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Pacquiao awaits what could be his last fight

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Manny Pacquiao was sitting on a couch, talking about his dreams.

Good ones and bad, like the one he had a month before fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“I dreamed I lost the fight, but in my dream I also saw there was a problem,” Pacquiao said. “It happened exactly like my dream.”

A lot of boxing fans might have wished Pacquiao had disclosed his dreams before last May’s megafight. They could have saved themselves thousands of dollars for a ticket or $100 to watch at home on pay-per-view in boxing’s richest fight.

Instead they paid to see a ho-hum fight won by Mayweather, quickly followed by an excuse from Pacquiao. In the fourth round he reinjured a shoulder no one outside his camp knew was injured, Pacquiao said, leading to his defeat.

In all it was huge letdown for almost everyone involved. What was billed as one of the greatest matchups in recent years was a snoozer that looked little different from any other Mayweather fight.

Now Pacquiao returns nearly a year later for a welterweight fight with Timothy Bradley that even promoter Bob Arum is having difficulty figuring out how to sell. The two meet in a rubber match of their three-fight series Saturday night, and once again Arum wants fight fans to dig into their pockets for what could be Pacquiao’s final pay-per-view fight.

Arum has jumped in the middle of Pacquiao’s derogatory comments about gays, calling them outrageous while defending the fighter himself. He’s put together a “No Trump” undercard of Hispanic fighters and tried to market the fight as a clash between longtime Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach and new Bradley trainer Teddy Atlas.

But even a promoter of Arum’s stature – he’s celebrating his 50th year in boxing this month – can do only so much. The first two fights between Pacquiao and Bradley weren’t terribly memorable, and boxing fans may still be suffering a hangover from the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.

While his fight with Mayweather generated 4.4 million buys, this one will struggle to do the 700,000 Arum is predicting, even at a lower price. There are also still tickets available at the MGM Grand box office, also a lot cheaper than the Mayweather fight.

Still, there’s a good chance this will be Pacquiao’s last fight, the final time we’ll see the remarkable Filipino who started boxing in the ring at age 12. He’s running for Senate in the Philippines, and if he wins he’ll have a full-time job that would leave little time for training.

He runs hot and cold about leaving boxing, though, and there is the alluring prospect of another big payday or two if he is impressive against Bradley.

“It’s hard to say right now,” Pacquiao said. “I haven’t been there. I don’t know the feeling of being there. But I’m OK with that (retirement).”

If Pacquiao does retire it won’t be because he’s taken too many punches in 65 fights over the last 21 years. He still has his mental faculties, as evidenced by a command of English that gets better every fight, and feels fresh after taking nearly a year off to relax and repair his shoulder.

But he’s getting pressure from his wife to stop boxing, and wants to transition from being a congressman to a senator and, perhaps in the future, make a run for the presidency.

“It’ not about being tired of boxing,” Pacquiao said. “It’s about the advice of my family.”

Even with the loss to Mayweather in a fight that paid him more than $100 million, Pacquiao would seem to have little left to prove in the ring. He won his first title 18 years ago at 112 pounds and added seven others in the years in between as he transformed from scrappy fighter to boxing superstar.

He also claims to have some money still left after years of buying cars, houses and providing for the needs of a lot of his countrymen.

“I’m OK, I’m OK,” Pacquiao said about his finances.

Sitting on the couch in a VIP room at the MGM Grand a few days before his fight with Bradley, Pacquiao seemed at peace with both his life and career. He laughed easily, tried his best to explain contradictions in when exactly his shoulder was hurt (he now claims 2009) and talked about how moving up in weight had taken away some of his knockout power.

He also talked about his dreams, including the one that came to him before the Mayweather fight that he would lose. There have been no dreams about this fight, Pacquiao said, although Roach was quick to offer one of his own.

“I dreamed that he wins this fight by a knockout,” Roach said.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

‘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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