US President Donald Trump has pardoned boxing’s first black heavyweight champion who was jailed a century ago over his relationship with a white woman. The President said the move corrected a historical “wrong” and honoured legendary fighter Jack Johnson – who held the world title from 1908 to 1915.
Johnson was arrested in 1912 for trying to take Lucille Cameron, a white woman who would later become his wife, over a state border.
“I am taking this very righteous step, I believe, to correct a wrong that occurred in our history and to honour a truly legendary boxing champion,” said Trump
He was joined by WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, retired heavyweight titleholder Lennox Lewis and actor Sylvester Stallone, whom Trump credited with championing the pardon.
Trump said Johnson had later served 10 months in prison “for what many view as a racially-motivated injustice.”
“It’s my honour to do it. It’s about time,” the President said.
Johnson was convicted in 1913 by an all-white jury for violating the Mann Act for travelling with his white girlfriend.
That archaic law made it illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral” purposes.”
Trump had tweeted in late April that Stallone, a longtime friend, had brought Johnson’s story to his attention in a phone call.
“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!” Trump wrote then.
The Oval Office ceremony was a celebratory scene, bringing together boxing greats past, present and fictional.
The guests brought with them a WBC boxing championship belt, which sat front and centre on the President’s Resolute Desk as he spoke.