News February 2015

Fury and Hammer get ugly at weigh in VIDEO


By @JamesHelder_

Tyson Fury vs Christian Hammer tonight live on Boxnation:

Frampton vs Avalos stream of weigh in


By @Livefight

Carl Frampton vs Chris Avalos stream:

Thompson stops Solis in rematch, promoter furious with Cuban for poor showing


By Michael J Jones

LAST NIGHT in Turkey, American veteran Tony “The Tiger” Thompson completed the double over Miami based Cuban Odlanier Solis with a retirement stoppage after eight completed rounds.

With the victory, Thompson raised his record to 40-5 (27) and claimed the vacant WBC Continental Americas title though all the talk after the fight was of the beaten man.
A year ago, the Washington southpaw had edged a deserved split decision over his Cuban rival and, despite coming off a defeat in France to Carlos Takam, Tony promised to beat Solis again in their rematch.

However, Solis entered the fight his heaviest for six years at 271¾lbs. This meant that despite giving away a chunk of height and reach, the out-of-shape Cuban was actually the heavier man by 10lbs. He had been 14lbs less for the last Thompson fight a year ago.

Unfortunately, his poor conditioning showed in the fight.

The Antalya bout opened with Solis looking to use his quicker hands to score with one-two’s. Thompson, measured and patient, stalked his foe and looked for openings. By the sixth it appeared the Cuban was edging a close fight but there was still a long way to go and “The Tiger” was ready to pounce.

With Solis slowing down, the 43 year old Tony went to work. Cuffing left hands and right hooks jolted the Cuban through rounds seven and eight. While the 6’5” American seemed in the driver’s seat, it was still a surprise when the Cuban abruptly refused to come out for the ninth round.

There was colourful scenes in his corner as promoter Ahmet Oner, who has invested countless time and energy on the listless former amateur star, angrily berated his fighter to continue. Odlanier frustratingly stuck to his guns though as Thompson once again caused another heavyweight shock.

Scores at the time of the stoppage were 79-73, 78-75 both to Tony while the third judge had it all square at 76-76. Now 20-3 (13), it’s hard to see where the 34 year old Solis goes from here. Oner said bitterly in the aftermath of the bout that he would now “feed Solis to the wolves”. At one point just before the contest was waved off, it looked like the furious promoter would physically attack the Cuban.

For Thompson, who challenged world champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2008 and 2011, another world title attempt may once more be a possibility. The man who twice beat Liverpool’s David Price in 2013, would make an interesting opponent for current WBC champion and fellow American Deontay Wilder. He mentioned Manuel Charr as a possible opponent for later this year.

Solis was an outstanding amateur who won world championships and an Olympic Gold medal but he doesn’t seem to have what it takes to make it in the pro ranks. Apart from his two losses to Thompson “La Sombra” also lost a WBC title fight to Vitali Klitschko in 2011. The Cuban was floored and injured his knee when falling to the canvas and had to retire in the first.

The gifted but lazy Solis has fast hands, good power and fantastic skills but they count for little when a man doesn’t want to train and be dedicated. A fighter of his stature should be around 225 not 271…

Could Christian nail the upset and Hammer Fury?


Big fight preview; Tyson Fury vs Christian Hammer

By Michael J Jones

SATURDAY night at the O2 Arena, undefeated heavyweight contender Tyson Fury looks for win number 24 on his march to an inevitable shot at the world championship. His opponent in London will be Germany-based Romanian Christian Hammer with the bout scheduled for twelve rounds. The British and Commonwealth champion Fury will be defending his WBO Intercontinental title as he seeks to gain a shot at either WBC champion Deontay Wilder or unified champion Wladimir Klitschko.

While Fury has spoken at length in the build-up about his title hopes, he first has to get by the little-known Hammer who is no slouch at 17-3 (10). That record includes an unbeaten run dating back to 2010 but does the 27 year old have any chance against the charismatic Englishman?

Hammer turned pro in November 2008 but his debut would go disastrously wrong when suffering a shoulder injury. He would thus lose his first bout when being forced to retire at the end of the very first round.

He would bounce back with seven wins on the bounce with four inside the distance. The wins came against mostly journeymen but at least he was able to gain some much-needed momentum. The winning streak ended less than two years from his debut defeat when matched with hulking Pole Mariusz Wach.

With a record of 7-1 compared to his rival’s 21-0 tally, Hammer was always going to struggle in the fight, especially against a taller, heavier opponent with greater confidence (sound familiar?). In the early rounds, the 6’7” Wach used his long jab to keep Hammer off balance and threw in some hurtful shots whenever his smaller opponent got too close.

The inexperienced Hammer seemed dog tired as early as the second round but hung in there until the fateful sixth. The 6’2” Romanian was actually having one of his better rounds when a Wach right-hand smashed into his face to brutally knock him out. After falling heavily, the dazed Hammer amazingly tried to rise but the ref correctly waved it off.

In his next outing five months later, Christian would again slump to a defeat to a more-experienced opponent though it was far closer than the Wach reverse. The 26-4 Taras Bidenko managed to edge their bout on a majority decision. One judge scored it even at 57 points apiece but two counts of 58-56 handed Hammer his third defeat.
Since the Bidenko loss though, Hammer has won ten contests on the spin as he has admirably turned his career around.

In September 2012, Hammer would knock out the shop-worn Brit Danny Williams in four rounds to win the WBO European belt. He would defend that title with inside distance wins over Oleksiy Mazikin and decent Leif Larsen the following year before tackling American Kevin Johnson in his final bout of 2013.

The talented but frustrating-to-watch Johnson had gone twelve full rounds a year earlier to lose a landslide to Fury but was much more competitive against Hammer. As per usual, “Kingpin” worked in spurts with only his world-class jab keeping busy. Hammer was more consistent and busy though clearly was a level below Johnson skill-wise.

After ten give-and-take sessions the home favourite would win a unanimous decision by two scores of 98-92 and one of 98-94. If the bout had been on mutual ground or in the US it might have been a draw.

Since that contest, Hammer has had to go the full route two further times. In April last year the faded Konstantin Airich navigated ten rounds before being adjudged the loser. Then, in Hammer’s last bout, Irineu Beato Costa Junior dropped a white-wash after twelve none-title rounds.

Brazilian Costa Junior was a misleading 15-0 entering the bout but lost every round. Tellingly, the beaten man would later get stopped by both New Zealand prospect Joseph Parker and, more recently, Liverpool’s David Price.

Hammer has then gone the distance in each of his last three contests; two of the opponents went the distance against expectation. All heavyweights hit hard to a degree but Hammer might not be the puncher his record suggests, especially against Fury.

The hulking Tyson has only been dropped twice in his 23-0 career and got up to win inside both times. He has also become more adept at using his height to keep opponents at bay. Last victim Dereck Chisora couldn’t get anywhere near the Fury chin (not helped by Fury boxing as a southpaw) and within a couple of rounds was mentally finished. Most had expected fireworks but it was a tame, one-sided beat down by the winner.

Many times we’ve seen Fury impress against smaller fighters who struggled with the sheer size of the unbeaten giant and it may be the same on Saturday night.


Hammer isn’t a bad fighter, a former decent amateur, he does everything OK but doesn’t seem to have the power, size or high skill-set to derail Fury. Although he has turned his career around in the last few years, most of Hammer’s best wins have come against below-par fighters on the downward spiral to Palookaville.

Christian is stocky at 6’2” and 245lbs and if he can’t find a way around that 85” reach of the taller man it could turn one-sided very quickly. There’s always that little doubt Fury may get careless and tagged but as he has matured as a fighter it seems less likely…especially against this level of opponent.

Hammer, knowing a possible world title shot can be snatched if he pulls off the upset, may well come out guns blazing as surely he’ll know a slow-paced jabbing contest will always favour Fury. He has to bob and weave inside and look to do heavy damage as soon as possible before Fury gets warmed-up and into his rhythm.

With a big world title tilt being eyed for the summer, expect Fury to be razor sharp and not to take any unnecessary risks tomorrow night. He’ll keep the smaller Romanian at the end of his lead hand for a few rounds and, when the Mancunian has busted his rival’s face and worn him down a little, will step in with the bigger artillery.

Fury by TKO in five rounds.

Action begins 7pm live and exclusive on BoxNation this Saturday February 28th.

Over the Hill? Former champ makes surprising comeback at 51 Saturday night


By Michael J Jones

TOMORROW night in North Dakota, a 51 year old former world champion will return to the ring some eight years since his last bout. Virgil “Quicksilver” Hill, a former unified light-heavyweight champion and two-time cruiserweight ruler, will face club-fighter Jimmy Campbell over ten rounds.

Back in 2007, Hill began the year as the reigning WBA cruiserweight champion, but a none-title defeat to old foe Henry Maske was followed by a title loss to Firat Arslan (both in Germany). The defeats appeared to leave the aging great in the wilderness though eight years on, and over thirty years since his pro debut, he looks set for another championship assault.

The younger Hill showed his promise in the 1984 Olympic Games where he reached the middleweight final to lose a close decision to the South Korean Shin Joon-Sup. Turning pro later that same year, “Quicksilver” raced to 18-0 in three short years before dethroning Leslie Stewart in four to realise his dream of becoming a world champion.

Ten defences of the WBA light-heavyweight title later and it would take a superb performance by the still-dangerous Tommy “Hitman” Hearns to end Hill’s unbeaten run. The smooth-boxing former champion would regain his WBA belt a short time later to begin another long unbeaten run as champion.

In November 96' he would upset German star Henry Maske by split decision to add the IBF crown to his WBA belt. Just seven months later, in a bout for the WBA, IBF and WBO titles, Dariusz Michalczewski would dominate the North Dakota veteran to win a wide unanimous decision as Hill finally started to show his age a little.

When American star Roy Jones Jr thrashed the former champion in four the following year it appeared the top-level aspirations of Hill were gone forever but back he came with one of his finest victories just two years later.

Tackling French star and former victim Fabrice Tiozzo, few gave the 36 year old Virgil much hope to dethrone the WBA cruiserweight champion in France. Hill had floored and edged a split verdict some seven years previous (while in his second reign as WBA light-heavyweight champion) but wasted no time in the return match, dropping Tiozzo on three occasions to devastate the shocked Frenchman in the first.

Throughout his long career many boxing fans have unfairly labelled the 6ft Hill as a boring jabber with no power but he has always scored the occasional eyebrow-raising knock-out. Tiozzo aside, Hill has also stopped former world champion Marvin Camel, top rated contender James Kinchen and future heavyweight danger-man Saul Montana.

After the explosive performance against Tiozzo, the new champion would lose his new belt in his first defence to another Frenchman in Jean Marc Mormeck but would cause another shock four years later when clearly beating the undefeated (and far younger) Russian Valery Brudov to become the WBA cruiserweight holder again at the age of 42.

Then came the defeats to Maske (who returned after eleven years to score his revenge win) and Arslan. At 50-7 (23) and a five-time world champion there seems little more for the returning Hill to achieve in boxing though his comeback opponent for tomorrow seems far from a threat to the hugely-experienced 51 year old.

Jimmy Campbell, no spring chicken himself at 37, is a British born club-fighter based in Brooklyn. Amusingly billed as “The British Assassin”, Campbell brings a spotty 11-7 (8) record with every defeat coming inside schedule. He has won just one fight since 2007.

Worryingly for Jimmy, most of his bouts have also come around the super-middleweight limit. Saturday’s clash will most likely be at the 200lb cruiserweight limit where Hill has campaigned since his destruction of Tiozzo in 2000.

Notable names on Campbell’s record include present WBC super-middleweight champion Anthony Dirrell who knocked him out in one back in 2010. The Brooklyn resident last boxed a year ago when 12-0 prospect Mike Jimenez blitzed him in just 56 seconds.

Even 20 years past his best Hill will start the contest as a huge favourite. Nobody should begrudge Hill an easy night at this stage after facing the cream of the 175lb and cruiserweight rankings for the best part of 30 years. Barring a miracle Campbell will do well to see out the opening round.

Hill has stated this will be his last boxing match win, lose or draw but we'll see.

Unlikely comebacks seem to be a trend on the Bismarck show as another aging fighter returns in the form of former world title challenger Tocker Pudwill. Now 43-years-old and a veteran of 47 bouts, Pudwill challenged Joe Calzaghe some 12 years ago for the Welsh legend’s WBO belt but was smashed emphatically in two rounds. He has boxed just three times since and tomorrow’s return will be his first outing in six years.

Virgil Hill’s career championships

WBA light-heavyweight champion 1987-1991

WBA light-heavyweight champion 1992-1997

IBF light-heavyweight champion 1996-1997

WBA cruiserweight champion 2000-2002

WBA cruiserweight champion 2006-2007

Heavyweight prospect Willis Meehan talks boxing, rugby…and why he'll never fight Sonny Bill


By Michael J Jones

Willis Meehan stops Miller

HEAVYWEIGHT prospect Willis Meehan is evidently a talented young man. A 6’5” southpaw who recently raised his unbeaten record to 3-0 (2), the gifted puncher is also a successful Rugby League player who plays for the Sydney Roosters. All of this and he is just 19-years-old.

Even as a youngster, Willis was (and still is), a regular sparring partner for his father Kali, a top rated heavyweight contender who twice challenged for world honours. The older Meehan now guides his son and openly states the strapping Willis can become an even better fighter than he ever was.

Willis, known in Australian boxing circles as “The Hitman”, was good enough to become the National Super-heavyweight champion as an amateur and has impressed many in his brief foray into the pro side of boxing.

Last November, when his still-capable Dad was getting ready to thrash local rival Shane Cameron, Willis made his pro debut in Auckland with a points win over William Quarrie (Cameron’s sparring partner). Quarrie was 5-2 coming in but was floored and clearly beaten by the impressive debutant.

A month later Willis would see off Alofa Solitua in the first before stopping American trial-horse Freddie Miller on January 31st. Although just 3-9-1 coming in, Miller had only been previously stopped by seasoned veterans in Peter Okello and Billy Wright but was wiped out clinically in just two rounds by the heavy-handed southpaw.

Livefight managed to catch up with the busy Willis to discuss his career so far and his hopes for the future…

LF) Were you satisfied with your last victory over Freddie Miller?

WM) My last fight against Freddie Miller was a big challenge for me. He's an experienced campaigner and knew his way around the ring. Our plan was too stay long and box sharp. It sort of all went out the window when I found it hard to hit him due to his unorthodox style. In the end got a second round TKO so I’m still happy about that.

LF) Have you another fight lined up at present?

WM) Nothing is lined up in regards to fights. My plan for the year is to try and establish myself as an NRL player and then fight again at the end of the year. For opponents for my next fights I want to fight contenders. I want to give boxing fans fights that they enjoy.

LF) Have you been happy with your progress so far in the pro ranks?

WM) I'm happy with my progress since turning professional in November last year. I'd like to stay active as a fighter but I'm also a professional footy player so have commitments there.

LF) You are currently competing in two of the most dangerous sports in the world in boxing and rugby. Is this something you will continue for the next few years despite the risk element?

WM) They are two of the most demanding sports in the world I believe. If you aren't fully dedicated then that's when people get hurt in boxing and rugby league. It's been my only dream since I was young to be a pro fighter and NRL player so I'm blessed to say my dreams have become reality. I’m happy to be doing both at the moment but when it comes time to choose I know I'll pick what's best for me.

Willis in action on the rugby pitch

LF) Although you’ve had just three pro bouts you’ve had top quality sparring already from highly-ranked guys like Lucas Browne and Alex Leapai. How has that helped you in your development as a fighter?

WM) Sparring the country’s best has helped me a lot. It gives me massive confidence knowing I can hold my own against Lucas, Alex and also my dad.

LF) It seems many NZ and Australian rugby players are taking up boxing recently since Sonny Bill Williams started his pro campaign. Do you think this trend is a good thing for boxing?

WM) I think more rugby league/union players should try their hand in boxing as they feel the same emotion and adrenaline that all other fighters do so why shouldn't they be able to do it? They always come in great shape as well and bring viewers to Aussie boxing.

LF) Would you ever consider facing your friend and Roosters team-mate Sonny Bill? It would be a massive fight in Australia?

WM) No I wouldn't ever fight Sonny. Sonny and I have a really close relationship and just wouldn't feel right fighting. I'm sure he would say the same thing.

LF) Can you talk a little about your amateur experiences in boxing?

WM) Amateur boxing is a time I'll never forget. I learnt a lot about myself as a boxer and it taught me disciplines as a teenager growing up. I had my first amateur fight at 14 where I stopped my opponent in 45 seconds. I was a skinny little 65kg kid going for the knockout (laughs).

LF) You are trained by your father Kali, can you describe the relationship the two of you have both as father and son and trainer and fighter?

WM) The relationship me and my dad have is pretty special. He pushes me in the gym as a fighter and puts me in line at home as a son and I'm grateful for that. We both know each other inside and out so sparring sessions are pretty intense. Occasionally when one of us stuns the other with a big shot we burst out laughing (laughs).

It was such a blessing being able to fight on the same card as my father (last November). That doesn't happen much (in boxing). I know my dad didn't reach his full potential due to management issues (typical) but what I do know is what ever mistakes he made he won't let it happen to me.

LF) With your natural talent and your commitments in the NRL is it important for you to start taking the tougher fights sooner rather than later?

WM) It is important to me. I would love to fight the best in this country as soon as possible, challenge myself and start building on the legacy my dad laid the foundations for.

LF) Another fighter you will be more than familiar with is fellow NZ prospect Joseph Parker. He’s a little ahead of you at 12-0 and has already beaten name guys like Frans Botha and Brian Minto. What are your thoughts on Parker and do you think the two of you will meet in the ring someday?

Willis with his father Kali

WM) Joseph Parker is a very talented young fighter who is climbing the ranks very quickly. Yes I believe Joseph and I will cross paths in the near future.

LF) In rugby what are your hopes for the coming season?

WM) This year at the Roosters we have a very strong side and want to win the Premiership. We trained very hard all pre-season. I have two years left on a contract with the Roosters but I want to stay at the Roosters for a long time and can't see myself playing footy at any other club.

LF) Finally, what do you like to do away from sports?

WM) In my spare time I just like relaxing. I'm always listening to music and I have a passion for singing and playing guitar. I like hanging with my friends and I’m blessed to be in Sydney which has such beautiful beaches so I'm usually on them too.

Trainer Goosen thinks he has the next Rigondeaux


By @Livefight


Veteran boxing trainer Joe Goossen is high on Cuban super bantamweight prospect Marcos Forestal (1-0, 1 KO), especially after the former amateur star's professional debut February 13, in which he put 56-fight veteran Ignac "The Test" Kassai to sleep in the second round of their fight in Queens, New York.

A three-time Cuban National champion, the 25-year-old Forestal defeated 2012 Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Rameriez 14 months ago and was unbeaten in three World Series of Boxing matches for undefeated 2014 team champion Cuba Domadores before he defected to the United States last April.

Forestal, now fighting out of Los Angeles, is a 5' 8" southpaw who put Kassai to sleep with a in the second round. He established himself in the opening round by assaulting an overmatched Kassai with a barrage of effective punches in the opening round. At the beginning of round two, Forestal nailed Kassai with a powerful, straight left-handed punch to the temple, dropping the dazed Kassai to the canvas. Kassai barely beat the 10-count but referee Ricky Gonzalez halted the action because Kassai was clearly in no state to continue.

"I thought he was explosive in his pro debut," Goossen spoke about Forestal. "He is a very experienced guy with close to 300 amateur fights. He has a win over the 2012 Olympic gold medalist (Rameriez), who my fighter from Mongolia, Olympic silver medalist Tugstsogt Nyambayar, lost to in the Olympic final. Forestal and Nyambayar train and spar together. They've had some spirited sparring sessions, like it's a real fight.

"Forestal is what I call a game player from what I saw in his first pro fight. He's good fighting in the gym but, like a lot of champions, he lets loose when he's in a fight without head gear and using lighter gloves. I saw him throw a fuselage of punches - non-stop, accurate and vicious - never letting his opponent to start punching. This guy had a lot of pro fights but he couldn't get off against Forestal. Honestly, I was even more impressed by Marcos than I thought I'd be going into the fight."

Goossen has trained numerous world champions including southpaws such as another Cuban, Joel Casamayor, as well as Michael Nunn and Frankie Liles. The Los Angeles-based trainer feels Forestal compares favorably, albeit as this early stage of his young career, to the aforementioned trio of world title belt owners.

"Joe Goossen is an amazing coach and I am delighted that he decided to train Marcos," Forestal's manager Gary Hyde noted. "He has trained many world champions, many of whom have been in epic fights. Marcos will greatly benefit from working with Joe."

Forestal is tentatively scheduled to have his second pro fight March 6 against an opponent to be determined in Glendale, California.

"I trained another Cuban southpaw, Casamayor, who was explosive as a pro like Marcos," Goossen added. "Marcos is like Joel, aggressive and he lets his punches go. In time, he will settle into his own signature style."

ABOUT NOWHERE2HYDE MANAGEMENT: Owned and operated by international manager Gary Hyde in Cork, Ireland, manages present, past and future world champions such as World Boxing Association (WBA) Super & World Boxing Organization (WBO) super bantamweight champion and two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist, Guillermo "The Jackal" Rigondeaux (15-0, 10 KOs), WBA Interim cruiserweight champion Youri "El Toro" Kalenga (21-1, 14 KOs), former WBO middleweight champion and current International Boxing Federation (IBF) No. 1 mandatory contender Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (31-1, 18 KOs), three-time Cuban National champion Marcos Forestal (1-0, 1 KO), and world amateur champion Blagoy Naydenov.

Mark 'Too Sharp' Johnson backs Butler and Rigondeaux.


By @John_Evans79

It is 15 years since Mark ‘Too Sharp’ Johnson first held aloft the IBF super flyweight title. The three time world champion and Hall of Famer may have a watching brief nowadays but has given his seal of approval to Ellesmere Port’s Paul Butler, who will attempt to win that very same belt on March 6th.

Livefight first made Johnson aware of Butler almost two years ago and the Washington D.C resident has taken a close interest in his career ever since. Johnson is certain that although victory over South Africa’s Zolani Tete will make 26 year old Butler, 17-0 (8), a two weight world champion after just 18 fights, it will be just the latest step in a glittering career.

“I think Paul Butler is a great champion. He could come to the United States and do some good work here,” Johnson said. “They’re not giving him the opportunities that he needs yet. Only people who are involved in boxing know him. If you aren’t involved in boxing then you aren’t gonna know about him but I think he’s one of the best in the world.

“I held that title! [the IBF super flyweight title] and he’s gonna take care of it. It remains to be seen if Oscar De La Hoya at Golden Boy or Top Rank would be willing to put one of their cash cows out to fight Paul or say, “Let’s just let him stay over there!” and hope that he gets upset and then get that guy over to the United States. Right now, I think he’s the top guy. He can fight and he has speed. He can punch and he can also take a punch.” Johnson may well be talking about Butler’s ugly victory over Ashley Sexton when he says, “I look for people that have been through some kind of adversity in a fight. You might have been hurt, dropped or your cut in the fight but you found the steel and heart to get back and win the fight.

“I see a lot of fighters nowadays who aren’t battlefield tested. What I mean is that they get pushed all the way through to the title and when they get to the title they have no idea what to do.”

It is hard for fighters competing south of welterweight to make genuinely big money and Johnson had to fight – in and out of the ring – to take advantage of every tiny opportunity that came his way. ‘Too Sharp’ accomplished enough during his 44-5 (28) career to ensure a first ballot entry into the International Boxing Hall of Fame but just what he might have been able to achieve had he been given the opportunity to perform in genuine superfights can only be speculated on. ‘Too Sharp’ campaigned long and loud for fights with the likes of Johnny Tapia, Danny Romero, Michael Carbajal and Ricardo Lopez but the famous quartet decided that the best way to avoid Johnson’s lightening fast combinations was to simply never step into the ring with him.

It’s therefore unsurprising that Johnson feels a deep affinity with another supremely talented yet scandalously avoided fighter; the brilliant Cuban, Guillermo Rigondeaux. Not one of the world’s leading super bantamweights has shown any interest at all in taking on Rigondeaux with the whole ridiculous situation summed up by Al Haymon’s decision to steer his WBC super bantamweight champion, Leo Santa Cruz away from a meeting with the universally recognised king of the 122lbers. The fact that some of today’s fighters can sustain a high level of fame and income without actively pursuing the most dangerous men in the division genuinely irks ‘Too Sharp’.

“The problem we have nowadays in boxing is that you don’t have to fight the best to be called the best. Ray Leonard HAD to fight Hearns. Ray Leonard HAD to fight Hagler. Ray Leonard HAD to fight Duran. If he didn’t fight those fights, then you’re nothing. If I’d have been around now and had the guys like Al Haymon then I’d probably still be champ at 50 years old!

“I think Rigondeaux is getting a raw deal. It makes me angry because I was one of Leo Santa Cruz’s biggest fans. If people saw me on Facebook or Twitter I’d be talking about Leo Santa Cruz. Then I see that he gets offered the fight with Riogndeaux and he says that he doesn’t want to fight him.

“Rigondeaux has rained on Top Rank and HBO’s parade. He’s like me! A black guy, left handed and he can box. When you have that, it causes upset for a lot of people. When he beat Nonito Donaire , nobody gave him a chance.

“It’s a disgrace what they’ve done to Rigondeaux. A disgrace.”

How would Too Sharp have gone about decoding the Rigondeaux puzzle?

“Man, that’s a tough one. I think me and Rigondeaux would be a chess match. He can box. I haven’t had the opportunity to really see Rigondeaux come forward so I think we’d try and trick him for the first couple of rounds and get him to come forward and then counter him real good. You’ve gotta be working all the time because Rigondeaux is a good boxer and he can get in and get out. I would try and make it an ugly fight. I’d have to trick Rigondeaux into coming forward and set traps but I’m willing to say that it wouldn’t be an easy fight. Right now, he’s one of the best boxers in professional boxing.”

Around the turn of the century, Washington D.C’s boxers accomplished a feat which may well never be replicated. Johnson is extremely proud to have shared part of his time at the top with four, yes four, other world champions who were born and raised in the same streets as he. Again, ‘Too Sharp’ feels slighted by the lack of recognition but this time feels he must speak on behalf of his counterparts.

“It’s a disgrace and it’s pitiful that Washington D.C had me, William Joppy [middleweight], Sharmba Mitchell [light welterweight], Keith Holmes [middleweight] and DeMarcus‘Chop Chop’ Corley [light welterweight] – that’s five world champions – all holding belts at the same time which is almost unheard of, and the city did nothing. The city did nothing. You’d have thought that D.C would have named streets after us or something! In fact, let me give you an example……”

Now, Johnson is desperate to remain involved in the sport and hopes to be back under the bright lights in the middle of some meaningful fights in the not too distant future. Literally in the middle. “I’m looking forward to moving out to Las Vegas and I wanna start refereeing this summer,” he says. He is however, having some problems cutting through some red tape.

“I’m having a problem with the D.C boxing commissioner who’s telling me that in order to referee professionally, I have to referee amateur first. He’s never boxed! I’m a two time world champion and a hall of famer. It makes no sense to me. That’s why I’m gonna head out to Vegas.”

It sounds as if Johnson is approaching the role with the same sound logic and diligent preparation that he approached his world title fights with.

“People say ‘Too Sharp’ was a great fighter but I wanna make this transition now,” he says. “That way I can show other fighters all around the world that once they stop, they may be down but they’re not knocked out. I know what I can do in the ring. I know what I can do at speaking engagements, I know how to say my words and I don’t slur. I’m gifted and talented and whatever obstacles they put in front of me in my boxing career, I knocked them down.

“Everything that I learnt in boxing, I use within my life. I tell people all the time that a referee has to be like a manager or a trainer. What I’ve noticed is that none of them watch a tape of the guys that are gonna fight! Say I watch a tape on Paul [Butler], I then know that he likes to fight off the ropes. Then I can say, ‘Look, I know you fight off the ropes but when you’re on the ropes you have to show me something.’ So many referees don’t study their craft.”

After a number of recent controversies, those words will be music to the ears of British boxing fans.

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