Oscar winning actor Mahershala Ali to play boxer Jack Johnson in no-holds-barred biopic of first black heavyweight champ


OSCAR-WINNING superstar Mahershala Ali is to play Jack Johnson in an upcoming biopic series about the boxer’s inspirational life.

Johnson became the first African-American world heavyweight champion in 1908 – when he defeated Canadian Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia.

And the upcoming six-part HBO series, titled “Unruly”, will tell the full story of Johnson’s amazing life.

From his journey to boxing greatness, to the disgraceful discrimination and oppression he faced because of his skin colour – the show will bring Johnson’s remarkable story to a modern audience.

Ali, who has played Johnson before in a 2000 stage production about the great champion and has since won academy awards for his roles in Moonlight and Green Book, is not the only star to have signed up to the project.

Tom Hanks will executive produce the show, while House of Cards writer Beau Willimon is also involved.

Dominique Morisseau has agreed to write and executive produce the project.

Johnson’s achievements were recently referenced by promoter Dean Lonergan, as a great reason as to why Tyson Fury’s trilogy fight with Deontay Wilder should be staged in Sydney this year.

He said: “Given what is going on around the world at the moment, what an opportunity to celebrate the first African-American to cut through in American culture.

He (Johnson) set the platform for African-American success in sports.

“This is well before the days of Jackie Robinson in the 1950s, Jack Johnson was the most controversial figure of his day, bar nobody. It’s who Muhammad Ali took his lead off.

“He set the platform for African-American success in sports.

“His importance has been overlooked over the past 112 years.

“What he did in 1908 was historically significant. Wouldn’t it be totally amazing to get two recent heavyweight champions down here, two of the best self-promoters in the business, to celebrate Jack Johnson’s achievements from 112 years ago.”

Unruly is not the only boxing biopic currently in the world, with Jamie Foxx having agreed to take on the role of Mike Tyson.

The 52-year-old, also an Oscar-winning actor, has bulked up for the role – looking the part to take on the role of “Baddest Man on the Planet”.

The film will bring to life Tyson’s turbulent life in and out of the ring.


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