Will President Obama Issue Posthumous Pardon for Nation's First Black Boxing Champ?

President Obama has the opportunity to lift the legacy of the nation's first African-American heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, off of the canvas.

Johnson held the prestigious heavyweight title for nearly seven years, but the toughest punch he took may have come from the nation's justice system.

Nearly a century ago, Johnson was sentenced to prison for his public affairs with white women, but his biggest crime may in fact have been his years of dominance in the ring against white men.

VIDEO: Efforts to obtain pardon for boxer Jack Johnson
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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., have led the effort in Congress to get a posthumous pardon for Johnson, who they say was railroaded by racism and jealousy over his athletic prowess.

The two boxing enthusiasts have worked together for several years to get a resolution supporting a pardon for Johnson. This year, for the first time, the measure passed both the House and Senate.

Now the decision rests with Obama.

VIDEO: Clearing Jack Johnsons Name
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The White House declined to comment on the Johnson issue, saying it does not comment on any pardon requests, but McCain said he is confident that eventually Obama will issue the pardon.

"It was a miscarriage of justice and one that deserves to be corrected," McCain told ABC News. "It was a stain on our national honor."

King echoed that sentiment.

"This is long overdue," King told ABC News. "We can rectify that and we should rectify that."

The resolution states Johnson should receive a posthumous pardon "to expunge a racially motivated abuse" by the justice system from the "annals of criminal justice in the United States."

It says that the charges against Johnson were brought up "clearly to keep him away from the boxing ring where he continued to defeat his white opponents."

Video: Tom Joyners request to have great uncles pardoned granted.
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"A terrible wrong was done to him," King said. "He was unjustly prosecuted, unjustly convicted. He was basically destroyed at the height of his career."

Jack Johnson's Dominance in Ring Spurred Search for "Great White Hope"

Johnson was a lightning rod for controversy, with his flamboyant style, his years of dominance in the boxing ring and his open courting of white women at a time when that was seen as taboo for an African-American man.

Johnson became the first African-American to win boxing's heavyweight crown on Dec. 26, 1908 -- a century before Obama's election as the nation's first black president and nearly 40 years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

Johnson's record in the ring against his mostly white opponents spurred a furious search for a "Great White Hope."

For years Johnson sought a fight with James Jeffries, a hulking white boxer who reigned as heavyweight champion for nearly six years.

Jeffries left the sport rather than face Johnson and risk losing, but later he was convinced to come out of retirement and step into the ring for the ultimate showdown.

The Johnson-Jeffries fight, on July 4, 1910 in Reno, Nev., was deemed the "Battle of the Century," two titans of the sport fighting with not just a title on the line, but significant racial issues as well.

"I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro," Jeffries said before the fight.

But Johnson prevailed over Jeffries in the 15-round fight. His victory sparked deadly race riots and violence across the nation and further fueled the hostility directed at Johnson.

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