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IBF will punish boxers who compete in Rio Olympics

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LOS ANGELES — The International Boxing Federation will punish fighters who compete in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics by removing them from the sanctioning body’s rankings or vacating their titles.

The IBF announced its decision Monday, joining the WBC in an aggressive campaign by sanctioning bodies to keep prominent pros out of the Olympics.

Citing safety concerns that amount to violations of its principles of sportsmanlike competition, the IBF said it will remove any professional Olympic fighters from its rankings for a year. The body would also take its title belt away from a champion fighting in the Olympics.

“Making this decision was not difficult for us,” IBF President Daryl Peoples said. “We felt it was important for the IBF to get involved and take a stance against professional boxers competing against amateurs due to safety concerns, as part of our commitment to this sport is to promote the health and well-being of the boxers.”

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) recently decided to allow professional boxers to attempt to qualify for Rio, but the organization’s hopes for a tournament featuring big names have been unrealized to date. No prominent boxers have accepted the invitation, with just one Olympic qualifying event remaining in Venezuela next month.

The IBF’s champions include heavyweight Anthony Joshua, light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev, middleweight Gennady Golovkin and welterweight Kell Brook. None of the fighters is considering an Olympic run, and Joshua has called the plan “dangerous.”

While some fighters from both the pro and amateur ranks have spoken up in favor of the change, many more boxers and trainers have strongly condemned the plan, seeing danger in pitting seasoned pros against amateurs.

The WBC already announced its intention to impose a two-year ban on Olympic fighters within its upper rankings.

Although Olympic qualifying continues next month, the likelihood of any prominent pros fighting in Rio appears to be slim. Most major boxers have already decided not to attempt it, including Manny Pacquiao, Wladimir Klitschko, Kovalev, Golovkin, Andre Ward, Amir Khan and two-time gold medalists Vasyl Lomachenko and Zou Shiming.

Lomachenko believes the field will look much different at the Tokyo Games in 2020 when professionals have more time to adapt to the short rounds, frequent fights and daily weigh-ins of the Olympic-style sport.

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.