By Gary Purfield
Glen “The Road Warrior” Johnson (51-15-2, 35 KOs) has had anything but a typical boxing career. What makes Johnson unique is his desire to truly fight anyone, at anytime, anywhere. He earned his nickname Road Warrior by fighting anyone available in their home base. Johnson has made a career out of going into someone else’s territory where he takes on a partisan fan base, rival promoters, and everything else that goes along with being the visitor in the sport of boxing. He has fought in Germany, Italy, and nearly every boxing city in America during his career.
He won his first thirty-two fights setting himself up for his first title shot against Bernard Hopkins in 1997, but lost via eleventh round TKO. Johnson lost his next two fights and then had his ups and downs over the next few years losing each time he challenged for a major title.
Johnson would achieve his dream of being a world champion when he defeated Clinton Woods in 2004 to win the IBF Light Heavyweight title. He followed that up with his most well-known victory, knocking out Roy Jones Jr. in the ninth round and then defeated Antonio Tarver. His three wins in 2004 earned him boxing’s fighter of the year award, but Johnson would lose his belts in the rematch with Tarver.
Since then, Johnson has been in some of the best fights each year and has also been on the wrong end of several questionable decisions in another fighter’s hometown. In recent years, he lost a close controversial decision to Chad Dawson and another close decision to Tavoris Cloud. Johnson then was a surprise entry into the Super Six super middleweight tournament, dropping back down to 168lbs. He would knock out Allen Green before dropping a decision to Carl Froch.
Through it all, Johnson has fought hard every time and is never in a bad fight. The native of Jamaica, who came to the United States at fifteen years of age, comes to win and comes to put on an action-packed show for the fans.
Now at forty-two years of age, fueled by a new strength and conditioning program along with an elite nutritionist, Johnson will get another crack at a title when he takes on Lucian Bute for the IBF Super Middleweight belt this Saturday. Once again Johnson, will have to not only fight his opponent but will be the visitor in Quebec where Bute is a mega-star.
I had the opportunity to speak with Glen this week about his career, the fight with Bute, and why at forty-two he feels he is at the top of his game and ready to accomplish the goals that he feels he has not quite yet reached.
Boxing Tribune: What keeps you motivated at forty-two years of age to keep boxing and to continue going into other fighters’ territory?
Glen Johnson: I believe that I am still the best I can be. I feel this is a challenge that I can come out on top so this is why I keep training. This is why I take these fights because my goals are not yet met. I still have a lot of things I have not accomplished before I retire so I am going after them.
BT: What do you want to accomplish before you retire?
GJ: World champion again. I would love to become undisputed champion. Those are things I wanted to do and never got to do all of them, so I am still trying to get them done.
BT: What does it take for you to get down to 168lbs?
GJ: It’s good, I am 168 already. I have done it for three fights now and it felt easier each time. I am now settled into the weight and a natural 168 pounder.
BT: Do you feel you are better at 168 than at 175?
GJ: I think so, it is a more natural weight for me than 175. At 175, I’m fighting bigger stronger guys. At this weight I’m fighting more guys that are more natural and more normal to my body structure.
BT: When Pavlik drops out of the Bute fight what were you thinking at that moment?
GJ: I was not thinking anything. Bute is the reason I went to 168. They offered me a fight a long time ago but I turned it down because I didn’t think I could make 168. After I turned that fight down I spoke with a nutritionist to see if I could make 168. My manager wanted me to go to 168 a couple of years ago. So I said let me go check out a nutritionist and see what my chances are. I was told my chances were good depending on how much work I wanted to put in so I said let’s do it. The Super Six opportunity came about and that just opened the door wide open. I’m never afraid to take on new challenges and I continue to prove it over and over.
BT: Do you look back and wish you worked with a nutritionist ten years ago considering the success you have had making 168?
GJ: No, I did, but I’m not going to dwell on that. It is in the past and you cannot go back and do anything about it. I am not a person who beats myself up about stuff too much. I move on and focus what is in front of me and right now it’s Bute. I am ready for that fight and it’s going to be an exciting fight.
BT: Being on the road is your trademark, but do you have concerns going to his city, his fans, his territory?
GJ: Not at all you know. I’m not going to concern myself with any of those things. I’m looking to come in here and dominate this show and do what I do, to win and come out of here with the victory. That’s the only thing I am concerning myself about. I’m not going to concern myself about anything I can’t do anything about. I’m only going to focus on what I can do something about, which is my skills and come in the ring and what I can do Saturday night.
BT: How do you think you match up with Bute and what gives you confidence going into the fight?
GJ: I have confidence against anybody. I never think anyone can beat me so that’s the reason I can take these challenges in people’s hometown because I believe I can be victorious anyplace. It’s nothing particular about Bute. Bute is a good fighter. He fought quite a few decent fights and he is well loved here in Quebec.
BT: One aspect of this fight is that you are known for a great chin but Bute is known for his body punching. Does that figure into your game plan?
GJ: When you’re getting ready for a fighter you have to know his strengths and weaknesses. It has to go into your preparation so you know we have a good game plan put together that will be successful against him that we are going in there to execute. At the end of the night we will see how it works out.
BT: You and Bute have sparred with each other in the past preparing for fights. How is that an advantage and a disadvantage?
GJ: We sparred a hundred and something rounds. We had good sparring. He was getting ready for Andrade and I was getting ready for Chad Dawson. We were preparing for two different fighters, two different styles. I was not asking him to imitate Dawson and he was not asking me to imitate Andrade.
BT: Do you have any regrets being the road warrior wishing your career took a different turn and you had the chance to build a home base with a fan base?
GJ: It is always nice to have people rooting for you. Calling your name, screaming when you do something good, and jumping up and cheering. Who’s not going to like that? But that’s not my career, that’s not the things I got to enjoy. For me I got to take the challenges, take the risks. If I don’t do these things I’m never going to get my name anywhere. I’m never going to get a chance to accomplish my goals. I got to take the necessary risk to give myself an opportunity to accomplish my goals.
BT: Have you had road fights where your aggressive style and fighting hard every minute has won the crowd over?
GJ: Oh yeah, I have couple of times. A few times I even got where they gave the decision to the hometown guy and the crowd boo the hometown guy for the decision.
BT: Any fight in particular come to mind?
GJ: When I fought in Italy against Silvio Branco they booed him when they gave him the decision. When I fought in Connecticut I fought against Daniel Judah and they called it a draw. He was from right up the street in New York and it was his crowd. When I walked in the ring everybody booed me and cheered him. When the fight was done, they booed him and cheered me. It happened quite a few times.
BT: Anything else you want to add.
GJ: Not much, this is going to be a great fight Saturday night on Showtime. Please don’t miss it. It’s an opportunity to show the boxing world what I’m working with and I don’t want anybody to miss it. That’s basically it. Love and appreciation to all my fans that keep supporting me. Hard core boxing fans always know Glen Johnson and I’m always appreciative of that.
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About the Author: Gary was born and raised outside the fighting city of Philadelphia. Always a fan of the sport he was given the opportunity to cover boxing by trainer Freddy Marratto on his site which lead to writing some pieces for phillyboxinghistory.com. Spending much of his life studying various martial arts, Gary still hits the boxing gym as a regular Joe. By day, Gary works with at risk youth and at night covers boxing when not with his wife Jami and Labrador, Stanley.