President Trump announces posthumous pardon for heavyweight champion Jack Johnson
Johnson won the heavyweight world title in 1908, but was convicted for violating the Mann Act
Over a century after Jack Johnson was convicted in 1913 of violating a federal law for transporting a white woman across state lines, President Donald Trump has granted the first black heavyweight boxing champion a full posthumous pardon.
With many boxing figures like current WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, Lennox Lewis and actor Sylvester Stallone in attendance for the ceremony, President Trump granted the rare pardon for what he said many felt was a racially motivated injustice.
But who was Jack Johnson, you ask? Let's take a quick dive back into history.
Not to be confused with the Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman or the acoustic singer of the same name, Johnson was once deemed, by filmmaker Ken Burns, "the most notorious African-American on Earth." He died in 1946 at age 68, four days before Trump was even born.
Long before that, Johnson already established himself not only as the polarizing subject of the Mann Act violation but, even more prominently, as a champion of the black community due to his tremendous success inside the squared circle.
Johnson got his start in professional boxing in the late 1890s, then rose to fame at the start of the 20th century when he became the first African-American fighter to claim the world heavyweight title in 1908. Despite refusals by some of that era's top white boxers to even consider joining him in the ring, Johnson went down in history for his 1910 bout with former undefeated heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries -- a bout that inspired the play and film "The Great White Hope" and was called "the fight of the century" that made "a black man ... the undisputed champion of the world."
Johnson, who fled the country in order to avoid jail time for the Mann Act violation, fought professionally until 1915; he logged 73 wins, 40 of which were decided by knockout. He returned to the United States in 1920 to serve his sentence.
Former President Barack Obama considered pardoning Johnson during his administration but ultimately decided to pass on doing so as there were domestic violence allegations against the boxer. Stallone continued advocating for the pardon once President Trump took office.
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