Sylvester Stallone has launched Balboa Productions, a new company where he’ll hatch film and TV projects. He’s set the first timely pic at MGM on Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion. Stallone is currently in the ring with MGM, reprising Rocky Balboa alongside Michael B. Jordan in Creed 2.

Stallone was instrumental in obtaining a rare and historic Presidential Pardon for Johnson who was convicted of violating the Mann Act in 1910. This was at the height of the Jim Crow era, and an all-white jury convicted Johnson of transporting a white woman with whom he was involved in a relationship across state lines. Stallone, as well as Sen. John McCain, and Ken Burns were among those who had advocated for a pardon for Johnson, who died in 1946 and whose conviction became a prominent story of racism in the judicial system. He served 10 months in prison.

Jack Johnson
Johnson
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Johnson was the heavyweight champion of the world from 1908-15. Burns documented the fighter’s life in Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. The docu aired on PBS in 2005.

Jonathan Glickman, MGM’s President, Motion Picture Group and Adam Rosenberg, MGM’s EVP Production, are overseeing the project on behalf of the studio.

Balboa Productions has also entered into a multi-year deal with Starlight Culture Entertainment for feature film development which includes a development fund.

Stallone has partnered with producer Braden Aftergood in the endeavor.

Aftergood was most recently principal at Eighty Two Films and he previously executive produced the critically acclaimed Wind River and the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water.

Endeavor Content negotiated the deal on behalf of Balboa Productions and Stallone.