By: Jon Campbell
“Three World Titles Is Not Enough”
Former Middleweight and Light-Heavyweight champ Johnson (44-7-1) speaks about his intentions and also current affairs in world boxing. Starting his long pro career in 1984, after an early loss he rallied a long undefeated streak to his first title shot at the IBF Middleweight title. He lost to James Toney in a hard-fought split decision which many believe Johnson should have won. He soon after beat ‘Irish’ Steve Collins to the WBA title.
At Light-Heavyweight he has won the IBF version of the championship, which he later lost to the legendary Roy Jones Jr. The main part in his career ended with a loss to Tarver in 2002. Since then he has made two successful comeback fights but decided to leave it there for the time being. One of which and his last fight to date was for the IBA world title against Julio Gonzalez in 2008.
Now he is back again and aiming for Hopkins’s record to become the oldest world champion, planning to campaign at the 175lb division:
1. It’s great to hear about your intentions to make a comeback. I know you had a long career and I am, just wondering what you have done in you time out of the ring and how has it been?
First of all let me thank you for this interview Jon Campbell. “The Ring” is not the roped canvas that I stepped in to face an opponent but the mental state of mind that I encamp myself in, to be greater than my gloves. The true nature of boxing “The Ring” is more about business, marketing and humanitarian programs as opposed to just slugging it out. I took MY gloves off for a little while to try on my suit. In my time away from the publics view, I’ve endured ups and downs, joys and sorrows just as any other man, but I’ve matured as a business individual and a community activist. I may have been off the canvas but I never left “The Ring”.
2. Please make it clear to the fans what your intentions are in making this comeback, what do you aim to achieve?
My intentions in my return to the ring is to capture a 4th World Title and become the oldest to do so by surpassing Bernard Hopkins at 46 yrs. of age who recently surpassed George Foreman at 45. God willing, this will give me the platform to help other fighters to grow their careers in their favor. Also I want to encourage to many that the genesis of winning is in the heart and mind of the fight and not in the power of your might. If you want to be the greatest, don’t start training simply start believing you can.
3. You have made two successful comeback fights since your hard fought loss to Tarver in 2002- What about this time has inspired you to go for Hopkins’s record?
I was invited to the IBHOF (International Boxing Hall Of Fame) in 2012. While on this 2 day PR tour, reconnecting to the World Boxing Community. Talking with some of the worlds greatest fighters and several of the worlds greatest fans, inspired me to pursue a 4th World Title. I’m also inspired by the encouragement of winning a 4th World Title should warrant me consideration to be inducted into International Boxing Hall Of Fame (IBHOF).
In my last fight in 2008, I won a 12 round fight over another noted former World Champion (Julio Gonzalez) for the IBA 175lb World Title. I was invited to the IBHOF in 2005, 2006 and went this year as well.
4. Surprisingly so you are yet to fight Hopkins- What do you make of him as a fighter and would that be a fight you would consider?
There is un-fought history behind Hopkins and I, in which we were at the table twice to fight at middleweight and light heavyweight but the fights didn’t materialize due to promotional discrepancies. Bernard is truly a great guy and has also served as an inspiration. He has set the mark very high, but has shared the formula with the whole World. The blue print reads, “DETERMINATION – SPECULATION = DESTINATION”. I would welcome the fight with Hopkins because it would only add credibility to my resume.
5. Of the four major sanctioning bodies at 175lbs, which one do you want to go for and why?
Either one of the belts would work for me at this point of my career, because I clearly understand that the fighter brings credibility to the belt more so than the belt bringing credibility to the fighter.
6. What do you make of the upcoming super fight between Andre Ward and Chad Dawson, who is your pick?
I think it is a plus for boxing and the sport needs more fights like this to happen. I give Dawson a slight edge but this is a fight that Ward can win as well. It’s rare that you see two guys fight each other in the prime of their careers. This will be a tribute to the Ultimate Sport.
7. What fight looking back do you see as you’re favorite?
The World Title against “Irish” Steve Collins was one of my favorites. There was added pressure in that fights because we both lost in our first opportunity at the World Title. We didn’t want to be known as the fighter who couldn’t win the big fight. I won the WBA 160lb Title against him that night live on Showtime Championship Boxing, which added a tremendous amount of credibility to my resume.
Steve Collins moved up in weight and won his World Title and became the best on his side of the water. Which once again added credibility my resume. “Irish” Steve Collins was perhaps the toughest guy I fought. He had a chin of steal and he was physically stronger than any other fighter I ever fought. The Morning after our fight he and I talked and I found him to be a gentleman and a man of integrity. I often reflect on our conversation and even now the words he shared with me still fuels motivation to achieve.
8. Which of your achievements in the sport are you most proud of?
I will always cherish the moment when they announced James Toney as the winner in my first World Title Bout on June 29 1991 in Las Vegas. I found my true will to strive by not giving in to feat. This hurt took me to the next level as a fighter. No Pain, No Gain is real.
9. How long do you plan for this comeback to last- or is it dependent on how you feel once you get in there?
Fights and fighters on the level in which I want to return are based not only on winning but how you win. My last fight was a World Title Fight so it’s natural for me to want to get back on that same stage. The reality is that I will be smart and get back there with hard work, good sound business decisions that favor me, my family and Team Johnson. How does an ant eat a elephant? One bite at a time. Likewise for me, One fight at a time, one deal at a time.
10. What is your physical condition currently- are you in training now and is your weight close to the 175lb mark?
Physically and mentally I’m in a great position! Through diet, weight training, and jogging I’m down to 190lbs. I just recently started in the boxing gym and with this added to my workouts I will successfully get back to the 175lb weight class and pursue my 4th World Title.
11. Who is your favorite current boxer?
There are a few solid good fighters out there. If I had to choose, pound for pound Floyd Mayweather is on level all by himself.
12. What do you make of the recent scandal surrounding PED’s in the sport – how do you think such cheaters should be punished?
I think that PED’s in any sport is a black eye in that sport and the Ultimate Sport of Boxing has to many black eyes already.
13. What do you miss most about your ring experience?
I miss the rush and the sense of freedom to express myself. Boxing has been my life. I started this mission when I was 12 yrs. old.
14. Do you have any ideas about your first opponent?
Yes and that idea is to fight someone who will get me closer to a World Title fight. Someone in the top 15 in the World.
15. What team do you have in place to aid your comeback – Any faces from your previous camps?
I’ve lost some special people during my almost 5 year absence from the ring who aided me in my career. (RIP) Chuck Bodak who serve as my cutman and chief trainer Manuel “Chato” Robles who passed away in 2007.
Aiding me in this history making endeavor is a solid frontline of business advisers: Bill Shields (aka DM), Dwight Carroll, Jonathon Bolton, Johnny Brady, and John Harrington; Aiding me training wise, I have Jesse Reid, a future Hall Of Famer, who has worked with me throughout my whole career, Termite Watkins, Malik Rasheed, and Manuel Robles Jr. Then there’s of course my family who has always supported my career. A tremendous outpouring of support has come from my church home (FOTN) Fellowship Of The Nation under the leadership Senior Pastor, Johnny Brady. FOTN also is the spiritual foundation Marlen Esparza women to qualify for boxing. (please visit us at www.fotn.org)
Once again Jon thank you for the interview and platform that has allowed me to express myself to the boxing fans of the UK and London area where the sport originated.
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