Johanneson can prevail in a British title classic

By Ben Carey


Johanneson can prevail in a British title classic

The British boxing season maybe drawing to a close as the Summer break looms, but Carl Johanneson and Billy Corcoran could well be saving the best to last. On Wednesday (July 12) at London’s York Hall, the all-action gladiators will contest the British super-featherweight championship vacated by world-title chasing Scot, Alex Arthur. Billed as ‘Fifty-Fifty’ by promoters Hennessy Sports, Johanneson vs Corcoran is indeed almost too close to call.

Leeds-based Johanneson was initially awarded home-town advantage with the contest originally set to take place at the Leeds Town Hall on July 28, but with problems securing the venue, the fight was subsequently brought forward and switched to London which is sure to have delighted the Wembley based Irishman Corcoran. The change of scenery should make little difference to two warriors who would gladly slug it out inside the proverbial phonebooth. However, the date change could affect Johanneson more than Corcoran. Johanneson’s manager, Rick Manners, has admitted that he has struggled to obtain suitable sparring for his man.

“Training has gone quite well, but it could have gone better. There were some problems in getting sparring, people were asking for more money to spar than to fight, but we managed to get some people in to help us out,” said Manners.

A shortage of willing participants could be down to the heavy-handed Johanneson’s 16 stoppages in his 23 wins (against two losses). Carl takes no prisoners and even forced Esham Pickering out of his proposed IBF featherweight title challenge to Valdemir Pereira in May after injuring Pickering’s rib behind closed doors.

Yet like many big-hitters, Johanneson is also vulnerable. Following a four-year stint in the British army, Carl moved to America where he initially had six amateur bouts before turning pro under trainer / manager John Durkin in July 2000. After recording twelve straight victories, Johanneson surrendered his unbeaten record to fellow-unbeaten prospect and top amateur Koba Gogoladze. The Briton began brightly, dropping Gogoladze in the second with a lead right but in the fourth round southpaw Gogoladze returned the favour, raising doubts over Johanneson’s punch resistance. A left hook to the jaw caused Johanneson to dramatically lurch forward before he alarmingly jerked backwards landing spectacularly on the canvas almost as if someone had literally pulled a rug from under him. Though the Leeds fighter somehow made it to his feet the knockdown took a lot out of him, and Gogoladze went on to take an eight-round split decision win.

Johanneson rebounded with three routine triumphs before deciding to return to the UK to chase potential big fights against Alex Arthur, Michael Gomez and Kevin Lear in Britain’s super-featherweight division. Carl’s US grounding was clearly in evidence when he trounced Carl Greaves in three rounds in a spectacular homecoming in March 2004 to collect the lightly regarded WBF crown. Andrew Ferrans and Alexander Abramenko were comfortably dismissed in six and five rounds respectively in Johanneson’s two subsequent defences.

The returning Yorkshireman was closing in on a fight of magnitude until he suffered a disastrous first round knockout against Russian dangerman Leva Kirakosyan in Crystal Palace in December 2004. Two months prior, Kirakosyan almost unhinged Michael Gomez before being bludgeoned to defeat in six rounds. However, he was to encounter no such problems against Johanneson, a single right hand doing the damage to end matters after just one minute and 41 seconds. In the aftermatch, Carl split from long-time mentor John Durkin and later claimed that his “head wasn’t right” in the lead-up to the Kirakosyan setback and that he shouldn’t have entered the ring. Linking up with ex-pro Rick Manners has re-ignited Johanneson’s career however, culminating in Carl destroying former foe Andrew Ferrans in just two rounds in their British title eliminator in February.

Johanneson is on a hot streak of five-straight knockouts but in reigning English champion Billy Corcoran he will collide with a fellow fighter bang in form. The 25-year-old Corcoran, 14-1-1 (5), has won nine on the bounce since drawing with Mark Payne over four rounds and losing a debatable decision to Jimmy Beech in back-to-back blemishes in 2003. Like Johanneson, Billy is an exciting pressure fighter but under the tutelage of Robert McCracken appears to have made significant improvements during the last 12 months.

“Thanks to Robert I am always getting better and I am in great shape. I will be able to handle any pace Johanneson sets. I have also started to punch harder as well. I may not have stopped my last two – they came to survive – but I always feel that I have it in me to knock out any fighter who comes to win,” said Corcoran recently.

Billy has already proven that he is capable of raising the bar when it matters. In his acid test to date against Roy Rutherford, Corcoran brushed aside the shellshocked former British featherweight champion, flooring him in the second and forcing the outgunned Rutherford to retire on his stool at the end of the fourth last October to claim the English super-featherweight title. A original member of promoter Mick Hennessy’s “Real Class of 2002”, Corcoran currently belongs to the most successful stable in the country and will aim to join stablemates Carl Froch, Lenny Daws and Lee Meager as fellow British champions. As such, Billy is likely to enter the ring supremely confident in front of a partisan crowd.

Something will have to give. Although Corcoran will hold the pre-fight psychological aces, he may well feel differently after he has tasted Johanneson’s vaunted power. The Irishman has been floored by Jimmy Beech, a man stopped in two rounds by Johanneson, and Wolverhampton journeyman Carl Allen. And whilst Johanneson’s chin is clearly suspect, there is a belief that Corcoran’s stoppage of Roy Rutherford may have slightly flattered him – Rutherford hadn’t fought for 16 months and was coming off a one-sided pasting against Dazzo Williams in an unsuccessful challenge for the British featherweight crown.

Predicting a winner remains difficult, but we’ll go for Johanneson’s power and pedigree homed inside tough New Jersey gymnasiums alongside Acelino Freitas, Frank Toledo and the late Leavander Johnson to ultimately prove decisive in a hugely entertaining match-up. Johanneson could well have to climb off the floor before prevailing in the middle rounds.


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