By Matt Thompson
Photo: Mary Ann Owen
Tonight the “Road Warrior” Glen Johnson will step into the ring for the 71st time as a professional at the ExCel Arena in London to battle super middleweight George Grove for his British and Commonwealth title. Being a Jamaican native qualifies Johnson for the title, but more importantly, who he is and what he has accomplished is the reason that Johnson is facing one of England’s hottest prospects who has only one-quarter of his experience and is twenty years his junior. The twenty-four year old Groves is not only defending his title but he is fighting for the recognition and legitimacy he would earn with a victory over a former world champ, particularly a warrior as highly regarded as Johnson.
Johnson announced his retirement in July of this year after his decision loss to light heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara. At the time, Johnson did not believe that he had the effectiveness to compete at the highest level. As is frequently the case in boxing, it was a short-lived retirement. Now a scant five months later, Johnson finds himself hopeful of finding his Fountain of Youth “Across the Pond!”
Johnson – who is no stranger to going to the other man’s hometown hence the nickname “Road Warrior” – is well aware of the challenges he faces but he wants another opportunity. FightNews had a chance to chat with the always amicable Johnson before he broke his training camp in Miami to travel to London.
FightNews: Glen, the first question that comes to everyone’s mind is “Why?” You seemed to have given your retirement a lot of thought and most people didn’t think you’d come back. What brought you back into the “Road Warrior” role?
Johnson: It’s funny, I thought I was all finished. I have a good second career in personal training, primarily boxing fitness. I enjoy it, and have a great clientele building up, and in training them, I realized I was teaching them things I never did myself in the ring and should have. I feel that I left a lot on the table and just wasn’t happy with that, I want to take one more run at it and do the things I’ve been teaching.
FightNews: Do you have any prospects that you’re working with?
Johnson: No, I’m focusing on fitness boxing. I’ve been a firm believer in a boxing workout to stay healthy and have always stayed in the gym between fights. I think that’s one of the reasons I have been able to stay in boxing so long. Of course, if I found someone with potential, I’d help them develop it, but I love the heath aspect of this for the general community.
FightNews: Do you think that your dedication to conditioning has staved off the years a bit?
Johnson: It’s helped, but the only way to not grow old is to die young! I will be 44 two weeks after the fight, and I realize I can’t do the things I could when I was younger, but I’ve taken great care of myself, and I think I can still do something. The only way for me to really see if I have anything left, which I really feel that I do, is to get in there and do it.
FightNews: You are in with a fighter 20 years younger than yourself, but with one-quarter of your experience. Do you think it will be a factor?
Johnson: Experience is a factor only to a point. Once someone knows how to fight, they will apply it and if they have confidence and believe in themselves, it’s hard to beat on just experience. You have to be able to stay with them and do things better, take them out of their plan and capitalize on their mistakes so they doubt themselves. Duran did that to Davey Moore years ago, but he was also a better fighter at his age than Moore was 10 years younger. I think my experience will show, but I’ll need other things as well.
FightNews: What do you think of Groves as a fighter? Have you looked at tapes? I recall you saying you don’t often look at tapes of your opponents.
Johnson: That’s true, I never liked watching my opponents much, but this time, I studied him quite a bit. I wanted to do things differently this time, as it’s pretty much my last opportunity, so aside from working on things as I said that I knew but didn’t implement, I really watched him carefully. He’s a very solid fighter (and) considered the best prospect in Europe now. He moves well, uses a lot of feints to get his opponents to commit, then counters them well. He’s very confident and determined, as I said, and doesn’t believe he can lose. That’s a great asset to have in a fight, but it can make you over confident as well.
FightNews: How does he compare to the other fighters you’ve faced the last few years?
Johnson: He’s good. He’s not the fastest guy, not as fast as Froch for instance, but does a lot of other things well.
FightNews: You certainly understand the implications of going into a prospect’s town and trying to get a decision better than most fighters since you are the ultimate “Road Warrior!” Do you think the cards will be stacked against you from the outset?
Johnson: We all know the politics of boxing, but in my fights in England, I think I’ve done a lot to win over the fans. I know it’s tough getting a decision when you’re the underdog, but I think I can make it a clear cut win.
FightNews: Do you think you’ll have to go for a knockout to win?
Johnson: The trouble with that is if you look for the knockout, it rarely comes. You have to do things right so it happens in its own time.
FightNews: How was training?
Johnson: Training was great. I worked on a lot of new things, really old things I tended to let go the last few years, and felt great.
FightNews: Any last things to add?
Johnson: I have to say, I’m really looking forward to this fight. I feel good about it, I feel strong and healthy, and I think I can show some things that I’ve neglected for a long time. There’s been no negativity in this camp, I am fighting a guy my size, not someone who is 6′ 3″ or a southpaw, and I think it’s going to be a great fight.
FightNews: Thanks champ, best of luck!