Johnson preps for party-crashing role at Dawson homecoming
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Ocala, FL (Sports Network) -
Chad Dawson is throwing a house party in Hartford next month.
But to hear Glen Johnson tell it, his was the last name on the guest list.
"This is not the fight Dawson wanted," the affable 40-year-old said. "He was pushed into it by HBO. They gave him two names -- Bernard Hopkins and Glen Johnson -- and we all know Bernard doesn't want to fight anyone these days. So that left them with me.
"And after they realized I wasn't going to make it difficult to get the thing done, they turned it around to sell it like it was the fight they wanted all along. They can say that, but I know how it works and I know the truth. He didn't want me."
Such is the tenor of conversation with Johnson whenever Dawson is the topic.
The two met for the first time 18 months ago in Tampa, where Dawson retained his WBC light heavyweight championship for the third time with a controversial unanimous decision that was greeted with jeers from the St. Pete Times Forum crowd.
Judges Nicolas Hidalgo, Peter Trematerra and Jack Woodburn all scored it 116-112.
SportsNetwork.com also had it for Dawson, albeit slightly closer at 115-113.
The November 7 rematch will be for the IBO title that Dawson picked up with the first of two subsequent defeats of Antonio Tarver, along with the dubious "interim" crown the WBC put up barely a year after he'd relinquished a green belt to face Tarver the first time.
Chad Dawson and Glen Johnson met for the first time 18 months ago in Tampa.
"I certainly have more concerns, or the same concerns, because we're fighting in his hometown," Johnson said. "It doesn't really matter where the fight is, though, because it's still his promoter, and the judges work for the promoter.
"Gary Shaw is the promoter. And he's Gary Shaw's fighter, not me."
A WBC-mandated weigh-in 30 days ahead of the fight gave Johnson the spotlight last week, when he weighed in at a svelte 181.6 pounds compared to Dawson's 185.
Dawson weighed 173 3/4 for the first fight to Johnson's 172 1/2.
"I thought I'd be right around 185 and I wound up a couple pounds lighter," said Johnson, who's beaten Aaron Norwood and Daniel Judah in two outings since the Dawson loss. "I always try to get to my weight as soon as I can, so my body can acclimate to that weight and I can train at that weight.
"I'm not one to lose a lot of weight at the last minute. That's not me. I started training as soon as I found out about the fight three or four months ago, so I can get ready for it slowly and turn up the intensity whenever I need to."
Such are the advantages of body knowledge.
"I pay good attention, because when my body is telling me something I have to listen," he said. "I do what I do and see how it responds. When I was younger I might push through things. Now I'm older and smarter. I know when to go and when to stop."
Winless in three title shots before finally capturing the IBF 175-pound strap in 2004, Johnson defended with an upset KO of Roy Jones Jr. then grabbed the IBO title from Tarver by split decision in the first of their two bouts.
He lost a close, unanimous nod in the Tarver rematch six months later and dropped another IBF shot -- this time to Clinton Woods -- in 2006, before a three-fight win streak yielded the initial Dawson opportunity on a Tarver- Woods undercard.
"There's no love lost between us, but I respect Chad Dawson as a fighter and I need more guys like him to be able to make money," Johnson said. "People aren't going to pay to see me shadowbox, so I appreciate that there are competitors like him out there.
"That's what boxing needs more of, because the politics are ruining the guys who aren't regarded as stars."
A pro since 1993, Johnson is steadfast in his style no matter the recognition, methodically grinding down foes with a no-frills mix that yielded 32 straight wins at middleweight before an 11th-round TKO loss to Hopkins in 1997.
He was relegated to journeyman status after going just 5-6 in a three-year stint at 168 pounds, but reinvented himself at light heavyweight in 2001 and has lost just twice in non-title situations since -- none since 2003.
He's earned his "Road Warrior" nickname along the way as well, fighting in England, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands.
Not to mention 14 of the 50 U.S. states -- including a win and a draw in Connecticut.
"The judges are supposed to score fights based on clean and effective punching and effective aggressiveness, and that's exactly what I bring to the table," he said.
"If that's not what they're going to be looking for this time, they need to let me know."
This week's title-fight schedule:
WBC super middleweight title -- Nottingham, U.K. Carl Froch (champion) vs. Andre Dirrell (No. 2 contender) Froch (25-0, 20 KO): Second title defense; Thirteenth fight in Nottingham (12-0, 9 KO) Dirrell (18-0, 13 KO): First career title fight; Six straight wins by stoppage
FitzHitz says: Dirrell by decision
Last week's picks: 2-1 Overall picks record: 139-49 (73.9 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 20-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 email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz.