Brotherly bond: Ali and Jim Brown shared passion, purpose

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CLEVELAND (AP) When Muhammad Ali fought against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, Jim Brown was in his corner.

The boxer and the football legend, two transcendent American sports icons, were fiercely loyal friends. Not only were they connected by their athletic greatness, Ali and Brown shared a social conscience and passion to see justice for all.

Undisputed champions for the world.

“He represented what a man should be in an America that’s free because he made people accept him as a man, as an equal and he was not afraid to represent himself in that way,” the 80-year-old Brown told the Associated Press on Saturday night. “That’s what I loved about him. He could have definitely played it a different way.”

They admired each other and Brown said his deep affinity for Ali was based on his fearlessness and willingness to take chances. When others turned and ran or looked the other way, Ali stood firm, defiant.

“I had the admiration for him because he took it upon himself to risk everything for his manhood and to be a good American,” Brown said. “As I’ve thought about it, it’s about all of us being a part of this country and enjoying the equal rights as citizens in this country and because he was such a great athlete he was able to use the spotlight and use it probably like nobody else in history.”

A superstar running back for the Cleveland Browns, Brown retired at the peak of his career, walking away from his fame on the field to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. That, too, was dangerous but nothing compared to the stand Ali took against the war.

Citing his religious beliefs as a Muslim, Ali refused to enlist in the U.S. Army, and his viewpoint angered and outraged white Americans. He was eventually stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967.

Never one to back down himself, Brown wanted to help and invited several other prominent athletes, including Celtics star Bill Russell and UCLA’s Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to a summit in Cleveland. But before Brown and the others showed their public support for Ali, they questioned him for five hours to gauge his motives.

In the end, they were satisfied Ali’s intentions were genuine.

“He was asked every question that you could ask a person and he came through as totally sincere,” Brown said, “and it was his sincerity that made us become a group of one and we decided we would back him all the way and do anything we could do to bring attention to his situation and to let everybody know he was actually genuine about his position on the war based upon his religion.”

Whether playfully sparring with him at his home in California or visiting Ali when he trained in England, Brown always enjoyed being in his company.

Ali had a gift, and he wanted to share it with everyone.

“This man loved people, and everywhere I was ever with him, he always respected people and he loved good human beings,” Brown said. “He was definitely not prejudiced. The thing that he stood for was based on him being equal and having the freedom that everyone else had, but he always loved people.”

Tyson, 54, to return for exhibition match against Jones Jr.

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CARSON, Calif. — Mike Tyson is coming back to boxing at age 54.

The former heavyweight champion will meet four-division champion Roy Jones Jr. in an eight-round exhibition match on Sept. 12 at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history when he won the title in 1986 at age 20 and for a time was the most feared fighter in boxing. But his career became littered with distractions and he hasn’t boxed since 2005 after losing his second straight fight.

He has occasionally teased a return with workout videos and it’s finally scheduled to happen.

Jones, 51, won titles in the middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight before moving up to win the heavyweight title in 2003, becoming the first former middleweight champion to do so in 106 years.

The event will air on pay-per-view and the social media music platform Triller. Further matches on the card and musical entertainment will be announced in the coming weeks.

Boxer Errol Spence in ICU after Ferrari crash in Dallas

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DALLAS — Welterweight boxing champion Errol Spence crashed a speeding Ferrari in Dallas early Thursday and was badly injured but is expected to survive, police said.

The crash happened just before 3 a.m., when Spence’s Ferrari crossed a median into oncoming traffic and flipped over several times, police said.

Spence was taken to a hospital, where he was placed in the intensive care unit. Police said they’re still investigating the cause of the crash, but they noted that the Ferrari was speeding at the time.

Last month, the former U.S. Olympian added the WBC welterweight title to his IBF strap with a thrilling split-decision victory over Shawn Porter in Los Angeles.

With his rangy athleticism and virtuosic skill, Spence (26-0) has captured fans with a series of crisp victories in recent years. He won the IBF title in 2017 by stopping Kell Brook in England, and he defended it three times, culminating in a one-sided thrashing of undersized Mikey Garcia in March.

His bout with the veteran brawler Porter (30-3-1) was Spence’s biggest test yet, and he emerged victorious from a fight that featured several wild exchanges of punches and had the Staples Center crowd of 16,702 on its feet throughout the 12th round, roaring for both fighters when they embraced after the final bell.