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Former champion Ellis dies

Jimmy Ellis, a heavyweight champion who had sparred with an up-and-coming Muhammad Ali, died Tuesday. He was 74.

Ellis died at a Louisville, Ky., hospital, said his brother, Jerry.

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Jimmy Ellis, who had Alzheimer’s disease in recent years, held the WBA heavyweight title from 1968 to 1970. He lost to Joe Frazier in a fight to unify the world heavyweight championship in 1970. In 1971, Ellis was stopped by Ali in the 12th round. Ellis retired in 1975 with a 40-12-1 record.

Ali, 72, remembered his longtime friend as a “master in the ring.”

Ali, in a statement, said, “In the world of heavyweights, I have always thought that Jimmy was one of the best.”

Both fighters were trained by Angelo Dundee.

Ellis defeated Jerry Quarry to win the WBA crown in 1968. It was at a time when Ali had been stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing induction into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Auto racing

Kahne’s crew chief is fined

Kenny Francis, crew chief for driver Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw, has been fined $25,000 for rules violations during qualifying for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

NASCAR penalized Francis for what it called actions detrimental to stock-car racing.

Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet failed the minimum-weight requirement and he was forced to start in the back of the field in the Aaron’s 499. Kahne finished eighth of 43.

Kahne is 20th in the Cup standings.

“I know we’re not far off,” he said last weekend.

Track and field

Pistorius denies allegation

Oscar Pistorius was accused of making a “sinister” remark to a friend of Reeva Steenkamp in the courtroom during a break at his murder trial in Pretoria, South Africa.

Pistorius denied the allegation he said to the close friend of the girlfriend he killed: “How can you sleep at night?”

The accusation by Kim Myers provided a bizarre twist during the trial of the world-famous double-amputee Olympic runner, who is facing 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder for shooting dead Steenkamp — a 29-year-old model and reality-TV personality — at his home last year.

Pistorius, 27, denies murder and says he killed Steenkamp by mistake, thinking she was an intruder when he shot her multiple times through a closed toilet door.

He denied to reporters in the courtroom he made any comment to Myers.

Myers was approached by Pistorius and he made the remark to her in a “very sinister way,” the lawyer for Myers told The Associated Press. Attorney Ian Levitt said Myers was “shocked” and did not know what it referred to. Levitt said his client found the remark “extremely disturbing.”


Federer fathers twins again

Roger Federer, a winner of 17 major singles titles, withdrew from the Madrid Open in Spain to welcome the birth of his second set of twins.

Federer tweeted: “Mirka and I are so incredibly happy to share that Leo and Lenny were born this evening! #TwinsAgain #Miracle”

Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick, said the 32-year-old Swiss standout intends to enter the French Open, which starts May 25.

“He’ll take it step-by-step as to what he plays before that,” Godsick said.

Meanwhile, on the court, 20-year-old qualifier Dominic Thiem of Austria beat third-ranked Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 on clay in the second round.

“I had some chance in the third set (and) I should have played better when I had some opportunity,” Wawrinka said. “But I was hesitating with my game and he went for it and deserved it.”


Phelps to compete in N.C.

Michael Phelps, a winner of 18 Olympic gold medals, is expected to continue his return to competition May 16 at the Arena Grand Prix in Charlotte, N.C.

Phelps, 28, began his comeback last month at the Arena Grand Prix in Mesa, Ariz., where he finished second in the 100-meter butterfly to rival Ryan Lochte, who is also expected to swim in Charlotte.

“Fun” seemingly was Phelps’ favorite word in Arizona, where he talked about how happy he was to be in the pool after a 20-month retirement. He declined to commit to long-term plans, including the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Ria Antonia, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, might compete against 3-year-old males in the May 17 Preakness at Pimlico in Baltimore. Ria Antonia, previously trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, has been moved to the barn of Tom Amoss after finishing sixth at 10-1 odds against other 3-year-old fillies Friday in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

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