improved to 23-0-1, while Miura fell to 29-3-2.

Pacquiao wins 60th career fight with seventh-round knockout

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) Manny Pacquiao clinched his 60th victory with a seventh-round knockout Sunday of Argentinian Lucas Matthysse, his first stoppage in nine years.

Pacquiao said he worked hard but was surprised by the swift win in the World Boxing Association welterweight title fight.

Pacquiao rebounded from his disappointing loss last year to Australian Jeff Horn and his victory could extend his boxing career that had taken a backseat to his political life as a Filipino senator.

“This is part of boxing. You win some, you lose some,” Matthysse said. He hailed Pacquiao as a “great legend” and said he will take a break after his loss.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also attended the fight, the biggest boxing match in the country since the 1975 heavyweight clash between Muhammad Ali and Australian Joe Bugner.

Duterte said: “I would like to congratulate Senator Manny Pacquiao for giving us pride and bringing the Filipino nation together once more.”

‘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.