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Pride of Jamaica: Glen Johnson

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

Like Simon Brown, Glen Johnson was born in Clarendon, Jamaica. He came into the world on the 2nd of January 1969 as Glengoffe Donovan Johnson. Also, like Brown, he started his professional career in the United States, choosing Florida as his residence.

Johnson defeated Yurek Del Rio in the first round of a super-middleweight contest on 19th February 1993 to kickstart his time in the paid ranks. He amassed an unbeaten career of 32-0 (22 KO's) when he challenged Bernard Hopkins for the IBF middleweight title on 20th July 1997.

Hopkins was making the fifth defense of his title he won against Ecuadorian Segundo Mercado in April 1995. The two fought a draw for the vacant title in December 1994, with Hopkins clinching the crown with a seventh-round TKO to finally become world champion at the third time of asking. 

Against Johnson, it was a totally dominant display from the champion, who hurt the challenger in the second and fifth rounds. Johnson was getting outworked and the champion's accuracy caused Johnson's eyes to swell and his mouth to bleed. Hopkins finally stopped his man in the penultimate round with a crisp flurry of punches, bringing the intervention of referee Pat Russell.

Johnson's great start to his career looked to take a turn for the worse as he dropped a unanimous decision to Merqui Sosa in December '97 and a split decision to the Ugandan Joseph Kiwanuka in his sole outing of 1998, dropping to 32-3.

He got back to winning ways in February 1999 and outpointed Troy Wilson for the WBC Continental Americas super-middleweight title two months later. He continued his roll in July, knocking out Marcello Zimmerman in the first round in defence of his championship in October. The following month he travelled to Germany to face Sven Ottke for the IBF super-middleweight championship.

The defending champion had a great amateur pedigree, representing Germany at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, reaching the quarterfinals and taking part in his final Games in Atlanta 1996. He amassed a career of 256 wins, 47 defeats and five draws in his unpaid career, winning multiple European and World middleweight championships, before turning pro in March 1997.

In his eighth fight, he lifted the German light-heavyweight title and by May 1998 he became the WBC International light-heavyweight champion. In October 1998, he went 13-0 by outscoring IBF super-middleweight champion Charles Brewer. 

Against Johnson he was making the fourth defence of his title and predictably, with only two stoppages on his 16-0 resume, Ottke retained his title by unanimous decision. The champion finished his career in March 2004 as undefeated IBF and WBA super-middleweight champion, making twenty-one defences, all in his native Germany.

Johnson lost his next three, all by decision against Syd Vanderpool, a vacant WBU super-middleweight contest to Silvio Branco in Italy and to Omar Sheika in June 2000. Three months later he was brought in to Britain to face Toks Owoh for the vacant IBF Inter-Continental super-middleweight title. The Jamaican lived up to his 'Road Warrior' ring name, stopping the Londoner in the sixth round. 

In July 2001 he was in Germany taking on the undefeated Thomas Ulrich, who was making the first defence of his WBO Inter-Continental light-heavyweight title. Johnson put the German down twice in the sixth, claiming the championship by knockout.

Johnson never defended his Inter-Continental titles and failed to capitalise on his momentum, dropping decisions to Derrick Harmon in April 2002 and Julio Cesar Gonzalez in January 2003. A draw in his next fight stopped the rot and in May 2003 he claimed the vacant USBA light-heavyweight title by outscoring Eric Harding.  

The win set up a contest with British light-heavyweight Clinton Woods for the vacant IBF title. The bout took place on 07th November 2003 at Sheffield's Hillsborough Leisure Centre. It was the third time Johnson had contested for a legitimate world title and Woods was looking to put the disappointment of losing to Roy Jones Jnr for the unified light-heavyweight titles, suffering a sixth-round stoppage defeat in September 2002, behind him.

After twelve rounds both men were left disappointed, with the match ending in a draw and the title still vacant. Johnson had to travel back to Sheffield in February 2004 for the rematch. This time the three judges found a winner and awarded the title to Johnson by scores of 116-112 and two cards of 115-113.

The new champion next defended his championship against Roy Jones Jnr on 25th September 2004 at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. Jones turned professional in May 1989 after getting robbed of the gold medal in the 1988 Olympic Games. He stopped his first seventeen opponents before being taken the distance by Jorge Castro in June 1992.

Within eleven months he went the distance for the second time, defeating Bernard Hopkins for the IBF middleweight title. The new champion then tested the super-middleweight waters in his next three contests, notably becoming the first man to stop Thulani 'Sugar Boy' Malinga.

Just over a year since defeating Hopkins, Jones defended his IBF championship for the first time, becoming the first (and only) man to stop Thomas Tate. In November 1994 Jones stepped up to super-middle to face ex IBF middleweight and reigning super-middleweight champion James Toney. The defending champion boasted a 44-0-2 (29 KO's) and was making the fourth defence of the IBF belt he soundly took off Iran Barkley in February 1993.

The Ring magazine had Toney ranked as the second-best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, with Jones third. The challenger put down with a left hook in round three and cruised to a wide unanimous decision to become a two-weight world champion.

Jones defended his new crown three times, stopping Antoine Byrd in the first round, flooring Vinny Pazienza three times to score a TKO in the sixth and a three-round blowout of Tony Thornton. He then moved up to light-heavyweight in January 1996, stopping Merqui Sosa in the second round. Jones then went back down a division to defend his belt against Eric Lewis and Bryant Brannon.

In November 1996 he became a three-weight world champion when he outscored fellow three divisional champion, Mike McCallum. In March 1997, the unthinkable happened, when Jones suffered his first defeat, all be it a disqualification against Montell Griffin.

However, Jones reclaimed his WBC belt with a first-round destruction job of Griffin in August 1997. He continued to put his stamp on the light-heavyweight division by becoming the first man to stop the durable Virgil Hill and collected the WBA title by outscoring Lou Del Valle in July 1998. By June 1999 he added the IBF belt to his collection and continued to defend his belts a further seven times. 

On 01st March 2003, Jones took on WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz. The challenger weighed in at 193 pounds (87.54 KG), barely over the cruiserweight division (190 pounds or 86.18 KG at the time) compared to the champion's 226 pounds (102.51 KG). 

Jones looked solid and became the first middleweight champion since Bob Fitzsimmons in 1897 to win a heavyweight title, becoming a four-weight champion with a unanimous decision. With talk of a potential Mike Tyson fight failing to materialise, Jones boiled back down to light-heavyweight and took on local rival and WBC light-heavyweight champion, Antonio Tarver. The vacant WBA belt was also up for grabs and Jones laboured to an unpopular majority decision to reclaim his light-heavyweight belts, becoming the only heavyweight champion in history to drop down and become a light-heavyweight champion.

Tarver made no mistakes in the May 2004 rematch, blasting Jones out in the second round. Even though Jones suffered a devastating defeat, he was still installed as a six-to-one favourite to dethrone Johnson in his next match. The champion defied the odds and kept Jones pinned against the ropes for most of the contest. 

'The Road Warrior' was ahead on all three judges' cards going into round nine, 78-74 and two lots of 77-75. An overhand right to the challenger's head relieved him of his senses, ensuring Johnson retained his title in devastating style. Jones remained down for several minutes before he was helped to his stool, dropping to 49-3 (38 KO's) as the champion improved to 41-9-2 (27 KO's).

Johnson then vacated his IBF belt to face Antonio Tarver, rather than face top contender Rico Hoye, whilst the WBC stripped Tarver as he refused to face their mandatory contender Paul Briggs. The bout took place on 18th December 2004 for the vacant IBO light-heavyweight title at LA's Staples Center. 

After twelve rounds Johnson became the best light-heavyweight at the time by winning a split decision. The two locked horns again in June 2005, this time with Tarver gaining revenge with a unanimous points decision.  

However, the defeat didn't stop the IBF for nominating him to face George Khalid Jones in an elimination bout for their belt. Johnson stopped his man in the tenth round and went on to face Richard Hall for the vacant International Boxing Association strap in February 2006. The Jamaican, now thirty-seven, defied his advanced years and dominated the scorecards to win the lightly regarded crown.

In September 2006 the Jamaican travelled to Sheffield for the third time to face defending IBF champion Clinton Woods. The champion won the vacant belt with a fifth-round TKO of Rico Hoye in March 2005. Against Johnson, he was making the third defence and had to settle for a split decision over the thirty-seven-year-old. 

Johnson didn't box again until May 2007, where he stopped Montell Griffin in the eleventh round for an eliminator for the IBF belt. With two more stoppage victories under his belt, the Jamaican challenged WBC light-heavyweight champion, Chad Dawson, in April 2008. Dawson defeated Tomasz Adamek by unanimous decision to win the belt in February 2007.

The twenty-five-year-old champion got off to a blistering start with his high punch output. The challenger battled back in the middle rounds only for the champion to get the better of rounds seven, eight and nine. Johnson showed his experience in the last three rounds closing the show to lose a unanimous decision, 116-112 on all three cards.

Johnson won his next two bouts and got a second crack at the unbeaten Dawson's WBC belt in November 2009. Johnson, now forty, pushed forward the entire contest. Dawson improved to 29-0 with his clever counter-punching sharp boxing to inflict defeat number thirteen after a unanimous decision.

In February 2010, Johnson stopped Yusaf Mack in the sixth round to win another IBF light-heavyweight eliminator. He faced the new champion Tavoris Cloud in August 2010. Cloud won the vacant belt by outpointing Clinton Woods the previous August and didn't enter the ring again until facing Johnson. 

The old warrior was the busier as the champion seemed to land the more telling blows. However, Johnson felt unlucky to have dropped a unanimous decision after recovering from a bad fifth round. Near the end of the year, Johnson dropped down to super-middle and stopped Allan Green in the eighth round. 

The victory set him up for another world title challenge to two-time WBC super-middleweight champion Carl Froch. Froch first won the title in December 2008 when he outpointed Jean Pascal. In April 2009 he was 14 seconds form a points defeat, before stopping ex-middleweight king Jermain Taylor. After narrowly outscoring Andre Dirrel six months later, Froch finally lost his belt to Mikkel Kessler. In November 2010 he outpointed Arthur Abraham for the vacant WBC title.

Froch versus Johnson took place in Atlantic City on 04th June 2011. The champion kept his belt with a majority decision and went on to face Andre Ward in the final of the 'Super Six' series. Johnson stayed at super-middle and challenged the unbeaten Lucien Bute for his IBF strap.

Bute, originally from Romania, resided in Quebec, Canada, first became champion in October 2007 when he TKO'd Alejandro Berrio in the eleventh round. He faced Johnson on 05th May 2011 in his ninth defence of the title. Bute's high work rate proved too much for the forty-two-year-old Jamaican, as the champion ran out a unanimous points winner.  

Johnson lost his next bout before challenging Commonwealth super-middleweight champion George Groves. The twenty-four-year-old champion won virtually every round as he improved to 16-0 after a unanimous decision. Johnson, however, was not finished and jumped up to the cruiserweight division in April 2013, winning three on the bounce.

On 28th June 2014, Johnson took on Ilunga Makabu for the vacant WBC International cruiserweight title. Makabu improved his record to 17-1 (16 KO's) with a rare stoppage win over the Jamaican. Johnson moved back down to light-heavyweight after his ninth-round TKO loss, but it didn't stop him from losing his next contest.

Johnson took part in his final fight with 5-0 Avni Yildrim for the vacant WBC International Silver light-heavyweight title August 2015. The young Turk won the crown with a unanimous decision and Johnson bowed out at the age of forty-six with a record of 54-21-2 (37 KO's). In 2009 he said this about the first man to have stopped him: "The toughest fight I have had was against Bernard Hopkins at middleweight. When I fought him, I didn't have the experience that I have now to deal with that level of fighting. I can say that I was taken to school by Hopkins and he was the only person to ever have a runaway win against me in my career. That was my toughest fight so far."

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