John McCain Pushes for Boxer's Pardon

Published April 6, 2009

Republican Sen. John McCain may have been KO'd in November's presidential election, but he's trying for a rematch on behalf of boxing's first Black heavyweight champ.

Some find it odd that the Arizona lawmaker used campaign tactics questioned by many to try and block the first Black president's path to the White House, but appears dedicated to vindicating Jack Johnson.

The fighter -- who reigned in the ring during an era when bouts were longer and opponents could be much bigger than today's standards allow -- was targeted by government racism when he couldn't be stopped by America's top White competitors.

Johnson had a style and swagger that included his love for cars, furs and White women, which ultimately resulted in his federal conviction under the Mann Act. The law prohibited transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes, but it was only selectively applied.

The government saw fit to convict Johnson, who once was stopped for speeding and gave a cop extra cash for the ticket: Johnson reportedly said he'd be traveling back the same way and going just as fast.

McCain joins New York Republican Peter King and three of Johnson's surviving family members in organizing the pardon effort.

Obama "will be more than eager" to issue the posthumous order that would erase Johnson's 1913 conviction, McCain says.

Johnson is credited with influencing later heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali, who has expressed his admiration. Johnson, who was killed in a car accident, is the subject of an award-winning documentary, Unforgivable Blackness.

Written by BET.com News Staff

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