DONALD TRUMP was handing out a pardon, plus some advice to the pugilists who gathered at the White House, as PETER COSTER reports:
SELLING SEATS on the White House lawns may be President Trump’s next foray into world boxing after inviting some of its biggest names to turn up for a photo opportunity.
Deontay Wilder was there alongside Lennox Lewis and Sylvester Stallone.
Wilder holds the only version of the old heavyweight championship not in the care of British champion Anthony Joshua.
Lennox Lewis held several world heavyweight titles before he retired and Sylvester Stallone was channeling Rocky Balboa from his five Rocky movies.
They were all invited to witness the President sign a posthumous pardon for former black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who broke a federal law by taking his white girlfriend with him across state lines for “immoral purposes”.
President Trump described his decision to pardon Johnson as “righteous” and appeared to be channeling civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Jack Johnson was the first black man to win the world heavyweight title and my grandfather was among thousands who witnessed this event at Rushcutters Bay in Sydney in 1908.
You can see the fight on YouTube, although I couldn’t see grandpa who must have been back in the bleachers.
It was a hot day and Johnson hardly broke a sweat as he toyed with champion Tommy Burns before police stormed into the ring in the 14th round to save Burns from further humiliation.
Johnson went on to defeat a number of “great white hopes” before he was jailed on morality charges.
Stallone, who campaigned for Johnson’s pardon, said he based the character of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s opponent in the Rocky movies, on Johnson.
President Trump promoted fights at his Trump hotels and has posted a video where he supposedly body slams a reporter on World Wrestling Entertainment’s Wrestle Mania in 2007.
Even the Democrats and the Russians can’t make this stuff up. Trump “took down” WWE chairman Vince McMahon who was cast as the CNN reporter.
The action in the Oval office, however, was restricted to Trump asking Lennox Lewis if he could “take Deontay in a fight”.
Trump said Lewis would have to start “working out” so maybe there’s a chance of a sparring session on the White House lawns.
More likely is the unification fight between Wilder, the “Bronze Bomber’’ from Alabama who holds the WBC title and Anthony Joshua, who holds the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts.
President Trump’s righteous pardon may further motivate Wilder who was arrested on marijuana charges in Birmingham, Alabama, where Martin Luther King was jailed during civil rights protests in the 1960s.
A fight to unify all five world titles could be signed with the next few days, according to Joshua’s British promotor Eddie Hearn.
The fight could be before or after a WBA mandatory title defence against Russian contender Alexander Povetkin.
“It’s just a case of whether that fight happens in October, November, September, or do we do it in February or March next year,” says Hearn.
The match with Wilder could be at Wembley or Las Vegas.
Where to hold the fight and how the purse is split is still a sticking point and a sparring session at the White House between Wilder and Lennox Lewis could maintain interest.
What is starting to attract attention is the “forgotten” division of world boxing, the light heavyweight, or 175-pound class.
Neither middleweight nor heavyweight, the light heavyweights languish on boxing’s undercard.
Badu Jack and Adonis Stevenson fought a majority draw in Quebec last month. Two of the judges scored the fight a draw with the third giving it to Jack by two points over 12 rounds for the WBC light heavyweight title.
Both fighters have only one defeat on their records and there will be a rematch.
Jack deserved the decision after being behind for the first half of the fight but getting the upper hand in the later rounds with Stevenson on the ropes and tiring.
Both fighters were in superb condition, the difference being age. Stevenson, known as “Superman”, is 40 and slowed visibly under Jack’s body shots.
Although it was a draw, it was a win for the light heavyweight division.
Badou Jack’s promotor, Floyd Mayweather Jr, said Stevenson looked like an old fighter as the rounds went by.
“Once you get to being 38, 40, 41, it’s not the same as when you were young,” said Mayweather. “You see certain things but you’re not able to do them.”
Whether Jack or Stevenson wins the rematch, their next match could be against Dmitry Bivol who holds the WBA title.
Bivol is undefeated, winning 13 fights and 11 by knockout. He won by technical knockout against Sullivan Barrera at Madison Square Garden in March.
Barrera lasted until the 12th round but Australian light heavyweight Trent Broadhurst found himself losing interest in proceedings at the end of the first round against Bivol at the Monte Carlo casino in November last year.
The Casino Square forms part of the circuit at the Monaco Grand Prix. It was a different result for Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo after leading this year’s race from start to finish.
Broadhurst was clearly outclassed and knocked out by a punch he didn’t see coming.
Bivol has a fight coming up against Isaac Chilemba in Atlantic City in August and would have little trouble in defeating either Badu Jack “The Ripper” or Adonis “Superman” Stevenson.
Bivol lives in St Petersburg and trains in southern California.
This Sunday, Australia’s world welterweight champion Jeff Horn fights American Terence Crawford in Las Vegas.
Crawford, who holds the WBC, WBO, WBA and IBF light welterweight titles, is an odds-on favourite, but Horn says he’s ready.
Horn has said he feels like a “pawn” in a game set up for a Crawford victory, but promotor Bob Arum discounts “conspiracy theories”.
“This is our last fight with Jeff Horn. We had him with Manny Pacquiao and then a defence against Gary Corcoran.
“And now his mandatory fight with Terence Crawford, with whom we have a long-term contract. But I am absolutely sure that everything inside the ring will be absolutely neutral.’’
What is more likely is that Horn will have to knock out the fast-moving Crawford to win.
Author: Peter Coster
PETER COSTER is a former editor and foreign correspondent who has covered a range of international sports, including world championship fights and the Olympic Games.