July 4th marked the 100th Anniversary of the Fight of the Century

There is no single sporting event in the U.S. to compare it to today. The heavyweight boxing match in 1910 between Jack Johnson and Jim Jefferies, dubbed “The Fight of the Century” was the kind of event that transfixed a nation before the modern age of telecommunications.

It combined all the hot-button topics that still dominate the American scene today – race, politics and sports.

This Fourth of July weekend will mark the 100th anniversary of that match in Reno that divided a nation and sparked racial riots throughout the country, resulting in the U.S. military being called in to quell hostilities in some cities that resulted in the deaths of at least eight people.

Terry and Tommy Lane, the sons of famed boxing referee Mills Lane, are putting on a weekend-long festival in Reno to commemorate the fight, including a boxing card, a panel discussion on Johnson’s place in history and what he meant to the African American community and a banquet to honor past and current boxing champions. At 2:44 p.m. on July 4, there will be a 10-count using the original bell near the site of the fight at 4th Street, which is now a scrap-metal yard.

The festival will be a reminder of a near century long injustice that has highlighted the stain of racism that has long plagued this country – the conviction of Jack Johnson on a Mann Act in 1913. The law was specifically created for Johnson, who flaunted his wealth and status as the heavyweight champion and openly dated and married white women. The Mann Act made it illegal to transport a woman across state lines for immoral purposes.

Supporters of a pardon for Johnson, including some of Johnson’s relatives, will be on hand for the festival, calling for President Obama to issue a pardon for Johnson, who served a year and a day on the conviction in 1913.

A pardon resolution, authored by Sen. John McCain, passed Congress last year, but it awaits a Presidential pardon.

“There is no good reason for President Obama not to pardon Jack Johnson, especially when the Mann Act was specifically created just around Jack Johnson,” Lane said. “Now would be the perfect time to correct a century-long injustice.”

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