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WASHINGTON - The US Congress approved a resolution on Wednesday urging a presidential pardon for Jack Johnson, the late black heavyweight champion who was imprisoned because of his romantic ties with a white woman.
The US Congress passed the resolution by voice vote, about a month after the Senate approved it.
Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion in 1908. The Senate resolution was sponsored by Barack Obama's 2008 presidential rival, Senator John McCain.
The resolution's congressional sponsor, Peter King, said he was thrilled that after five years it had been passed in both chambers.
"Jack Johnson is a trailblazer and a legend, whose boxing career was cut short due to unjust laws and racial persecution," King said. "I urge the president to do the right thing and take the final step and grant his pardon."
In 1913, Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. The law has since been amended but not repealed.
Johnson fled the US after his conviction, but returned to serve a 10-month jail sentence. He died in a car crash in 1946 at the age of 68.
Johnson, from Galveston, Texas, won the 1908 world heavyweight title after police in Australia stopped his 14-round match against the severely battered Canadian world champion, Tommy Burns; leading to a search for a "Great White Hope" who could beat Johnson.
Two years later, Jim Jeffries, the US world titleholder Johnson had tried for years to fight, returned to the ring from retirement but lost in a match called "The Battle of the Century", resulting in deadly riots.
"It is time we restore his reputation with a pardon that is long overdue," said King, who spars at a boxing gym on Long Island. - Sapa-AP