American president Donald Trump considering pardon for pioneering heavyweight champion Jack Johnson

Anthony Cocks

Australian-based boxing journalist Anthony Cocks has been covering the sport for over 15 years for various print and online publications. He refuses to believe that Roberto Duran ever lost to Tommy Hearns and says that Jeff Fenech would destroy Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali on the same night.

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The story of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion in history, is well known to fight fans. Now, it seems, the story of the “Galveston Giant” has reached the ears of the President of the United States of America – courtesy of a conversation with an actor, of course.

“Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson,” the former reality TV star told his followers on Twitter on Saturday.

“His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial. Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!”

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Johnson was born into poverty in in Galveston, Texas in 1878. The third of nine children, Johnson was the son of former slaves who grew up during the height of the Jim Crow era. In a time of segregation, it was widely forbidden for blacks to fight whites in boxing matches. Johnson was a full 30 years old when he finally had his opportunity to fight for the world’s heavyweight championship in Sydney, Australia on Boxing Day 1908 against the diminutive champion Tommy Burns of Canada.

Johnson, with his clever, defensive style, outboxed Burns to win in fourteen rounds.

As champion Johnson fast gained a reputation for flaunting the conventions of the time. He dated – and married –white women, something frowned upon at the time. It would ultimately prove his downfall.

In October 1912 Johnson was arrested on charges of violating the Mann Act. This antiquated law forbid the transportation of a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes”. The case fell apart, but less than a month later he was arrested again on similar charges.

This time, the charges stuck. Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury in June 1913 and sentenced to a year and a day in prison.

Johnson skipped bail and left the country, living in exile in Europe, South American and Mexico for seven years. On July 20, 1920 he surrendered to federal agents at the US-Mexico border and was transported to the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth to serve out his sentence. He was released on July 9, 1921.

A presidential pardon for Johnson has been discussed on and off for years. RingNews24 believes that it is high time that this historical wrong is set right.


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