Heavyweight world champions past and present, along with arguably the most celebrated fictitious heavyweight king himself, ‘Rocky,’ are gathering in Washington DC at The White House today. The reason is the late, great Jack Johnson and the pardon he has been long, long overdue.
President Trump is expected to officially pardon Johnson – who was, in 1913 convicted of violating The Mann Act – some time today. Lennox Lewis, the last undisputed heavyweight king, posted a picture on social media of himself and current WBC champ Deontay Wilder along with movie legend Sylvester Stallone.
“We are in DC for pardoning of Jack Johnson who was wrongfully convicted of violating #TheMannAct,” Lewis wrote on twitter.
Johnson, who ruled the heavyweight division from 1908 to 1915, was of course the very first black man to win the richest prize in all sports. Johnson drew vitriolic hatred from whites throughout his life, and many black citizens were murdered, lynched, after he destroyed “Great White Hopes” such as Tommy Burns and James J. Jeffries. It wasn’t until 1915 when, out of shape and ageing, Johnson, known as “The Galveston Giant” amongst other things, finally lost to latest “White Hope” Jess Willard, who stopped him in the 26th-round! (Johnson insisting to the day he died how he had taken a dive in the fight).
It’s great that modern day heavyweight kings Lewis and Wilder and rallying round to support Johnson, who passed away in 1946, and it will be even greater if President Trump does the right thing after all this time has elapsed, and pardons him. Johnson’s surviving family members have been campaigning for the pardon of the former world champion for many years now and WBC president Hector Sulaiman has been actively campaigning for the posthumous pardon himself.
It is indeed expected to be handed to him later today. Johnson remains a polarising figure all these years later though, and some argue he perhaps should not be pardoned. Let’s see what Trump does here.