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Archive for April, 2014

(Chicago) (AP) – This one looked like it was slipping away from the Washington Wizards. Then, in a flash everything changed.

Bradley Beal came on strong late in regulation to finish with 26 points, Nene scored six of his 17 points in overtime and the Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 101-99 Tuesday to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round series. Game 3 is Friday at Washington.

“We’ve got to come out like we’re down 0-1 or 0-2,” said Beal, who scored 11 in the fourth quarter. “We’ve got to have that sense of urgency and just that drive and that motivation like we did early. We’ve got to be able to maintain that lead. We’ve got to continue to stay poised.”

The Wizards couldn’t maintain a 17-point first-quarter lead and had to rally from 10 down in the fourth.

Nene scored the first six points in overtime after being held in check by Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah in regulation, and the Wizards hung on after Kirk Hinrich failed to convert at the foul line in the closing seconds of overtime.

Noah had just hit two free throws when Beal missed a jumper with 18 seconds left. Jimmy Butler got the rebound and Chicago called time.

Hinrich, a 76 percent free throw shooter this season, had a chance to tie it after getting fouled by Nene on a drive with 2.4 seconds left. But his first attempt hit the rim. He deliberately missed the second, and Trevor Ariza grabbed the rebound to seal the win for Washington.

“I went up there thinking I was going to knock them down,” Hinrich said. “Tonight, I just couldn’t do it. However, I really felt that I should’ve made the layup.”

D.J. Augustin led Chicago with 25 points but cooled off late in the game with Ariza guarding him. Taj Gibson had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Noah added 20 points and 12 boards, but the Bulls find themselves in a huge hole after dropping two at home.

They blew a 13-point lead in Game 1 and couldn’t hang on after rallying in this one. Both times, they struggled in the fourth quarter, and coach Tom Thibodeau bristled when asked if he might switch up his late-game rotation.

“We look at everything,” he said. “Unreal.”

John Wall had 16 points and seven assists for Washington.

The Bulls appeared to be in good shape when they were leading 87-77 five minutes into the fourth. They were still leading, 91-85, when Beal shot the Wizards back into the game.

He nailed a 3-pointer that made it 91-88 and added a floater to make it a one-point game. Then, with a chance to put Washington ahead, he hit 1 of 2 free throws with 52.9 seconds left to tie it at 91.

Both teams had opportunities to win it in the closing seconds but couldn’t convert.

“I think we did a great job staying calm and composed,” Wall said. “Early in the season, we would get rattled and guys would try to make plays one on one on their own. Tonight, we trusted in our offense like we’ve been doing.”

The Bulls were leading 87-77 after a driving layup by Noah and two free throws by Butler with 6:59 left regulation. But with Beal going off, the Wizards made a run.

“I can’t take a lot of credit for the fourth quarter,” said Beal, who scored 11 in the fourth after quiet second and third quarters. “I think we got a lot of offensive rebounds and kickouts, and John hit me on a couple. I was fortunate to be able to knock down some, and I just stayed with it.

(New York) (AP) – Tyler Lyons stepped into the St. Louis rotation and looked right at home. Too bad for him, the Cardinals couldn’t get anyone home to help him.

Jenrry Mejia pitched four-hit ball into the seventh inning, David Wright delivered another key hit and the New York Mets blanked St. Louis 2-0 Monday night.

Lyons (0-1) lost in his first major league game of the season. Promoted from Triple-A Memphis earlier in the day to take the rotation spot of injured Joe Kelly, he allowed two runs and six hits in six innings.

“There were good things, there were things definitely to build on,” Lyons said. “Just got to eliminate some of those other miscues.”

A 26-year-old lefty with a big-breaking slider, Lyons struck out seven. He’s another in the long line of tall, homegrown pitchers developed by the Cardinals, and went 2-4 last year in his first big league season.

Lyons struck out the first two batters in the third before Eric Young Jr. singled for the Mets’ first hit. Slumping Curtis Granderson was hit by a pitch and Wright singled for a 1-0 lead.

Lyons’ throwing error on a tapper set up another run in the sixth. Daniel Murphy walked, later stole third and scored on a single by Travis d’Arnaud.

“Overall it was OK, but it was tougher to swallow when you do couple those things where you kind of beat yourself,” he said.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny liked what he saw from Lyons.

“He did a nice job and got into a tough spot there and had to work himself out,” he said.

“The non-plays, the free bases, they get us. That’s all there is to it. When we’re not hitting, they really glare,” he said.

Wright lined an early RBI single that extended his hitting streak to 12 games and Kyle Farnsworth earned his first save as the New York’s newest closer.

On an evening when the Mets debuted new camouflage tops to salute the military, they looked sharp. The Cardinals lost for the third time in four games, and have been shut out three times this season.

Mejia (3-0) bounced back well from a torn blister on his right middle finger that limited him to five innings in his last start. The 24-year-old righty began the game by getting Matt Carpenter to look at three straight strikes, and rarely was in trouble.

Mejia struck out seven in 6 2-3 innings and walked three. Scott Rice and Carlos Torres each got two outs before Farnsworth entered.

Mejia escaped his biggest jam in the sixth when, with runners at the corners and one out, he retired Matt Holliday on a popup and Matt Adams on a grounder.

The previous inning, the Mets backed Mejia with a sweet double play. Shortstop Ruben Tejada dived to stop Jon Jay’s grounder up the middle and flipped to Murphy, and the second baseman made a barehanded catch and spun quickly for the relay.

(Chicago) (AP) – Corey Crawford was there every time. Slap shots, wristers, backhands and tips, he stopped each one of them.

The Chicago Blackhawks needed a rebound game from their goaltender, and he delivered in a big way.

Crawford made 34 saves in his third career postseason shutout, and the Blackhawks got back into their playoff series with the St. Louis Blues with a 2-0 victory in Game 3 on Monday night.

“I’m just going shot by shot,” Crawford said. “It’s all I could do the whole game was worry about the next one and focus on the next shot and stop that. I don’t want anything else going through my mind through that hockey game.”

Jonathan Toews and Marcus Kruger scored as the defending Stanley Cup champions bounced back after a pair of overtime losses in St. Louis. Toews’ 21st postseason goal was only the second score by a Blackhawks forward in the series.

“Three games in a row. It’s been a very intense series and extremely close,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

Ryan Miller shook off another slow start and finished with 23 saves, but Toews’ shot at 4:10 of the first went through the goaltender’s legs and was the only score for most of the game.

“It’s not a good goal. We’ll leave it at that,” Miller said.

It was quite a turnaround for Crawford, who was upset with his play after Saturday’s 4-3 loss. Barret Jackman’s winning goal in Game 2 went through Crawford, prompting the goaltender to say he had to play better for Chicago to win.

Quenneville met with Crawford on Sunday, and he responded with one of the best games of his career.

“We have a lot of one-on-one meetings throughout the season, but we get ramped up at playoff time,” said Quenneville, a former NHL defenseman. “I generally stay away from the goalies. We chatted. Basically I was commending him on accepting that responsibility (for the loss).”

Crawford drew chants of “Co-rey! Co-rey from the capacity crowd at the United Center. He was helped by a sound performance by Duncan Keith and Chicago’s defensemen, who stepped up without the suspended Brent Seabrook.

The Blackhawks killed three St. Louis power plays, while the Blues’ penalty-kill unit went 4 for 4, including a 5-on-3 disadvantage in the second.

“We knew this was going to be a long series, but we really played hard, we really played well,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We did a lot of the things we needed to do to win the hockey game, but you’ve got to give their goaler credit. He was good, especially late.”

The Blues, who scored tying goals late in regulation in each of the first two games, pulled Miller with 57 seconds left, but the Blackhawks held on. Kruger stuffed home an empty-netter in the final seconds.

Game 4 is Wednesday night.

Each team was without a key contributor after Seabrook wiped out Blues center David Backes with a big hit in Game 2. The five-minute major and game misconduct penalty for Seabrook led to Vladimir Tarasenko’s tying power-play goal with 6.4 seconds left.

Seabrook was suspended for three games by the NHL, putting Sheldon Brookbank in the lineup for the first time in the series. Playing with Keith, Brookbank turned in a solid performance in his 19th career playoff game.

While Backes was out with an upper-body injury, center Patrik Berglund returned for the Blues after missing three games. Berglund, who had 14 goals and 18 assists this season, skated behind the net for a nice wraparound opportunity in the first period, but was turned away by Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy.

Seabrook’s hit on Backes, and at least one knee-on-knee blow by Bryan Bickell, increased the tension between Central Division rivals. But Game 3 was surprisingly civil, with each team wary of another penalty that could swing the series. There was a lot of chirping from each side, and that was about it.

Looking for a spark, Quenneville put Toews, Patrick Kane and Bickell on the same line for the start of Game 3. The trio had a lot of success in the Blackhawks’ run to the title last year.

The move worked.

Toews connected from the top of the left point in the first, beating Miller with a shot that took an unusual bounce. Bickell also created a couple of quality chances with some slick passing.

“If that’s how it’s going to go in, then we’re doing a good job of taking care of the clean chances and the easier ones for them,” said Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who was right in front of Toews on the goal. “We just have to keep going.”

(West Plains) – Another recruit has been added to the 2014-15 roster for the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team.

He is Ngor Barnaba, a 6-foot, 9-inch, 230-pound forward from John Marshall High School in Rochester, Minn.

“Ngor has a great future ahead of him,” Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Yancey Walker said. “He is very skilled for his size, and he uses his body very well on both ends of the floor. In addition to being very hard to score on, he has a nice touch from 15 feet and from the block.”

Barnaba averaged 11.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.6 steals per game and was a three-time varsity letter winner at John Marshall. He also was a two-time all-conference honoree and helped lead his team to the Minnesota Class AAAA Academic Championship. The team also won an award for having the highest grade point average in the state.

Barnaba said he chose Missouri State-West Plains because of the relationship he developed with Assistant Coach Bryan Bender during the recruiting process and West Plains’ hometown feel, which is similar to Rochester. “The people in the community that I met and the players and staff were all very nice, and I really liked the gym,” he said, referring to the Grizzlies’ home court in the West Plains Civic Center arena. “I’m excited to play in front of everyone in the community.”

Grizzly fans will see “a high energy guy who can score the ball and stretch the floor” in Barnaba next season, he said. “I am an inside/outside player who also can block shots and rebound,” he added. “As a player my goal is to bring it every day and play well, and as part of the team, my goal is to help make it to the national tournament and win a championship.”

“It’s a great thing to see our coaches and players build strong relationships during the recruiting process and then have it culminate with a young man deciding that our program and our institution is what is best for his future,” Walker said.

Barnaba said he would like to thank all of his coaches through the years, including high school coach Kirk Thompson and AAU coaches Ben Davis and Clinton Dixon. Barnaba also thanked all of the college coaches who showed interest in him and recruited him the past two years.

For more information about the Grizzly Basketball team, including complete statistics from the games, visit wp.missouristate.edu/grizzly/bb/.

Shalane Flanagan leads the elite pack past Wellesley College during the 118th Boston Marathon Monday, April 21, 2014 in Wellesley. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

Shalane Flanagan leads the elite pack past Wellesley College during the 118th Boston Marathon Monday, April 21, 2014 in Wellesley. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

(Boston) (AP) – With security tight along the 26.2-mile course, nearly 36,000 runners set out from the Boston Marathon starting line Monday in a “Boston Strong” show of resilience a year after the bombing that turned the race into a scene of carnage.

To the delight of many in the crowd, an American won the men’s division for the first time in more than three decades, dominating a field that included many athletes who were prevented from finishing last year.

“I showed up, I’m back, and I am going to finish what I didn’t finish last year,” said Mary Cunningham, 50, of St. Petersburg, Fla., who was stopped a mile short of the finish line by the explosions on April 15, 2013.

The two pressure-cooker bombs that went off near the finish line killed three people and wounded more than 260 in a hellish spectacle of torn limbs, smoke and broken glass.

Police were deployed in force along the route, with helicopters circling above and bomb-sniffing dogs checking through trash cans. Officers were posted on roofs.

Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray said it had been a long and difficult year.

“We’re taking back our race,” he said. “We’re taking back the finish line.”

A total of 35,755 athletes were registered to run – the second-largest field in its history, with many coming to show support for the event and the city that was traumatized by the attack on its signature sporting event.

“I can’t imagine the number of emotions that are going to be there,” said Katie O’Donnell, a doctor at Children’s Hospital who was stopped less than a mile from the end last year. “I think I’m going to start crying at the starting line, and I’m not sure I’ll stop until I cross the finish line.”

Buses bearing the message “Boston Strong” dropped off runners at the starting line in the town of Hopkinton. A banner on one building read: “You are Boston Strong. You Earned This.”

Among the signs lining the end of the route was one paying tribute to 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest of those killed in the bombing.

“No more hurting people. Peace,” read the sign. A photograph of Martin holding a poster he made for school with those words was published after his death.

Among the spectators cheering runners near the finish line was Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the bombing. It was the first time he had returned to the area since the attack.

“It feels great” to be back, he said. “I feel very safe.”

Joe Ebert, 61, of Hampton, N.H., was cheering on his son-in-law near the spot in downtown Boston where the bombs went off. He was in the same area last year at the time of the attack.

“I wanted to be in this spot,” said Ebert, who wore a jacket and medal from when he ran the race in 2010. “Just wanted to let them know that they can’t beat us down. I think it makes us all stronger when something like that happens.”

Sabrina Dello Russo, 38, of South Boston, was running her first marathon for a good friend, Roseann Sdoia, who lost her right leg in the bombing.

“She is my inspiration from day one last year when I saw her in the ICU. Every run I do, she is in the back of my head, and she will be keeping me going today,” Dello Russo said.

While Gov. Deval Patrick said there had been no specific threats against the race or the city, spectators at the 118th running of the world’s oldest annual marathon had to go through tight checkpoints before being allowed near the starting and finish lines.

Fans hoping to watch near the finish line were encouraged to leave strollers and backpacks behind. Police set up checkpoints along the marathon route to examine backpacks, particularly outside subway station exits. And runners had to use clear plastic bags for their belongings.

More than 100 cameras were installed along the route in Boston, and race organizers said 50 or so observation points would be set up around the finish line to monitor the crowd.

Runner Scott Weisberg, 44, from Birmingham, Ala., said he had trouble sleeping the night before.

“With everything that happened last year, I can’t stop worrying about it happening again. I know the chances are slim to none, but I can’t help having a nervous pit in my stomach,” Weisberg said.

Race organizers expanded the field from its recent cap of 27,000 to make room for more than 5,000 runners who were still on the course last year at the time of the explosions, for friends and relatives of the victims, and for those who made the case that they were “profoundly impacted” by the attack.

Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo won the women’s race in a course-record 2 hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds, defending a championship from last year. She had been hoping this year for a title she could enjoy.

“It was very difficult to be happy. People were injured and children died,” she had said of last year’s marathon. “If I’m going to win again, I hope I can be happier and to show people, like I was supposed to last year.”

American Meb Keflizighi, a former New York City Marathon champion and Olympic medalist, won the men’s title in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds. Cheers rose up as word of the first American man to win in Boston since 1983 spread through the pack of runners.

Keflizighi had the names of last year’s victims written in black marker on the corners of his race bib.

Other runners were expected to remain on the course for several hours after the winners crossed the finish line. Last year, the bombs went off at 2:49 p.m., as spectators crowded around the finish the line to cheer the still-arriving runners about five hours into the race.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is awaiting trial in the attack and could get the death penalty. Prosecutors said he and his older brother – ethnic Chechens who came to the U.S. from Russia more than a decade ago – carried out the attack in retaliation for U.S. wars in Muslim lands.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a shootout with police days after the bombings.

One runner Monday, Peter Riddle, a 45-year-old Bostonian, said he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from being at the finish line last year.

“I did a lot of talking this year, but running has helped me resolve a lot of things in my head,” he said. “Running the marathon this year and running down Boylston Street will help me find peace and help me move forward.”

In this March 13, 2013 file photo, New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, right, joins assistant coach Herb Williams in reacting as the Knicks fall behind to the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter of the Nuggets' 117-94 victory in an NBA basketball game in Denver. The Knicks have fired Woodson after falling from division champions to out of the playoffs in one season. New team president Phil Jackson made the decision Monday, April 21, 2014, saying in a statement "the time has come for change throughout the franchise."  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

In this March 13, 2013 file photo, New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, right, joins assistant coach Herb Williams in reacting as the Knicks fall behind to the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter of the Nuggets’ 117-94 victory in an NBA basketball game in Denver. The Knicks have fired Woodson after falling from division champions to out of the playoffs in one season. New team president Phil Jackson made the decision Monday, April 21, 2014, saying in a statement “the time has come for change throughout the franchise.” (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

(New York) (AP) – Mike Woodson had the Knicks on top of their division and in the second round of the playoffs, destinations that had become unreachable and practically unimaginable in New York.

A year later, he was out of job.

Phil Jackson fired Woodson and the entire coaching staff on Monday, making his first big move since becoming team president in March and saying in a statement that “the time has come for change throughout the franchise.”

The dismissal comes shortly after the Knicks completed a 37-45 season that began with their belief they were a serious contender.

Instead, they started poorly, making Woodson’s job security practically a season-long distraction. A late surge wasn’t good enough for a postseason spot or another year for Woodson.

It was a stunningly swift fall for Woodson, whose .580 winning percentage with the Knicks ranks behind only Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy, and who finished third in the NBA’s Coach of the Year voting after going 54-28 last season.

He and the staff were informed of the decision Monday morning by Jackson, the man the Knicks originally wanted to replace Woodson as coach but preferred to run the team’s front office.

Jackson has won an NBA-record 11 championships as a coach. He has repeatedly said he’s not interested in returning to the bench, so he will have to hire someone before he turns his attention to the roster. The team said the coaching search begins immediately.

Jackson said he has a “tremendous amount of respect” for Woodson and his staff, which included longtime Knicks assistant Herb Williams. Jackson called this an “extremely difficult” season and said “blame should not be put on one individual.”

“But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond,” he added.

Jackson has said he won’t insist the Knicks run the triangle, the offensive system he used in Chicago and with the Lakers, but has made clear his belief in it. TNT analyst Steve Kerr, who played for Jackson with the Bulls but has never been a coach, has repeatedly been mentioned as a top candidate.

Jackson was expected to speak with reporters later in the week.

Woodson, a former Knicks first-round draft pick, was hired as an assistant coach before the 2011-12 season, then engineered an 18-6 finish after replacing Mike D’Antoni on an interim basis the following March to capture a playoff spot. Given a multiyear deal two months later, Woodson then led the Knicks to their first Atlantic Division championship since 1994.

New York then beat Boston in the playoffs, its first series victory since 2000, and general manager Steve Mills picked up next season’s option year on Woodson’s contract before this season began.

But the Knicks were saddled with some early injuries, including center Tyson Chandler’s broken leg, and lacked the veteran leadership they enjoyed last season. Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan was already considering replacing Woodson by December, when he met with Jackson at a holiday party and talked to him about coaching the team.

Carmelo Anthony praised his coach Thursday and even offered to back him publicly if necessary. But it was probably a clear sign Woodson wouldn’t be back a few minutes later when Amare Stoudemire said the coach hadn’t taken part in the exit meetings with players that Jackson and Mills held.

Woodson previously coached six seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, leading them to the playoffs in his final three seasons. He has a career record of 315-365.

Woodson went 109-79 with the Knicks, who hadn’t even made the playoffs since 2004 before he led them there in 2012. But he lost one of his biggest supporters within the organization when general manager Glen Grunwald, Woodson’s college teammate at Indiana, was surprisingly fired last September.

Players and fans sometimes grumbled during the season about Woodson’s strategies as the defense regressed and the offense was inconsistent beyond Anthony, who plans to become a free agent in July. Chandler said there probably was some “disconnect” and “misunderstanding” at times.

“Coach Woodson put together a game plan for us on the basketball court and there were times we didn’t totally buy into it,” Stoudemire said last week.

Still, the Knicks nearly rallied to make the playoffs by winning 16 of their final 21 games. But Woodson, who said he and Jackson had only brief chats in Jackson’s first month in charge, said before the season finale he knew the coach often takes the blame.

“Everyone in this franchise owes a great deal of gratitude to what Mike and his staff have done,” Jackson said. “We wish him the best.”

(West Plains) – Due to today’s rainy conditions, the West Plains High School boy’s golf tournament, boy’s tennis match and the 9th grade baseball game have been postponed, according to school officials.

The baseball game will be held Tuesday at 4:30 PM. New dates for the golf tournament and the tennis match have not yet been determined.

Los Angeles Angels' Albert Pujols prepares to bat against the Detroit Tigers in the fifth inning of a baseball game but he had to wait until the sixth inning on Sunday, April 20, 2014, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Los Angeles Angels’ Albert Pujols prepares to bat against the Detroit Tigers in the fifth inning of a baseball game but he had to wait until the sixth inning on Sunday, April 20, 2014, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

(Detroit) (AP) – Albert Pujols is closing in on his 500th homer and joining a prestigious club. More important for the Los Angeles Angels, he’s looking like his powerful self again.

The 34-year-old Pujols is hitting .280 with six home runs through 75 at-bats this year, an encouraging start following an injury-plagued 2013. The Angels enter a series at Washington with Pujols at 498 career homers.

“There’s no doubt, just speaking of the last couple years we’ve had him here, that this is the best foundation he’s had, this is the healthiest he’s been,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think you’re starting to see some of the swings he can put on baseballs on a consistent basis. It’s been fun to watch.”

With Pujols poised to reach 500 homers, it’s worth a look at who the next few candidates to approach that milestone might be. Adam Dunn is also 34 and has 443 home runs. He went deep 34 times last year, so a couple more seasons like that would put him over the top.

“I’ve never been numbers-oriented in my life, and not starting now,” Dunn said. “If it comes, it comes. That would be awesome.”

Miguel Cabrera just turned 31, and he has 366 homers. He should certainly have a good shot at 500 if he remains healthy and productive. Cabrera and Pujols both started putting up big numbers at a young age – and that’s crucial in the chase for a milestone like this.

There are 25 players currently in the 500-homer club, and they averaged 141 homers before turning 26, according to STATS. With that as a baseline, Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton is in impressive shape already. He doesn’t turn 25 until after this season, and he already has 123 home runs.

Prince Fielder had 163 homers before turning 26. He’s up to 287 now – with his 30th birthday coming up next month – but Fielder is hitting .188 for Texas and needs to hope his power stroke isn’t in serious decline.

FILE - In this June 8, 2001 file photo, former middleweight boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, left, is escorted by an unidentified security guard into the venue where Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier-Lyde will box each other in Verona, NY. Carter, who spent almost 20 years in jail after twice being convicted of a triple murder he denied committing, died at his home in Toronto, Sunday, April 20, 2014, according to long-time friend and co-accused John Artis. He was 76. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File)

FILE – In this June 8, 2001 file photo, former middleweight boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, left, is escorted by an unidentified security guard into the venue where Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier-Lyde will box each other in Verona, NY. Carter, who spent almost 20 years in jail after twice being convicted of a triple murder he denied committing, died at his home in Toronto, Sunday, April 20, 2014, according to long-time friend and co-accused John Artis. He was 76. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File)

(Toronto) – Rubin “Hurricane” Carter never surrendered hope of regaining his freedom, not even after he was convicted of a triple murder, then convicted again and abandoned by many prominent supporters.

For 19 long years, the prizefighter was locked in a prison cell far away from the spotlight and the adulation of the boxing ring. But when he at last won his biggest fight – for exoneration – he betrayed little bitterness. Instead, Carter dedicated much of his remaining life to helping other prisoners and exposing other injustices.

The middleweight title contender, whose murder convictions became an international symbol of racial injustice and inspired a Bob Dylan song and a Hollywood film, died Sunday. He was 76.

The New Jersey native, who had suffered from prostate cancer, died in his sleep at his home in Toronto, said John Artis, his former co-defendant and longtime friend and caregiver.

Carter “didn’t have any bitterness or anger – he kind of got above it all. That was his great strength,” said Thom Kidrin, who became friends with Carter after visiting him several times in prison.

The boxer, a former petty criminal, became an undersized 160-pound contender and earned his nickname largely on his ferocity and punching power.

Although never a world champion, Carter went 27-12-1 with 19 knockouts, memorably stopping two-division champ Emile Griffith in the first round in 1963. He also fought for a middleweight title in 1964, losing a unanimous decision to Joey Giardello.

But his boxing career came to an abrupt end when he was imprisoned for three 1966 murders committed at a tavern in Paterson, N.J. He was convicted in 1967 and again in 1976 before being freed in 1985, when his convictions were thrown out after years of appeals. He then became a prominent public advocate for the wrongfully convicted from his new home in Canada.

His ordeal and its racial overtones were publicized in Dylan’s 1975 song “Hurricane,” several books and a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington, who received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal.

In a statement issued Sunday, Washington praised Carter’s “tireless fight to ensure justice for all.”

Carter and Artis had been driving around Carter’s hometown on the night that three white people were shot by two black men at the Lafayette Bar and Grill. They were convicted by an all-white jury largely on the testimony of two thieves who later recanted their stories.

Carter was granted a new trial and briefly freed in 1976, but he was sent back for nine more years after being convicted in a second trial.

“I wouldn’t give up,” Carter said in an interview in 2011 on PBS. “No matter that they sentenced me to three life terms in prison. I wouldn’t give up. Just because a jury of 12 misinformed people … found me guilty did not make me guilty. And because I was not guilty, I refused to act like a guilty person.”

Dylan, a boxing aficionado, became aware of Carter’s plight after reading the fighter’s autobiography. He met Carter and co-wrote “Hurricane,” which he performed on his Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975. The song concludes: “That’s the story of the Hurricane/But it won’t be over till they clear his name/And give him back the time he’s done/Put him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been/The champion of the world.”

Muhammad Ali and Coretta Scott King spoke out on Carter’s behalf. Other celebrities also worked toward his release, joined by a network of friends and volunteers.

Carter eventually won his freedom from U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin, who wrote that the boxer’s prosecution had been “predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure.”

Born on May 6, 1937, into a family of seven children, Carter struggled with a hereditary speech impediment and was sent to a juvenile reform center at 12 after an assault. He escaped and joined the Army in 1954 and learned to box while in West Germany.

After returning home, he committed a series of muggings and spent four years in various state prisons. Upon his release, he began his pro boxing career, winning 20 of his first 24 fights mostly by knockout.

At 5-foot-8, Carter was fairly short for a middleweight, but he was aggressive and threw waves of punches. His shaved head and menacing glower gave him an imposing ring presence but also contributed to a forbidding aura outside the ring. He was quoted as joking about killing police officers in a 1964 story in the Saturday Evening Post, which was later cited by Carter as a cause of his troubles with law enforcement.

Carter boxed regularly on television at Madison Square Garden and overseas in London, Paris and Johannesburg. Although his career appeared to be on a downswing before he was implicated in the murders, the 29-year-old fighter was hoping for a second middleweight title shot.

Carter defied his prison guards from the first day of his incarceration and spent time in solitary confinement because of it.

“When I walked into prison, I refused to wear their stripes,” Carter said. “I refused to eat their food. I refused to work their jobs, and I would have refused to breathe the prison’s air if I could have done so.”

Carter eventually wrote and spoke eloquently about his plight, publishing his autobiography, “The Sixteenth Round,” in 1974. Benefit concerts were held for his legal defense featuring Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Roberta Flack.

Although many of his celebrity friends abandoned the cause after his second conviction and an allegation of assault during his brief release, other advocates worked tirelessly on his behalf, culminating in Sarokin’s ruling and two subsequent failed prosecutorial appeals to have the convictions reinstated. Each year on the anniversary Sarokin’s decision, Carter called the judge to thank him.

After his release, Carter moved to Toronto, where he served as the executive director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted from 1993 to 2005. He received two honorary doctorates for his work.

Canadian director Norman Jewison made Carter’s story into a biographical film. Washington worked closely with Carter to capture the boxer’s transformation and redemption.

“He’s all love,” Washington said while onstage with Carter at the 2000 ceremony where he won a Golden Globe. “He lost about 7,300 days of his life, and he’s love.”

The makers of “The Hurricane,” however, were widely criticized for factual inaccuracies and glossing over other parts of Carter’s story, including his criminal past and a reputation for a violent temper. Giardello sued the film’s producers for its depiction of a racist fix in his victory over Carter, who had long acknowledged that Giardello deserved the win.

Artis said Carter will be cremated and didn’t want a funeral or any memorial. Artis has been taking care of him since 2011.

“He was a champion of the underdog,” he said. “He was like the David against the Goliath of the justice system.”

Kidrin spoke with Carter on Wednesday.

“He said, `You know, look, death’s coming. I’m ready for it. But it’s really going to have to take me because I’m positive to the end.’”