LOS ANGELES, Jan 27 — Tom Hanks will produce a mini-series on Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion at a time when only whites were allowed to fight in this weight class.
The six-episode TV biopic will focus on the struggles faced by the boxer, who was nicknamed “the Galveston giant” after the city in Texas where he was born in 1878. Even though he was not allowed to fight in the heavyweight category, which was considered the most prestigious, he broke the taboo in 1908 and won his first World Champion title against the Canadian Tommy Burns.
In 1910, his victory over reigning champion James J. Jeffries caused controversy. The fight sparked off a wave of racist attacks throughout the US and his next fights were not allowed to be broadcast.
His private life was equally controversial. Jack Johnson was married three times and all his wives were white at a time when such relationships were forbidden by American law. The sportsman was sentenced to a year in prison and decided to flee. For seven years, he traveled in Canada and through Europe, especially France, and he lost his World Champion title in 1915.
He returned to the United States in 1920, served his sentence and put an end to his career before dying in a car crash in 1946.
His story will be told on HBO with the help of Beau Willimon, the scriptwriter behind George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” and David Fincher’s series “House of Cards” (on Netflix from February 1). — AFP/Relaxnews