Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Road Warrior Forges On

If you’re Glen Johnson, you just keep your head down and keep on keepin’ on.

How else can he explain the fact that even though he’s the former IBF and The Ring magazine light heavyweight champion that he doesn’t get any respect from the powers that be in the sport of boxing?

He was the unanimous choice for the 2004 Fighter of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America, USA Today and The Ring. He’s faced and or beaten nine world champions and has been a professional fighter with a crowd-pleasing style for nearly 16 years. He’s even been good enough to have notched victories over both Antonio Tarver and Roy Jones, Jr.

But when the big fights are put together behind the closed doors of boardrooms by the promoters and the television networks, Glen Johnson is avoided by the ‘names’ in his division as though he were a contagious leper.

‘The Road Warrior’ says he will fight anyone, anywhere - hence the nickname. And he’s proved it, too, by traveling to England four times, Germany three times, the Bahamas twice, as well as Italy, Aruba, and the Virgin Islands. He’s been the victim of some shady scoring over the years by boxing judges from around the world and five of his 12 career losses are highly questionable.

He could easily have been tabbed the winner in his two career draws. Instead of a journeyman-like record of 48-12-2 (33)KO, he could rightly possess a more impressive ledger of 57-5 (33)KO.

Johnson has seen it all and he’s been on the wrong end of some questionable calls over the years. But it was the head scratching decision last April, when he fought Chad Dawson for the WBC title, that seems to bother Glen Johnson most of all.

In what was a close fight with plenty of back and forth action it was anyone’s guess at the end who had won. But when the official scoring was announced it was unanimous - for Chad Dawson.

Against Chad Dawson (left) Glen Johnson put on a career performance that the judges saw as a bit short. They awarded the victory to Dawson.

“We fought a brilliant fight,” says Johnson of the thirty-six minutes he spent between the ropes with Dawson. “The only three people in the world who believed it wasn’t a brilliant fight was the judges. It seems to me they are the only incompetent people that were in the audience. I thank you, all of the sportswriters, for all of the great things that you guys wrote about that particular fight. You made sure that everyone knows that this was a terrible decision and I can’t thank you enough for that assessment. It’s more than I can do on my own.”

Predictably, Johnson has been unable to secure a rematch with Dawson who is instead moving forward with plans to face the faded Antonio Tarver for a second time. As a result, Johnson has again been forced to the sidelines as he plots his next move, which will be a rematch against Daniel Judah on February 27th in Hollywood, Florida.

“I’m just sitting and waiting to see what the boxing world has in store for me,” says the always amiable Johnson who will turn 40 years-old next week. “Everywhere I go, trying to get a fight, I get turned down and put on the holding list.”

In a perfect world, Johnson would have no shortage of opposition. However, this is far from a perfect world and Johnson is quite well aware that the sport of boxing has all sorts of flaws.

The 175-pound division, where Johnson plies his trade, is chock full of talent from folks who are close to his own age like Joe Calzaghe, Bernard Hopkins, Antonio Tarver and Roy Jones, Jr. to younger fellows such as Dawson, Tavoris Cloud, Adrian Diaconu and Chris Henry.

Johnson has fought (from left) Antonio Tarver twice, Chad Dawson once and Clinton Woods three times.

“I will definitely fight any one of those guys, any time. All I need is the opportunity,” says the plain-spoken Johnson. “I’m here to entertain the fans and to also try and make a buck or two to support myself. I stay in fighting shape. All they gotta’ do is give me the time and the place, man. I’m always ready, I stay ready. I keep boxing on my mind 24 hours a day.”

Johnson, who was born in Clarendon, Jamaica and made his way to Miami, Florida when he was a fifteen year-old kid, is a throwback fighter. He turned pro in 1993 and fought primarily in Florida while working full-time in the carpentry and construction trade. It wasn’t until he began to gain real notoriety, about five years ago, that he abandoned the hammer and nails and became a full-time prizefighter. It’s that blue collar work ethic and mindset that Johnson brings to the game that has enabled him to persevere through all of the decisions that he has seen go the wrong way in his boxing career.

But be that as it may, he still keeps coming back to the Chad Dawson fight.

“I’m definitely upset about that fight. They robbed me - of not just the fight - but they robbed me of millions of dollars and they probably robbed me of a year of my career,” says Johnson of the judges.

“It will probably take me a year to get back to where I was before the Dawson fight. I won the fight and I was supposed to get the decision. Had I got that decision I would be moving on to fight Tarver for millions of dollars. I would be in position to move onto other major fights and make the kind of money so I could close my career out. I’m 39 years old and I’m fighting the young and upcoming, ‘so-called’ future of the division. Now I’m on the outside looking in and I have to work all the way back to get back in the mix and that’s going to be two or three fights down the road before I get back in the mix with the real fighters where I can make any decent money, you know what I mean? That is the problem that I have.”

Johnson faced Clinton Woods three times, all in Woods' home country of England. 'The Road Warrior' came away with a win, a loss and a draw.

But the one thing you notice about Glen Johnson is that he doesn’t feel sorry for himself and he has the quiet confidence and attitude that all things worth having are also worth waiting and working for. He never seems in a rush and whether he is fighting or training he steadily presses forward. Like a carpenter constructing a house, it’s one piece of lumber and one nail at a time before the handiwork is done and the final product is ready.

“There are some of us that take pride in the work we do and I’m one of those guys,” says Johnson of his chosen profession. “Boxing is my job and I take serious pride in it and I take serious pride in myself. I fight for money, yes, but not just solely for money.”

December 2008

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