Michael Rosenthal

Johnson reinvents himself as 168-pounder


Carl Froch said he wouldn’t dismiss any opponent just because he’s older than 40, citing Bernard Hopkins as a prime example.

The super middleweight titleholder doesn’t seem to be 100 percent convinced of that, though, at least not as it applies to his opponent – 42-year-old Glen Johnson – in the Super Six semifinals Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J., on Showtime.

Froch, 33, complemented Johnson recently … then hedged … then expressed admiration for Hopkins … then said the age disparity could play a key role in the fight, which also could be a mistake given Johnson’s recent performances.

“His experience, his ring craft, his toughness, his durability is second to none,” Froch told RingTV.com. “… You gotta realize he’s at the end of his career. … He’s 42. Look at Hopkins. That doesn’t really mean anything. Hopkins is 46. So age isn’t everything.

“… But (Johnson’s) not 33, like myself. I have youth, enthusiasm. And (he has) wear and tear on the joints and bones. And mentally as well. It makes a big difference. I think that will be a factor in this fight.”

Allan Green might disagree.

Johnson (51-14-2, 35 knockouts) put up a good fight against IBF light heavyweight titleholder Tavoris Cloud but lost a unanimous decision last August, leading some to wonder whether he was at the end of a remarkable career.

He was 41. He had had 66 fights over his 18-year career. And he didn’t see many worthwhile opportunities at 175 pounds.

Still, Johnson, a fighter at heart if there ever was one, had no plans to retire. He decided he would wait to see what came up. And then he received a call from Showtime, which was seeking a replacement for the injured Mikkel Kessler in its Super Six super middleweight tournament.

Johnson hadn’t fought at 168 pounds (the super middleweight limit) since 2000, though. To ask a 41-year-old to move down a weight class after a decade seemed to be a disaster waiting to happen.

In fact, Johnson already knew he could probably do it.

“An opportunity came up for us to fight a super middleweight and we turned it down,” the former light heavyweight champion told RingTV.com. “It stayed on my mind even though I said no, though. I went and checked it out. I talked to a nutritionist and I was told I could do it. So when the next chance came – the Super Six – I already knew it was doable.”

“… I think being able to make 168 pounds at 42 probably means I shouldn’t have been a light heavyweight to begin with.”

The Green fight would serve as an ultimate test, though.

Green had lost a shutout decision to Andre Ward in his previous fight, one in which he appeared to barely show up. Still, seemingly focused this time, was deemed a favorite over Johnson.

The old man fought well but was down by a point through seven rounds, at which point onlookers were still wondering whether the weight loss might cause him to fad down the stretch.

Instead, Johnson landed a overhand right to the side of Green’s head, a short left and then another right that put Green down and ended the fight 36 seconds into the eighth.

And just like that Johnson had proved he was a legitimate super middleweight again and gained entry into tournament semifinals against Froch. He’s a victory away from fighting Ward for the Super Six championship, which would keep him at the elite level of the sport.

“Yes, this has been a wonderful opportunity,” he said. “I’m extremely excited about this chance. … I don’t know if I’m the naturally bigger guy [against super middleweights] or a whether I was a smaller guy fighting bigger guys at light heavyweight. It depends how you look at it.

“… I’m just happy to able to do what I’m doing. I’m glad we were able to make weight. That’s all I’m concerned about.”

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