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Ali’s cemetery opens to public, and fans pay homage at grave

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) He carried a dozen roses into Cave Hill Cemetery and headed for a patch of grass in the back corner that seemed too ordinary for the man buried beneath it.

Farzam Farrokhi had worried there would be a horde of people Saturday morning elbowing for a place among the first to see Muhammad Ali’s grave.

Instead he found a quiet and reverent stream of visitors. There was not yet a headstone marking the spot. No rope cordoned off those wishing to kneel, pray or kiss the grave.

It would have looked like any unremarkable rectangle of fresh sod had people not been snapping photos. A few brought flowers, one left a tiny set of boxing gloves. A man unfurled an Islamic flag and laid it alongside the grave.

Farrokhi, a native of Iran, drove 12 hours from his home in Queens, New York, for Ali’s funeral. He was grateful for no massive crowds so he could sit and reflect on the life and the death of The Greatest, who suffered for years with Parkinson’s disease.

“I can’t imagine a heart like Ali’s being stuck in a body where he can’t do what he wants to do. Now he can be free,” he said. “Maybe he’s shaking up the next world already.”

Ali was buried Friday in a corner of his hometown’s historic Cave Hill Cemetery, 300 acres famous for its beauty and wildlife.

Ali picked the site himself. He toured the cemetery’s twisting paths and towering trees and decided on this spot just across from a flower patch and a lake, with a fountain that babbles day and night. Four geese moseyed across the road nearby Saturday morning.

His headstone will be simple when it’s installed, in keeping with Muslim tradition. It will be inscribed with just one word: Ali.

Jake and Janell Bessler drove from Evansville to see it Saturday. On the way, they told their 4-week-old daughter, Violet, sleeping in her car seat, about the boxing great and what he meant to the world.

“We told her `this is history, you get to be a part of it,” Janell said. They sat her in front of the grave and snapped a photo, so she’ll be able to see it one day.

Visitors trickled in from near and far. James Terry, a Louisville native, carried a map of the cemetery, marking the family plot on the other side where he will one day be buried. He delighted at the idea he will share the same dirt as The Champ.

Roy Johnson, a long-haul truck driver from Colton, California, was delivering a load a paper to New Jersey when the heard about Ali’s death. It broke his heart, he said. Ali made him believe, as a little black boy, that greatness was possible if he fought for it hard enough and never wavered.

Johnson was planning to visit his son, stationed at Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee border during his trip. He drove about 100 miles out of his way to be among the first to see Ali’s grave.

“My heart is beating really fast right now, I’m in awe of this moment,” he said. “I never got a chance to meet him when he was alive. Now he’s just a few feet away. It’s just beautiful to be standing here.”

Farrokhi stopped at a florist on the way and surveyed the bouquets of roses. They had bunches in red and yellow and white. Then he found one that mixed all the colors.

“When you think of Ali’s fans, they’re every color,” he said. “It seemed right, that’s how he wanted the world to be.”

He pulled the flowers off the stems one by one, crushed the petals between his fingers and sprinkled them on top of Ali’s grave, rows of magenta yellow, red and white. He repeated it 11 times until he got to the last flower, a pale pink one.

He kneeled and laid it whole at Ali’s feet.

Canelo Alvarez inks 11-bout deal, $365 million deal with streaming service DAZN

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NEW YORK – Canelo Alvarez has signed an 11-fight deal to have his fights shown on the sports-streaming service DAZN, beginning with his next bout.

Alvarez will move up in weight to challenge WBA super middleweight champion Rocky Fielding on Dec. 15 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Golden Boy Promotions said Wednesday that Alvarez’s deal will be the richest athlete contract in sports history. Terms weren’t announced.

Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs) is coming off s victory over Gennady Golovkin in a middleweight showdown in September. That fight, like most of boxing’s biggest, was shown on pay-per-view. It cost $84.95 to be seen in high definition.

Now fans can pay significantly less – $9.99 subscription cost per month in the U.S. – to see his fights on DAZN (pronounced Da-Zone). Under the five-year partnership, Golden Boy also will put on up to 10 fight nights per year that will stream live on DAZN beginning in early 2019.

Alvarez wins narrow decision over Golovkin for middleweight title

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin fought 24 rounds in the space of a year, with little to pick between them.

When the scorecards were totaled Saturday night, though, there was a new middleweight champion of the world — but not by much.

Alvarez won the 160-pound titles held by Golovkin by the narrowest of margins, taking a majority decision to hand the longtime champion his first loss as a pro.

Two judges gave Alvarez the final round, allowing him to pull out the win.

A year after the two fought to a draw, the second fight was almost as close. There were no knockdowns, but the action was spirited throughout as the two battled to the final bell before a frenzied crowd at the T-Mobile Arena.

Two judges favored Alvarez 115-113, while a third had it 114-114. The AP scored it 114-114.

“He’s a great fighter but I’m a great fighter and I showed it tonight,” Alvarez said.

The two fighters switched roles from their first fight, with Triple G trying to counter Alvarez and the Mexican fighter coming forward much of the fight. Both landed well to the head and Golovkin (38-1-1) controlled some rounds with his jab though neither were ever in any trouble of going down.

The fight was a rematch of a draw last September that left neither fighter satisfied. This time it was Golovkin who was upset, and he stormed out of the ring without talking.

“I can’t complain, that’s what we have the judges for,” said Abel Sanchez, Golovkin’s trainer.

Ringside punch stats showed a close fight, though they favored Golovkin by a small margin. Golovkin was credited with landing 234 of 879 punches while Alvarez (50-1-2) landed 203 of 622.

Almost immediately there was talk of a third fight between two middleweights who now know each other well.

“If the people want us to do it again let’s do it again,” Alvarez said. “For now I’m going to enjoy it with my family.”

Alvarez seemed to take control of the fight in the middle rounds, but Triple G came on strong in the final few rounds to make it as close as it could be. Golovkin landed several big punches to start the 12th round but still lost it on the two scorecards that ended up favoring Alvarez.

Both fighters were cut with Alvarez having one over his left eye and Golovkin cut over the right eye.

It was the first loss in 40 fights for Golovkin, the fearsome puncher from Kazakhstan who held portions of the middleweight title for seven years. And it came at the hands of the red-headed Alvarez, a Mexican star whose positive test for clenbuterol forced the rematch to be postponed from May.

They put on another show before a roaring crowd of 21,965, who crowded into the arena on the Las Vegas Strip with high anticipation in the biggest fight of the year.

Most of the crowd on Mexican Independence Day weekend favored Alvarez, who seemed to control much of the pace of the fight even while taking some sharp shots to the head. Though Golovkin has a reputation as a knockout artist, he never seemed to hurt Alvarez, who credited his fight plan with the win.

“I showed my victory with facts,” Alvarez said. “He was the one who was backing up. It was a clear victory.”

Alvarez was guaranteed $5 million to $4 million for Golovkin, though both fighters were expected to make many millions more from the biggest pay-per-view in boxing so far this year.