Jimmy Ellis, a heavyweight champion who sparred with an up-and-coming Muhammad Ali and later fought some of the era's best boxers, died Tuesday. He was 74.

Ellis died at a Louisville, Kentucky, hospital, brother Jerry Ellis said. Jimmy Ellis had Alzheimer's disease in recent years.

Ellis, the son of a preacher who loved singing gospel music, 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. He retired in 1975.

Ali remembered his longtime friend as a "master in the ring."

"In the world of heavyweights, I have always thought that Jimmy was one of the best," Ali said in a statement in which he and his wife, Lonnie, expressed condolences.

Ali said his friendship with Ellis began as both rose through the ranks as amateurs in their hometown of Louisville.

"As a former champion, Jimmy was known for exceptional hand speed and a strong chin," Ali said.

Both fighters fought under the tutelage of Angelo Dundee. The great trainer often said that Ellis packed more punch than he was given credit for, Ali recalled. But Ali said Ellis' greatest qualities were his "gentle manner and the compassion in his heart."

"I had a kinship with Jimmy and felt like he and I were of the same cloth," Ali said. "He was a great athlete and a caring man. Great competitors who happen to be great friends are rare. Jimmy Ellis was that to me and I will miss him."

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. Ellis defended the title by defeating Floyd Patterson before losing to Frazier.

Pro football

The Arizona Cardinals have added linebacker Larry Foote to their roster, giving him a chance to extend his NFL career to a 13th season.

Foote confirmed that he signed a one-year contract with the Cardinals. He has started 10 postseason games and won two Super Bowls in his career. He has played 11 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and one with the Detroit Lions. The Steelers released him in March.

  • Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl defensive lineman Marcell Dareus was arrested in Alabama on a charge of possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia. A jailer in Cleburne County who would not give her name said Dareus was arrested Monday night by a state trooper and was released from the jail within an hour. Sheriff Joe Jacks also confirmed to WVUA-TV that Dareus was arrested.

    Swimming

    Michael Phelps has entered the 100-meter butterfly and the 200 freestyle at the Charlotte Grand Prix meet in North Carolina next week, his coach, Bob Bowman, said. Phelps returned to competitive swimming at a meet in Arizona less than two weeks ago, his first since retiring after the 2012 London Games as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.

    If Phelps continues to progress in his return, he is expected to participate in the final Grand Prix meet of the season in Santa Clara next month. He has put his name in for the event but has not yet confirmed that he will compete.