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IN THEIR WORDS: Reflections as Muhammad Ali laid to rest

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As Muhammad Ali is laid to rest with a public funeral and private burial, some of the world’s most famous faces reflect on a man known simply as “The Greatest.”

Ali is to be buried Friday after a procession in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

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“I feel like Louisville KY is now my home, as I’ll make many visits to Ali beloved resting place in the future.” — heavyweight boxer George Foreman.

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“We saw an expression of the extraordinary strength of his human spirit during the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996, when The Greatest Of All Time did not hesitate to expose his affliction when lighting the Olympic cauldron. One can only imagine what it meant to this champion, who was so proud of his physique and good looks, to expose his own frailty with the eyes of world on him. This inspirational act gave hope and strength to the billions of spectators around the globe. It was his greatest Olympic moment and I was not alone to wipe the tears from my eyes.” — International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach

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“He was my idol, my friend, my mentor. He was someone that I looked up to and someone who I tried to emulate during my boxing career.” — boxer Sugar Ray Leonard

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“His dignity in the ring and his sense of heroism beyond the ring made him a living legend. … He never stopped winning battles whether it was in the ring or outside the ring.” — Rev. Jesse Jackson

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“It’s the end of an era and a sad day for the world. Muhammad Ali once asked me to sing ‘I am, I said’ for him at my office. Of course, I did.” — singer Neil Diamond

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“There were a lot of guys back then that you looked up to as men, as opposed to sports figures, because of what they did walking away from the game, as opposed to what they did in the ring. So, as a young man growing up, that taught me a lot as far as respecting myself and understanding what I need to do growing up as a man.” — New York Jets coach Todd Bowles

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.