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National Sports Briefs: Pardon sought for former heavyweight

Associated Press
WASHINGTON ó Sen. John McCain wants a presidential pardon for Jack Johnson, who became the nation’s first black heavyweight boxing champion 100 years before Barack Obama became its first black president.
McCain feels Johnson was wronged by a 1913 conviction of violating the Mann Act by having a consensual relationship with a white woman ó a conviction widely seen as racially motivated.
“I’ve been a very big fight fan, I was a mediocre boxer myself,” McCain, R-Ariz., said in a telephone interview. “I had admired Jack Johnson’s prowess in the ring. And the more I found out about him, the more I thought a grave injustice was done.”
On Wednesday, McCain will join Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., filmmaker Ken Burns and Johnson’s great niece, Linda Haywood, at a Capitol Hill news conference to unveil a resolution urging a presidential pardon for Johnson. Similar legislation offered in 2004 and last year failed to pass both chambers of Congress.
Johnson won the world heavyweight title on Dec. 26, 1908, after police in Australia stopped his 14-round match against the severely battered Canadian world champion, Tommy Burns. That led to a search for a “Great White Hope” who could beat Johnson. Two years later, the American world titleholder Johnson had tried for years to fight, Jim Jeffries, came out of retirement but lost in a match called “The Battle of the Century,” resulting in deadly riots.
Johnson lost the heavyweight title to Jess Willard in 1915.
In 1913, Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which outlawed transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes. The law has since been heavily amended, but has not been repealed.
TENNIS
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. ó Venus and Serena Williams say they’ve seen little of each other the past week because of their busy schedules. That will change Thursday night, when they meet in the semifinals at the Sony Ericsson Open.
The 20th showdown between the sisters ensures a Williams will be in Saturday’s final. The family has won eight of the past 11 Key Biscayne titles.
Top-ranked Serena advanced first Wednesday, overcoming a dismal start to beat unseeded Li Na 4-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2. She was followed into the semis five hours later by No. 5-seeded Venus, who beat No. 26 Iveta Benesova 6-1, 6-4.
– BRISTOL, Conn. ó John McEnroe will be part of ESPN2’s announcing team when the network carries the U.S. Open for the first time this year.
GOLF
HUMBLE, Texas ó The Shell Houston Open has gotten exactly what it wanted, three years after getting the event moved to the weekend before the Masters.
OK, the tournament still couldn’t lure Tiger Woods, who’s sticking to his usual routine of not playing the run-up event to a major.
But 15 of the top 20 players in the world rankings did come to The Tournament Course at Redstone for their final tuneup before Augusta, including Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Geoff Ogilvy and Padraig Harrington.
OBAMA
LONDON ó He says he’s taken enough flak for making his NCAA college basketball selections, so President Barack Obama says he’s not about to wade into European soccer ó or, as he correctly called it in London, “football.”
He was asked at a news conference Wednesday with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown whether he had a “good luck message” for the team from England, which is playing Ukraine later in the day in a World Cup qualifying match.
Obama says his college predictions, in which he envisioned North Carolina taking the championship, caused “all kinds of controversy.”
And he says although he “didn’t get a briefing” on it, he knows it would “be a mistake” to offer his views on soccer.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL
CLEMSON, S.C. ó Clemson coach Dabo Swinney wanted to pay whatever it took to build a top-notch staff.
How about more than $1.8 million?
That’s how much Clemson will pay Swinney’s nine assistants, several of whom received raises from a year ago. The school’s athletic department released the contracts this week.
MCDONALD’S GAME
CORAL GABLES, Fla. ó Georgia Tech recruit Derrick Favors scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the East over the West, 113-110 in the boys McDonald’s All-American game Wednesday night.
Dominic Cheek, who is headed to Villanova, and Pittsburgh recruit Dante Taylor each scored 15 points for the East, which leads the all-time series 18-14.
Oklahoma-bound Keith Gallon led all scorers with 20 points for the West. Avery Bradley, who is headed to Texas, added 15.
U.S. SOCCER
NASHVILLE, Tenn. ó Jozy Altidore became the youngest American with an international hat trick, and the United States beat Trinidad and Tobago 3-0 Wednesday night to maintain its lead in the final round of qualifying for next year’s World Cup.

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