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‘It’s about time’: Trump pardons late boxer Jack Johnson

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WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump on Thursday granted a rare posthumous pardon to boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, clearing Jack Johnson’s name more than 100 years after what many see as his racially-charged conviction.

“It’s my honor to do it. It’s about time,” Trump said during an Oval Office ceremony, where he was joined by boxer Lennox Lewis and actor Sylvester Stallone, who has drawn awareness to Johnson’s cause.

Trump said Johnson had served 10 months in prison for what many view as a racially-motivated injustice and described his decision as an effort “to correct a wrong in our history.”

“He represented something that was both very beautiful and very terrible at the same time,” Trump said.

Johnson was convicted in 1913 by an all-white jury for violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral” purposes, for traveling with his white girlfriend.

Trump had said previously that Stallone had brought Johnson’s story to his attention in a phone call.

“His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial,” Trump tweeted in April. “Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!”

Johnson is a legendary figure in boxing and crossed over into popular culture decades ago with biographies, dramas and documentaries following the civil rights era.

He died in 1946. His great-great niece has pressed Trump for a posthumous pardon, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have been pushing Johnson’s case for years.

The son of former slaves, Johnson defeated Tommy Burns for the heavyweight title in 1908 at a time when blacks and whites rarely entered the same ring. He then mowed down a series of “great white hopes,” culminating in 1910 with the undefeated former champion, James J. Jeffries.

McCain previously told The Associated Press that Johnson “was a boxing legend and pioneer whose career and reputation were ruined by a racially charged conviction more than a century ago.”

“Johnson’s imprisonment forced him into the shadows of bigotry and prejudice, and continues to stand as a stain on our national honor,” McCain has said.

Posthumous pardons are rare, but not unprecedented. President Bill Clinton pardoned Henry O. Flipper, the first African-American officer to lead the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War, and Bush pardoned Charles Winters, an American volunteer in the Arab-Israeli War convicted of violating the U.S. Neutrality Acts in 1949.

Linda E. Haywood, the great-great niece, wanted Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, to pardon Johnson, but Justice Department policy says “processing posthumous pardon petitions is grounded in the belief that the time of the officials involved in the clemency process is better spent on the pardon and commutation requests of living persons.”

The Justice Department makes decisions on potential pardons through an application process and typically makes recommendations to the president. The general DOJ policy is to not accept applications for posthumous pardons for federal convictions, according to the department’s website. But Trump has shown a willingness to work around the DOJ process in the past.

Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

Yates’ Giro lead cut in half, Schachmann wins 18th stage

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PRATO NEVOSO, Italy – Simon Yates remained in the lead of the Giro d’Italia but the British rider’s advantage over closest rival Tom Dumoulin was slashed in half after the tough 18th stage on Thursday.

Yates was dropped by his rivals on the steep Category 1 climb to Prato Nevoso and he finished 28 seconds behind defending champion Dumoulin, who crossed the line with Domenico Pozzovivo and Chris Froome.

“I was just tired, that’s it. Still a few days to go. I can bounce back, no worries,” Yates said.

Maximilian Schachmann of Germany won from a breakaway to claim his first victory in a Grand Tour.

Schachmann attacked heading into the final section of the climb, finishing 10 seconds ahead of Ruben Plaza and 16 ahead of Mattia Cattaneo.

The rest of the breakaway, which escaped 16 kilometers into the mainly flat 196-kilometer (122-mile) route from Abbiategrasso finished more than a minute off the pace.

“The final kilometers were really, really hard,” said Schachmann, who rides for Quick-Step Floors. “I knew I had a good chance from the breakaway. I tried to play it safe, to not attack too early. It was really hard, we are already on stage 18 so no one has fresh legs anymore.”

Yates’ lead was cut to 28 seconds heading into the final three days of the Giro, which includes two brutal days in the Alps before the procession to Rome.

“I always said if I have the legs then I will keep on trying,” Dumoulin said. “I had the legs today and I tried and it worked. Finally, after two and a half weeks.”

Pozzovivo remained third but was 2:43 behind Yates, with Froome a further 39 seconds behind.

Froome arrived at the Giro bidding to become the third person to win three Grand Tours in a row but the four-time Tour de France champion crashed in training before the opening time trial, lost time in a split on stage four, and injured himself again in a second crash four days later.

“It was quite a good day today,” Froome said in Italian. “This is the first of three consecutive stages which will be very hard. We saw for the first time Simon not at 100 percent. That surprised me as until now he has been fantastic.

“After the fall at the start I didn’t feel 100 percent but each day I felt better and now I’m quite good.”

There are four mountain passes on the route up to Bardonecchia on Friday, followed by Saturday’s “queen stage” up to Cervinia.

The Giro finishes in Rome on Sunday.

World Cup Group Odds Roundup: Powerhouses set as betting favorites

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Only three countries won their group in each of the previous two World Cup tournaments, one of which did not even make it this time, which suggests that pool play can offer some pleasant payoffs for bettors.

With the World Cup in Russia set to begin next month, Uruguay is an even-money favorite on the World Cup group odds for Group A at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Host Russia (+125) is the second favorite in the group, which is rounded out by Egypt (+550) and Saudi Arabia (+3300).

Russia’s defense has struggled in pre-tournament friendlies, so laying chalk with Uruguay might be prudent. Egypt, with Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah, could be a darkhorse, or a possible threat to advance into the Round of 16.

The Group B lines on Spain (-200) and Portugal (+185) have been steady for months, with Spain stacking up well in the middle with Andres Iniesta playing in his final World Cup. Morocco (+1600) and Iran (+2500) might be sacrificial lambs.

France (-350) has stars such as Paul Pogba, but has played down to the level of competition. Denmark (+450), led by Christian Eriksen of Tottenham fame, could be a darkhorse in Group C.

Struggles in qualifying has helped Argentina (-180) and Lionel Messi keep some value in Group D. However, Luka Modric-led Croatia (+225) has an outside chance of winning the group, which also includes Nigeria (+1000) and Iceland (+1200).

In Group E, Brazil (-400) is a lock who could help accentuate the value of parlay, since it has a big edge in scoring punch over Switzerland (+600), Serbia (+800) and Costa Rica (+1800). Brazil is also the co-favorite on the overall 2018 World Cup odds, with Germany.

And the Germans (-310) have a chance to take all nine points in Group F, where the defending champions are up against Mexico (+500), Sweden (+600) and South Korea (+2000). Sweden, pending the health of goalkeeper Robin Olsen (shoulder), has a chance to qualify out of the group.

In Group G, Belgium (-125), led by erstwhile star Eden Hazard, has an outside shot at winning it all; its value might be depressed by having to contend with England (+120). For what it might be worth, England won eight of 10 qualifying matches, just as it did in the qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, the last time that it won its group.

Last but not least, Group H has the lone plus-money favorite on the World Cup group betting lines with Colombia (+120) rating a slim edge over Poland (+175), with Senegal (+500) and Japan (+700) filling out the foursome. Poland is a stout defensive side that might be able to upset the order and go through first.

Defending champion Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands (which did not qualify) were the only teams to win their groups in both 2010 and 2014.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.