BANGING THE DRUMS FOR HOPKINS-JOHNSON II
By Doveed Linder
A couple of weeks ago, Boxingtalk editor Scott Shaffer sent me an e-mail suggesting I do an interview with Glen Johnson since Johnson had just announced his retirement. I had interviewed Johnson once before. It was in July of 2011 and we went in depth about his experiences in boxing. It was a very pleasant conversation and I was looking forward to speaking with him again. When I got Johnson on the phone, still fresh off his decision loss to Andrez Fonfara, Johnson said he wanted to share something with me that he had not yet revealed to the boxing world. Even though he announced his retirement right outside the ring with ESPN's camera rolling, Johnson told me he still wanted to fight Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins defeated Johnson in July of 1997 via eleventh round TKO. Since that time, Johnson said he had always wanted a rematch.
After Johnson gave me this information, I sent Boxingtalk a short piece with a headline that read, “Shortest Retirement Ever: Johnson Calls Out B-Hop!” Boxingtalk publisher Greg Leon then sent me an e-mail with Hopkins’ phone number and suggested that I give him a call. G. Leon mentioned that after being friends with Hopkins for eleven years, the two of them have not been in communication in recent times. I got the idea that G. Leon genuinely cares about Hopkins and he asked me to send him his best. I phoned Hopkins a few times in hopes of asking about his thoughts on a potential match-up with Johnson, as well as his secrets to his longevity. Unfortunately, Hopkins was unavailable for comment.
In my eyes, a Hopkins-Johnson rematch is appealing for the simple fact that these two fighters are “The Last Of The Mohicans”. Shane Mosley, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Winky Wright, Fernando Vargas and all of the other fighters from the late 90’s-early 2000’s have hung up the gloves. That was a special time in boxing. There was a lot of talent and the best were fighting the best. Bernard Hopkins and Glen Johnson are the only two left of that bunch (not counting Roy Jones, Jr. and Antonio Tarver, who compete in the cruiserweight division). Hopkins and Johnson are “curve breakers” in the sense that they have set new standards for how long a professional boxer can realistically compete, particularly Hopkins who is the oldest man ever to win a world title. Both Hopkins and Johnson faced adversity early in their careers and they accomplished more than anyone ever expected of them.
To this day, my favorite night as a boxing fan was September 29th, 2001 when Bernard Hopkins defeated Felix Trinidad via twelfth-round TKO. I knew Hopkins was going to win that fight, even though most people weren’t giving him a shot. At the time, Trinidad was this undefeated monster and Hopkins just completely dominated him. Hopkins was already thirty-six years old when he defated Trinidad. For most fighters, age thirty-six marks the downside of their careers, but for Hopkins, it was just the beginning, as he went on to defeat the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Roy Jones, Jr. and Jean Pascal. As Larry Merchant once said, “Some people wait their whole lives to be young.”
At one point in his career, Glen Johnson was losing to B-level competition. Having gotten a late start in boxing, Johnson knew why he was behind the eight ball and he never gave up on himself. He always believed that he was capable of doing something great. In 2004, Johnson knocked out Roy Jones, Jr., defeated Antonio Tarver via split decision, and was recognized as Fighter Of The Year. Beyond 2004, Johnson gave Chad Dawson a tough fight the first time they met (a fight that many believed Johnson won). He also went nose-to-nose with Tavoris Cloud in a “Fight Of The Year” type of fight, and he dropped down to super middleweight where he knocked out Allan Green and had a great fight with, but lost to Carl Froch.
When I interviewed Glen Johnson the other week, he told me that he doesn’t read the Internet, so I mailed him a copy of the article I posted, as well as a copy of the interview I did with him the year before. Last Sunday night while at a dinner party, I noticed that I had a voice mail. It was Glen Johnson who merely wanted to thank me for sending him the articles. That’s the kind of man Johnson is – a true gentleman in every sense of the word. I called Johnson today and asked him if he still wanted to fight Hopkins, which he does. Because of my respect for Johnson, and also for Hopkins, I decided to write this article to express my support of Hopkins-Johnson II. To be fair, Johnson has more to gain than from the fight than Hopkins does. But if Hopkins intends to continue with his career, a rematch with Johnson would make for a good promotion. This fight would give the fans a chance to celebrate and appreciate, not just these two fighters, but the era they came from when there were always great fights on the horizon and the headlines weren’t dominated by Pacquiao-Mayweather. Aside from the nostalgia factor, it might just be a hell of a fight!
Send questions and comments to: email@example.com