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At age 67 in a Philadelphia hospice, former middleweight contender Bennie Briscoe. "The meanest man I ever saw in a boxing ring," in the words of HBO analyst Harold Lederman, Briscoe (above) amassed a record of 66-24-5 with 53 knockouts in a 21-year career. In 1972 Briscoe, though recovering from hepatitis, took on middleweight champion Carlos Monzon in Monzon's native Buenos Aires. Briscoe rocked the champ in the ninth round, but Monzon desperately hung on and survived to win a decision. "We were one punch away from the world championship," said Briscoe's trainer, Quinzell McCall. Though he would never win a title, Bad Bennie, as Briscoe was known, retired with a reputation as one of the best 160-pounders of his era and as the embodiment of the relentless, power-punching "Philadelphia fighter."
With possession of an illegal firearm and threatening to kill his wife in his native Kenya, Olympic gold medalist Sammy Wanjiru. The 24-year-old distance runner, who broke the Olympic record in the marathon at the 2008 Beijing Games with a time of 2:06:32 and who went on to win the London and Chicago marathons, is alleged to have threatened his wife, Tereza Njeri, during an argument at their home in Nyahururu on Dec. 29. Prosecutors also claim that an intoxicated Wanjiru threatened the life of his housemaid and that he struck his security guard with the butt of an AK-47 assault rifle in the midst of the altercation. Wanjiru, who denied the charges a day later and was released on bail, is expected to go to court in March. (He says he and his wife have since reconciled.) The youngest Olympic marathon champion since 1932, Wanjiru is a favorite to defend his gold medal in 2012.
In the wake of a domestic violence charge in Indiana, newly hired Pittsburgh football coach Mike Haywood. The 46-year-old Haywood, who on Dec. 16 was lured from the same job at Miami (Ohio) to lead the Panthers, was arrested and charged with felony domestic battery in the presence of a minor following an apparent altercation over a custody issue with the mother of his infant son. After posting $1,000 bond, Haywood denied the allegations. That, however, did not stop Pittsburgh from cutting ties. "Moving forward with Mr. Haywood as our head coach is not possible under the existing circumstances," said chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. Pitt immediately reopened its search to replace Dave Wannstedt, who resigned last month after a 7--5 season.
By the NFL for failing to cooperate with a league inquiry, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, who was being investigated for claims that he sent lewd pictures of himself to former Jets employee Jenn Sterger in 2008, when both were with the team. The $50,000 fine, just 1/320 of Favre's $16 million 2010 salary, was the only disciplinary action to come out of a three-month look into the matter. The NFL ruled that it could not conclude that Favre violated league policies, but commissioner Roger Goodell also rebuked the 20-year veteran for his lack of candor. On Sunday—one day before two female massage therapists filed suit against him and the Jets, claiming sexual harassment—Favre, 41, announced that he would finally retire after several seasons of indecision. "Throughout this year the comment has been made that we'll wait and see in August or September," he said. "But it's time."
With esophageal cancer, 74-year-old Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew. The Senators and Twins legend, who hit 573 home runs over 22 major league seasons, is being treated at a Scottsdale, Ariz., branch of the Mayo Clinic. An 11-time All-Star who led the league in homers six times, Killebrew (above) finished his career with the Royals in 1975 ranked fifth on the alltime homers list. (He's now No. 11.) Nicknamed Killer, he won the AL MVP in 1969 after leading the league with 49 home runs, 140 RBIs and 145 walks. "I have begun preparing for what is perhaps the most difficult battle of my life," Killebrew said last Thursday. "While my condition is very serious," he added, "I anticipate a full recovery."