Reggie Johnson says he can't get a decent fight. The former middleweight and light heavyweight world title holder has unsuccessfully lobbied for a bout against a champion or even a contender ever since beginning his comeback last August. Given Johnson's ring accomplishments, southpaw style, and proven toughness, it may be a case of too much risk for too little reward in the eyes of prospective opponents. The fighter acknowledges he's in a difficult situation.
"It's hard," said the 39 year old former champion, speaking from his hometown of Houston. "We've been reaching out to a lot of guys, but it's kind of hard. A lot of these guys don't want to fight me. I guess these up and coming fighters want easy fights. Me coming up, I was matched pretty tough. It's all about gambling and positioning yourself."
If any fighter knows about gambling and positioning, it's Johnson. Fighting as far away as South Africa and Spain, Reggie compiled a record of 29-1-1 with 19 knockouts before challenging James Toney for the IBF middleweight title in June, 1991. Johnson lost a narrow split decision, but rebounded to win the WBA title the following year by decision over Steve Collins.
Three successful title defenses followed, before Reggie lost the title on a unanimous decision to John David Jackson in Argentina. After a close twelve rounds, two of the judges had Jackson ahead by a single point while the third had it 115-113. Johnson ventured back to Argentina twice in an effort to regain his title, dropping disputed split decisions on both occasions to local favorite Jorge Castro. After a layoff of almost two years, Johnson returned to the ring as a light heavyweight and soon knocked out William Guthrie to win the IBF title.
After defeating Ole Klemetsen of Norway and Will Taylor in title defenses, Johnson lost a unanimous decision to Roy Jones in a unification showdown. He bounced back to win a pair of regional titles, before losing them to Antonio Tarver in January, 2002, again on a split decision. Another layoff followed, largely due to promotional problems, before Johnson made his comeback last August with a ninth round-knockout of Fred Moore. The fighter's record now stands at 43-7-1 with 25 knockouts. Four of the losses have been by split decision, and Reggie has never been stopped.
Currently, the true world champion, Antonio Tarver, has been filiming a movie and is considering moving up to heavyweight, while the all four bet holders at 175 lbs are all based in Europe: Tomas Adamzek, Fabrice Tiozzo, Clinton Woods and Zsolt Erdei, who hold the WBC, WBA, IBF, and WBO titles respectively.
Despite often being on the short end of the decision overseas, Johnson is willing to travel abroad once again if it means a chance at another title. "Absolutely," he replied, when asked if he was willing to travel to Europe to challenge one of the light heavyweight champions. "I've never been one to shy away from going to make it happen. When they say world champion, that means world champion. You can fight anywhere."
Kerry Daigle, who handles the business affairs of the former champion, added “we’re ready to fight anybody, anywhere. If the pay’s right, the opportunity’s there, we’re ready”. Daigle has spoken to the management of Glencoffe Johnson about an intriguing “Johnson vs Johnson” matchup of former champions.
While waiting for another opportunity, Johnson is keeping busy in the gym with co-trainer Termite Watkins. He's also planning another event for his anti-drug campaign Knocking Out Drugs. Johnson is working on holding an anti-drug rally in the well-known 5th Ward section of Houston, where both he and George Foreman were raised. Says Reggie of the event: "We're gonna enlighten people and educate ‘em on drugs, and try to knock out this horrible situation".
The fighter is noncommittal when asked how much longer he would like to box. Providing greater financial security for his family was a factor in his return, as was adding to his legacy and satisfying his desire for competition. When he does hang up the gloves for good, Reggie hopes to stay involved in the sport in a promotional capacity or as an advisor and help clean it up. Speaking to Johnson, it’s clear that he has a reverence for boxing not common among today’s fighters.
“It is the ultimate sport, and we have ultimate people who participate in this sport. I’m a fighter, and I have so much love for the fighters because I know what they go through. I’m one of them, I can really appreciate it. That’s why I’m so big on these guys ending up with something. Whoever goes in and takes the most risk should leave with the lion’s share of the money. Our life is on the line”. Fans can visit Reggie Johnson on the web at www.reggiesweetjohnson.com
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