GALVESTON, TX – Way before pay-per-view, Vegas fight cards and big personalities, was the Golden-age of boxing and a poor kid from Galveston was the center of it all. Heavyweight champ Jack Johnson won the title in 1908, and now, more than 100 years later, the fight to clear his name goes on. And two political foes are fighting in his corner.
1910 was the year Johnson beat favorite Jim Jeffries for the belt. Jefferies was called the “Great White Hope” because whites back in the day couldn’t stand the thought of a Black man being champ.
Johnson won the fight, but soon he lost out and found himself in jail. He was charged with violating the Mann act, which prohibited men from transporting women across state lines for ‘immoral purposes.’ Federal prosecutors arrested him when they learned he paid the fare for his girlfriend to travel with him by train from Pittsburgh to Chicago. Despite the fact that the crime he was accused of happened a full year before the Mann act was passed, an all-white jury sentenced Johnson to a year in prison.
He fought a record 124 fights in his lifetime, but now the fight to clear his criminal record is coming a century later and from an unlikely pair.
Senators John McCain and Harry Reid are part of a group pushing President Obama to pardon Johnson.
The heavyweight champion has been dead more than 60 years. But the good fight still goes on