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TV CRITIC'S CORNER

Mahershala Ali puts on the gloves again to play boxing champ Jack Johnson

Mahershala Ali, shown at the Oscars in 2017 in Los Angeles, will play boxing legend Jack Johnson in HBO's "Unruly."
Mahershala Ali, shown at the Oscars in 2017 in Los Angeles, will play boxing legend Jack Johnson in HBO's "Unruly."Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/file

Mahershala Ali has won two Oscars, for “Moonlight” and “Green Book,” but he remains Emmyless. Perhaps this will change that. Ali is going to star in a six-part limited series for HBO, where he has already worked, in the most recent season of “True Detective.”

The limited series is called “Unruly,” and it’s about boxing legend Jack Johnson. Ali will play Johnson, a role he already played in a 2000 stage performance of “The Great White Hope.” The story will look at Johnson’s rise to become the world’s first Black Heavyweight Champion (1908-15) whose nickname was the Galveston Giant. It will be written by Dominique Morisseau, and it will be based on the PBS documentary “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” from Ken Burns.

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Johnson’s 1910 fight against former Heavyweight Champion James J. Jeffries was held in a ring built for the occasion, and was known as the Fight of the Century. Jeffries came out of retirement for a big chunk of money, saying, “I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.” He lost.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.