Andre Ward favored vs. Sergey Kovalev in Light Heavyweight title rematch

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The familiarity factor underlies why the sharps have given the betting edge to Andre Ward in his rematch against Sergey Kovalev.

Ward is the -160 favorite against Kovalev in the betting matchup for their light heavyweight title fight at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Saturday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Ward won by an unanimous decision – each judge’s scorecard was 114-113 – in their first fight last November, which was also in Las Vegas.

Kovalev, who is 30-1-1 with 26 knockouts in his career, has the distinction of being one of just two men to knock down Ward in the ring. The Russian, who has a slight reach advantage against Ward (72 inches to 71), is the more powerful puncher of the two, as shown when he controlled the early rounds of their first meeting.

The +130 price on the boxing odds is enticing, given that a different evaluation in a couple of rounds might have led to Kovalev getting the decision in the match.

If the upset is to happen, it will probably involve Kovalev finishing the match relatively early. The latest that any of Kovalev’s knockouts have occurred is the eighth round. That said, realizing that goal is easier said than done against Ward, who is very elusive.

Ward, who is 31-0 with 15 knockouts, adapted adroitly against Kovalev in the first fight, working inside to immobilize his punching power. That first fight could end up being a prologue to a more decisive victory this time, since Ward, as the better all-around boxer, has the capability of controlling the tempo and limiting Kovalev from throwing the kind of devastating combinations that can set up a knockout (or knockdown) punch.

Ward can be counted on to stick with his game plan, which would likely involve working the body to wear down Kovalev.

A Ward win by knockout seems to be the least probable outcome, since the champion typically doesn’t have to risk going for the knockout in order to keep his belts. Eight of Ward’s last 10 fights have gone the distance with him winning by an unanimous decision, while the other two were stopped in rounds nine and 10 by technical knockout.

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.