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Mauricio Sulaiman Discusses Witnessing The Pardon of Former Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson on Boxing Insider Radio

Posted on 02/18/2020

A wrong should always be given the opportunity to be corrected. Especially, when it should have never taken place to begin with. 

In an interview conducted on Boxing Insider Radio which airs every Tuesday and is available on iTunes, Spotify and on, the President of the WBC sanctioning body, Mauricio Sulaiman got the chance to sit down with the crew to discuss one of his proudest moments. Witnessing the presidential pardon of Jack Johnson.

Former Heavyweight champion Jack Johnson is forever embedded in the sport of boxing. Simply put, it is impossible to tell the entire story of the sport without mentioning his name. 

In 1908, Johnson became the first African American boxer to win the world Heavyweight title. This feat alone would be significant in itself, but this accomplishment is magnified 100 times over when considering the landscape in which Johnson competed. 

From 1877 until roughly the 1950s, the Jim Crow laws placed heavy restrictions on those of color. It enforced heavy racial segregation in the Southern part of the United States. The effects and targets of this law were simple. The interaction between whites and those of color were put to a screening halt. The laws also placed major restrictions on both the freedom and opportunity of those who were of color. 

Without actually growing up in this day and age, it can become difficult to comprehend how such a law could actually be passed and placed into effect for nearly 100 years, but it was. 

What Johnson was able to accomplish in terms of winning a world title was not only arduous but also audacious in many ways. 

Just think. Would you be able to not only do your job, but do so on the highest level if you were essentially banned from interacting with another race? Probably not.

For years Johnson impressively held on to his Heavyweight world title. In fact, impressive doesn’t seem to be a strong enough word for what Johnson was able to accomplish. It has been nearly 100 years since Johnson stepped foot inside of a ring, in 1931,yet he still has the 14th most title wins in Heavyweight history. 

Throughout the career of Johnson, he was forced to deal with the sort of trial and tribulations that would break a normal man. 

On October 18th, 1912, Johnson was arrested and accused of violating the Mann Act. 

What exactly is the Mann Act you might be asking yourself. Well, that’s simple. It prevented individuals from transporting certain women who were known to be prostitutes for sexual activities across other states. 

Needless to say, it was a crime that Johnson should never have been charged with. 

So what’s a man to do? 

Turn yourself in and begin your prison sentence? Wrong. 

Johnson fled and continued his life on the run for years. He would eventually turn himself in and serve his one year sentence. 

It may not seem like a long stint behind bars, but anytime away from your loved ones is far too long. Especially when you were innocent of the crime to begin with. 

It’s been decades since the passing of Johnson but he still had plenty of people fighting in his corner. For years, members of the boxing community have fought for Johnson to receive a presidential pardon. It took years for him to receive it, but in April of 2018, he finally experienced justice thanks to President Donald Trump. 

It was a star studded cast of boxing greats who were in attendance for the historic event, and they couldn’t have been any prouder.

For WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman, he has been a part of some notable events in boxing history. But this one ranks near the top.

“That was a huge moment,” said Mauricio Sulaiman on Boxing Insider Radio recalling what it was like to witness Jack Johnson receive his presidential pardon. “We sat down at the Oval Office. It was Deontay Wilder, Lennox Lewis, Sylvester Salone, my father Hector, myself and several others. When President Trump walked in, he was just so happy. It’s because he was a boxing promoter and he loves boxing. We spent so much time just talking about boxing.”

While catching up and reminiscing about the sport of boxing was something that Sulaiman and everyone in attendance enjoyed, it was time to get down to business. To the credit of Trump, he showed no hesitation. Unlike past presidential figures.

“When the moment came for the pardon of Jack Johnson, it was an event that had been planned for 30 years. It was on the desk of three different presidents but none of them signed it. So to have President Trump honor Jack Johnson and erase a great injustice in the presence of these great champions, it was just something very special.”

Over the years, President Trump has received his fair share of criticism. There are several reasons behind it, but many believe that his motives are always driven by something that is underneath the surface. This time around however, that seems to be far from the case. 

“We have to recognize that this was not political. This was not politics. This was a humanitarian action, this was a sports action. This is something that goes beyond that. I am just very happy and proud that I got the chance to be there.”

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