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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Trump pardons late black boxing champion Jack Johnson

African-American heavyweight champion was jailed a century ago due to his relationship with a white woman

FILE - In this 1932 file photo, boxer Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight champion, poses in New York City. AP Photo
FILE - In this 1932 file photo, boxer Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight champion, poses in New York City. AP Photo

President Donald Trump on Thursday issued a posthumous pardon to boxer Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion, who was jailed a century ago due to his relationship with a white woman.

“I believe Jack Johnson is a worthy person to receive a pardon, to correct a wrong in our history,” Mr Trump said.

In a case that came to symbolise racial injustice, Mr Johnson was arrested in 1912 with Lucille Cameron, who later became his wife, for violating the Mann Act. The law was passed two years earlier and made it a crime to take a woman across state lines for immoral purposes.

The boxer died in 1946.

In signing the pardon, the president cited “tremendous racial tension” during the time Mr Johnson was champion. “He really represented something that was both very beautiful and very terrible at the same time,” Mr Trump said.

Actor Sylvester Stallone, famous as the star of the Rocky boxing-movie franchise, and former world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis flanked Mr Trump for the pardon in the Oval Office. In April, Mr Trump tweeted that he was considering the pardon after talking to Mr Stallone.

With actor Sylvester Stallone (2nd R) and boxer Lennox Lewis (R) behind him, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing a pardon for the late Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion, at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
With actor Sylvester Stallone (2nd R) and boxer Lennox Lewis (R) behind him, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing a pardon for the late Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion, at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Stallone posted a photo of himself at the White House on Instagram with the caption “Waiting for the moment to go into the oval office for the pardon...”

In the Oval Office, the president said of Mr Stallone: “I love his movies.”

“This has been a long time coming,” Mr Stallone said, adding that Mr Johnson served as the inspiration for the character of Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies.