Height / Reach: 5-11 (180cm) / 7475½ (191cm)
Hometown: Miami (from Jamaica)
Nickname: Road Warrior
Turned pro: 1993
Record: 51-14-2 (35 knockouts)
Trainer: Orlando Cuellar
The Ring rating: No. 7 super middleweight; No. 4 light heavyweight
Titles: IBF light heavyweight (2004)
Biggest victories: Clinton Woods, Feb. 6, 2004, UD 12 (for title); Roy Jones Jr., Sept. 25, 2004, KO 9; Antonio Tarver, Dec. 18, 2004, SD 12; Montell Griffin, May 16, 2007, TKO 11; Allan Green, Nov. 6, 2010, TKO 8 (Super Six; most-recent fight).
Biggest losses: Bernard Hopkins, July 20, 1997, TKO 11 (for title); Sven Ottke, Nov. 27, 1999, UD 12 (for title); Woods, Sept. 2, 2006, SD 12 (for title); Chad Dawson, April 12, 2008, UD 12 (for title); Dawson, Nov. 7, 2009, UD 12 (for interim title); Tavoris Cloud, Aug, 7, 2010, UD 12 (for title).
Biggest draw: Clinton Woods, Nov. 7, 2003, SD 12 (for vacant title).
Biography: Johnson held a single world title for a short time and has lost many of his biggest fights yet has emerged as one of the most-respected fighters in the world because of his ability and congenial personality.
The Road Warrior earned his nickname by taking big fights in his opponents’ hometowns and home countries, which has led to a number of controversial decisions.
Johnson was a teenager when he immigrated from his native Jamaica to south Florida, where he got a late start in boxing. He reportedly was 35-5 as an amateur before turning pro at 24 in 1993.
The latecomer learned quickly, winning his first 32 fights to become a middleweight contender. However, he ran into a young Bernard Hopkins in his first title shot and was knocked out in the 11th round – the only time he’s been stopped.
That was the first of five title fights Johnson has lost, although the others – against Sven Ottke, Clinton Woods, Chad Dawson and Tavoris Cloud – were much closer.
Johnson had a monstrous year in 2004, when he defeated Woods by a unanimous decision in Woods’ native England to win the IBF light heavyweight title, his only sanctioning-body belt. He followed that with victories over still-capable Roy Jones Jr. (KO 9) and Antonio Tarver (UD 12) to win everyone’s Fighter of the Year award.
The victory over Tarver – after he had vacated the title because the IBF wanted him to take a less-lucrative defense – gave Johnson THE RING light heavyweight championship. Tarver regained the belt in a rematch six months later and Johnson would never again hold a title.
Johnson gave credible performances in two fights against Chad Dawson in 2008 and 2009 but, following the frustrating pattern of his career, came up short each time.
The now-post-40-year-old gave one more good performance but lost a unanimous decision to unbeaten IBF light heavyweight titleholder Tavoris Cloud this past August, leading many observers to wonder whether this was his last shot at a major belt.
Then Showtime came calling. When Mikkel Kessler pulled out of the Super Six tournament, Johnson, who hadn’t fought at 168 pounds since 2000, was asked to replace him.
A 40-something fighter moving down to a weight class he hadn’t seen in 10 years? Johnson not only made weight but also knocked out Allan Green in November to reach the tournament semifinals, more or less reinventing himself when most fighters are long retired.
He fights Carl Froch in Atlantic City, N.J., for the right to face Andre Ward in the Super Six championship. The thought of Johnson reaching the final is almost unthinkable his age. Then again, we wouldn’t put anything past him.