Flyweight – Yuri Arbachakov vs. Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson
Best time to make this fight: May of 1994.
Reasons: Arbachakov was six months removed from his fourth defense against Nam Hoon Cha (W 12) and on May 16 fought a non-title bout against Hiroshi Kobayashi (KO 9). Meanwhile, Johnson, who had decisioned Ancee Gedeon over 10 on April 23, stopped Javier Juarez in three on May 9 at the Great Western Forum. Since he was willing to fight just 16 days after beating Gedeon, he would have jumped at the chance to meet Arbachakov one week later – even in Tokyo, where the Arbachakov-Kobayashi fight was staged. Perhaps, if Johnson had known an Arbachakov fight were on the horizon, he might not have fought Juarez in April, but history is history and conjecture is conjecture.
Why this made the list: Arbachakov – the first modern Soviet-era fighter to win a professional title after the country’s break-up – was the complete package. Primarily an intelligent boxer with excellent footwork, Arbachakov also carried TNT in his right cross. On the other glove, “Too Sharp” was a spectacular southpaw with fast hands, nimble feet, terrific power, resilience and a mighty chip on his shoulder. Both were genuine boxer-punchers who could execute any move and assume any style whenever they wished.
What might have happened: Since Arbachakov was the defending titleholder the fight would have been held in Japan, his adopted home base. Had the fight been staged in May 1994, Arbachakov would have owned the circumstantial edge because he was well rested and fighting at home while Johnson would have had to cope with jet lag, different food and unfamiliar surroundings. However, Arbachakov had yet to meet a lefty in his title reign and Johnson was an excellent one. Fueled by ambition and armed with superior speed of hand and foot, “Too Sharp” would have used his knifing punches to dethrone Arbachakov.
Honorable mentions: Miguel Canto vs. Guty Espadas, Santos Laciar vs. Sot Chitalada