Boxing
DeGuardia claims Johnson is imminent "Kingpin"
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - At 6-feet, 3-inches tall and upwards of 240-pounds, it's pretty hard to miss Kevin Johnson.

Unless, that is, you're a boxer claiming elite-level status in the heavyweight division.

In that case, according to Star Boxing President/CEO Joe DeGuardia anyway, ignoring the 30-year-old native of Asbury Park, N.J. -- nicknamed "Kingpin" -- has been far too easy for way too long.

"We have been trying to get the biggest, most meaningful fights for Kevin for some time now. He is the man that everyone has avoided," DeGuardia said. "Quite simply, Kevin is the best American out there and that is why the time is ripe for this fight."

The "fight" he refers to is Johnson's impending big break, when the veteran of 23 pro outings gets his first crack at a world heavyweight championship -- in the form of imposing 6-foot-7 WBC incumbent Vitali Klitschko.

The two will meet Dec. 12 at PostFinance Arena in Bern, Switzerland.

It'll be Klitschko's third defense of his third alphabet title reign, and his first ring action since a decisive 10-round destruction of the most-recent American flavor of the month -- Californian Chris Arreola -- on Sept. 26 in Los Angeles.

Incidentally, the last time he tried a third defense, he lost -- by ninth-round TKO to Chris Byrd in 2000.

Meanwhile, Johnson enters the fray ranked sixth by the WBC and coming off the most impressive performance of his own six-year career last May, a sixth-round TKO of previously unbeaten ex-Olympian -- and Star Boxing stablemate -- Devin Vargas.

The win upped Johnson to 22-0-1 and earned the attention of multiple high-end observers, including respect from ESPN.com, where one report noted, "Johnson has always talked a big game, and in this fight, he talked and was entertaining. He just might be the best American heavyweight."

Needless to say, in DeGuardia's eyes it's recognition long overdue.

"You have to give Vitali a lot of credit for accepting such a dangerous challenge that he could have easily avoided," he said. "I do believe Kevin is the best heavyweight in the world right now, and on Dec. 12 the world will be able to witness it."

Now a resident of Atlanta and the single father of a daughter, Fatima, Johnson turned pro with three consecutive victories in 2003 before suffering the lone blemish on his record -- a four-round draw with Timor Ibragimov, then an unbeaten veteran of 13 fights and later a WBC regional title-holder.

He rebounded with win No. 4 just a month later and has since strung together 18 more -- compiling a victims' list that includes signature journeymen (Robert Wiggins, Robert Hawkins), anonymous never-weres (Demetrice King, Andrew Greeley) and one former WBA champion (Bruce Seldon).

As for the apparent lack of power -- nine KOs in 23 fights -- DeGuardia says technique will overcome, and provide the foundation for a long, fruitful reign for his client.

"Kevin has a jab that is the best in heavyweight boxing today and speed that is unlike any other fighter Vitali has faced," he said. "Couple all of that with the fact that he actually has a longer reach than Vitali -- 82 inches to 80 -- and you can see that he has the tools that the others haven't.

"Having the heavyweight champion of the world would be important to any boxing promotional company. Kevin and I have a wonderful relationship and we expect to be working together as partners for a long time, making many title defenses."

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This week's title-fight schedule:

SATURDAY

IBF bantamweight title -- Las Vegas, Nev.
Joseph Agbeko (champion) vs. Yonnhy Perez (No. 1 contender)
Agbeko (27-1, 22 KO): Third title defense; Second fight in Las Vegas (1-0, 1 KO)
Perez (19-0, 14 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten in United States (18-0, 13 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Agbeko by decision

IBF junior middleweight title -- Las Vegas, Nev.
Cory Spinks (champion) vs. Carlos Molina (No. 13 contender)
Spinks (37-5, 11 KO): First title defense, second reign; Ex-IBF/WBA/WBC champ at 147
Molina (17-4-1, 5 KO): First title fight; Won nine straight since 2007 (9-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Spinks by decision

Vacant IBO lightweight title -- Johannesburg, South Africa
Mlungisi Dlamini (No. 19 contender) vs. Zolani Marali (Unranked)
Dlamini (20-0-1, 12 KO): First title fight; Won 18 straight since 2001 (18-0, 13 KO)
Marali (20-3, 13 KO): Ranked 12th by IBO at 130; Ex-IBO champ at 122 and 130
Fitzbitz says: Marali by decision

Last week's picks: None

Overall picks record: 139-50 (73.5 percent)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to Stone Cold Sports on the MVN Network (stonecoldsports.com) and several sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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