From left to right: Johnson, promoter Eddie Hearn and Sean Monaghan. Photo by Ed Mulholland/ Matchroom Boxing USA
British light heavyweight Callum Johnson may have lost by fourth-round knockout to fearsome IBF titleholder Artur Beterbiev in October, but he sure as hell made an impression on U.S. fight fans who thought he was in Chicago to make up the numbers.
Perpetually written off in the lead up to his first world title bout, Johnson became only the second man to knock Beterbiev off his feet. And that was no flash knockdown in Round 2. The defending champion knew he’d been hit and was unsteady when he got to his feet.
“It was a great experience and I learned a lot about the big occasion,” said Johnson in an interview with The Ring. “I maybe should have dealt with things better when I had him hurt, but I sort of froze and didn’t really capitalize. I went into my shell a little and was probably like, ‘Wow, I’ve got him! I’ve got him!’
“I guess it’s a bit like being starstruck. It’s like when you’ve waited years for a photo with a big star, then the moment comes and you don’t do anything. You just freeze. I can’t really put my finger on the reason for that.”
Regardless of the Beterbiev setback, Johnson, a former British and Commonwealth champion, has lost none of his ambition. Not an ounce. This Saturday he returns to action against veteran contender Sean Monaghan at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York, and this could be another terrific battle.
“He’s tough, and he’s only ever lost to two top-rated fighters (Marcus Browne and Sullivan Barrera),” said Johnson with respect. “I’m expecting a tough task, but I’m prepared for it. I feel as though I have the skillset to outbox him or outfight him. But I still have to perform and bring my best stuff to the ring.
“I’m not looking for fight of the night, I’m looking for performance of the night. We both come to fight, but I need to be careful because he can punch a bit himself. I’m not invincible, I can be put over and we saw that in my last fight. I’ve got to be sharp, use my jab and my boxing ability, as well as my strength and explosiveness.”
In boxing there’s a way to win an there’s a way to lose. If Johnson hadn’t shaken the hell out of Beterbiev and gone out on his shield, then he could have been several rungs down on an undercard at home. As it stands, an impressive victory over the respected Monaghan on the DAZN network could lead to another world title shot.
“I’m back in America and I want to be back out here again in the future, chasing another world title,” Johnson said with conviction. “There’s talk, only on social media, that I could get a WBA world title fight (against the winner of the main event between Dmitry Bivol and Joe Smith Jr.) or maybe another title fight.
“But right now I’m focused on this one, and I’m looking to put on a great performance for the fans.”
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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