By Scoop Malinowski
President Donald Trump Saturday is contemplating a full pardon for boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, following urging from actor Sylvester Stallone.
Stallone, famous for his role as “Rocky Balboa” in the Rocky movie series contacted Trump and discussed the life story of Johnson. Trump, a lifetime boxing fan, apparently was touched by what he learned and tweeted last week that he is now considering a posthumous pardon.
Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas in 1878 and won the world heavyweight championship in 1908 in Sydney, Australia by knocking out Tommy Burns. He also dominated, humiliated and destroyed the former champion Jim Jeffries in “The Fight of the Century.” Those victories provoked racial hostilities and resentment and even race riots. During his reign has Heavyweight Champion, Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury of violating the Mann Act, which made it “illegal to transport a woman across state lines for immoral purposes.”
Johnson fled the country after his conviction but agreed years later to return and serve a 10-month jail sentence. He lost his title in Havana, Cuba to Jess Willard in 1915. Johnson, born in 1878, passed away in 1946 in an auto accident in Franklinton, NC.
Senator John McCain has previously called for a Presidential pardon for Johnson. He later criticized President Obama for leaving office in 2017 without having granted one.
“Johnson’s imprisonment forced him into the shadows of bigotry and prejudice, and continues to stand as a shameful stain on our nations history,” McCain said in a statement in January 2017.
Johnson compiled a professional record of 73-13-10 and five no contests, including 40 knockouts. He successfully defended his world title eight times. “The Galveston Giant” continued to fight until age 60 according to the Jack Johnson wikipedia page. His last pro fight was a 7th round KO loss to Walter Price in Boston in 1938.