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Russian pro Artur Beterbiev won’t try for Olympic slot

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LOS ANGELES — Unbeaten light heavyweight Artur Beterbiev is the latest professional boxer to decide he won’t try to win a spot in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The two-time Russian Olympian announced his decision through his Canadian promoter, Yvon Michel, on Wednesday.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) recently voted to allow professional fighters to compete for spots in the Rio field, but the Olympic sport’s governing body is finding very few interested pros outside of AIBA’s in-house professional competitions.

The Dagestan-born Beterbiev (10-0, 10 KOs) fought as a light heavyweight in Beijing and as a heavyweight in London, losing to the eventual gold medalist each time. He turned pro in 2013 and moved to Montreal.

The 31-year-old Beterbiev strongly considered taking a third Olympic shot, but ultimately decided against it.

“After analyzing all situations, we came to the conclusion that the current situation was not favorable,” Michel said. “The short-term goal for Artur Beterbiev is to become world champion in the pro ranks. He will be back in the ring in September.”

Beterbiev joins a growing list of pros who have decided they won’t crash the Rio Games for numerous reasons. AIBA already has ushered in major changes to the Olympic sport since London by removing the men’s headgear and introducing a pro-style scoring system, but the fighters in Rio apparently will be almost entirely from the Olympic-style sport.

The Rio tournament’s daily weigh-ins, frequent fights and Olympic-style fighting have combined with the short time frame to keep most pros away. What’s more, most national governing bodies, including USA Boxing, already have a set Olympic team, and they’ve declined to change their qualifying rules for Rio.

Several prominent professionals who have already turned down the short-notice opportunity to attempt to qualify include Manny Pacquiao, Wladimir Klitschko, Sergey Kovalev and two-time gold medalists Vasyl Lomachenko and Zou Shiming.

Other pros have yet to declare their intentions, but they’re nearly out of time: More than 200 of the 250 men’s Olympic berths have already been claimed, and only two qualifying tournaments remain. The AIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament begins Thursday in Azerbaijan, and a final qualifier for AIBA’s own professional boxers is in Venezuela in July.

Britain’s Amir Khan initially expressed interest in fighting for his ancestral Pakistan, but the Athens silver medalist was knocked out by Canelo Alvarez last month, likely making his medical eligibility problematic. Press Association reported Wednesday that Khan has decided against pursuing a Rio spot, which could have led to a two-year suspension by the WBC, the sanctioning body that has outspokenly criticized AIBA’s pro ambitions.

Boxing Canada President Pat Fiacco has said his team will attempt to send pros to the Venezuela qualifying tournament. Other nations without full teams are likely to do the same, but those pros are unlikely to be prominent prizefighters.

The Rio decision was AIBA’s latest attempt to bring boxing onto the level of most Olympic sports, in which pros already compete, while creating a more attractive television product.

While most professional fighters apparently aren’t interested in Rio, Lomachenko and others believe the field for the 2020 Games in Tokyo will be studded with older professional fighters.

AIBA already pays many fighters through its World Series of Boxing and APB fighting series, but most are from nations without an established professional boxing structure.

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.