Chris John (right) lands a right hand to Shoji Kimura en route to defending his WBA featherwieght title for the 15th time. The Indonesian icon, who will make the 18th defense of his title in Jakarta on April 14, is three defenses away from breaking the division record.
It had been reported in various media outlets last year that long time WBA featherweight titleholder Chris John was winding down his career, but reports of his imminent exist appear greatly exaggerated.
The Indonesian icon was quick to dispel that rumour when he spoke to RingTV.com recently
“I will fight for as long as I have the fire to fight, and my fire burns brighter than ever,” John told RingTV.com.
People have long wondered why John hasn’t been back to America after a brief sojourn a few years back. The reason seems to be money. When he fought in America he made less than $100,000, which is a fraction of what he makes when appearing in Asia where he is hugely popular and regularly appears in commercials while also taking part in many TV shows.
John’s most recent fight was shown live in several countries, spanning as many as 500 million homes. To his credit he remains hugely disciplined. Tony Tolj, the COO of John’s promotional entity, Dragon Fire Promotions, simply says “He is the most humble person I know.”
John is in his 15th year as a pro. The last 10 are part of an impressive 126-pound title reign that has seen him best Derrick Gainer, Rocky Juarez as well as his signature win in 2006 when he out-pointed future hall of famer Juan Manuel Marquez.
This weekend “the Dragon,” who is unbeaten in 50 bouts (48-0-2, 22 knockouts), makes the 18th defense of his crown against hard charging Satoshi Hosono. If John is able to turn back the Japanese contender he’ll be one defense away from equalling Eusebio Pedroza’s division record set almost 30 years ago.
RingTV.com: On the April 14 you take on Satoshi Hosono. What are your thoughts on him as fighter?
Chris John : He is a tough fighter, he never stops attacking and he’s big puncher. “Bazooka” Hosono is very dangerous. I have fought many Japanese boxers and I have great respect for them all. They are all warriors.
RTV: The fight takes place in Jakarta. It’s the first time in two years you’ll have fought in Indonesia. Can you tell us about what it means to be fighting at home again?
CJ: I love fighting in front of my people. I miss fighting at home. I can’t wait.
RTV: In your last fight, you out pointed previously unbeaten Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo. Could you tell us about that fight?
CJ: That fight was a war. I knew he would be a very tough opponent. My trainer Craig Christian pushed me very hard for that fight. We are a great team.
RTV: You’re last two fights have taken place in Singapore, at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Could you tell us about that deal?
CJ: My promoter Dragon Fire got an offer to fight at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and we accepted. Singapore is a great place. I would like to fight there again in the future.
RTV: You turn 34 this September. What are you plans for this year? You have mentioned you won’t fight too much longer. Can you tell us how much longer you feel you’ll fight?
CJ: I will fight for as long as I have the fire to fight, and my fire burns brighter than ever.
RTV: When you’re in Indonesia you’re very popular. Could you give our reader’s an idea of how popular you are?
CJ: I fight for my people of Indonesia. Without their support I wouldn’t be where I am today, I owe everything to my people.
RTV: In 2009, you fought twice in America. On both occasions you met Rocky Juarez – first drawing with the 2000 Olympic silver medalist and then out-pointing him. Could you tell us about what it was like for you to fight in America and also why you haven’t fought there since?
CJ: America was great. I really enjoyed fighting there. I made many close friends. I just fight where my management tells me to fight.
RTV: What goals do you still have in boxing?
CJ: My goal is to unify the featherweight division.
RTV: How do you feel that you were passed over for THE RING featherweight title when the Orlando Salido-Mikey Garcia fight was cleared to be for the vacant magazine belt? Part of the reason the Ratings Panel OK’d that fight to be for the title was because it had been suggested that you were winding your career down and that you wouldn’t fight any of the other top fighters.
CJ: This is not true. I will fight anyone, anywhere, anytime… The Dragon’s fire is burning brighter than ever.
RTV: The featherweight division is very hot at the moment. THE RING magazine’s top 10 is as follows, could you comment on each of the fighters:
Champion – Mikey Garcia
CJ: Good technical boxer. I sparred with him in June of 2009. He was still learning then but I could see a big future.
1 – Yourself
2 – Daniel Ponce De Leon
CJ: Tough Mexican warrior.
3 – Orlando Salido
CJ: I sparred with him in preparation for my first fight against Rocky Juarez in Houston, Texas. He is a tough fighter.
4 – Jhonny Gonzalez
CJ: Tough boxer. He beat my Harry’s Gym (in Australia) teammate Jackson Asiku for the IBO world featherweight title.
5 – Celestino Caballero
CJ: Very tall for our division.
6 – Daud Yordan
CJ: My Indonesian brother is the IBO world featherweight champion.
7 – Evgeny Gradovich
CJ: Great title victory against (Billy) Dibb, the only fight I’ve seen of him.
8 – Billy Dib
CJ: He is a very good person, but not in the same league (as me).
9 – Nicholas Walters
CJ: Haven’t seen much of him.
10 – Javier Fortuna
CJ : Very good prospect. His manager is my longtime friend and advisor Sampson “Picasso” Lewkowicz. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Picasso for guiding my career. I wouldn’t be where I am without Sampson.
RTV: Could you tell us about your early years growing up in Jakarta?
CJ: I was only in Jakarta until I was about 6 years old, then I moved to Central Java until I was 17 and then I moved to Semeranag where I still live to this day. Growing up in Indonesia was tough for me and my family. We didn’t have much money. My father didn’t have anything to give me but boxing. That’s all he knew and he tough me discipline at a very young age and I have used it for my whole career. I owe everything to my father.
RTV: What is your life like away from boxing? What do you enjoy doing with your time?
RTV: In closing Chris what is your message for the featherweight division?
CJ: Look out featherweight division! With my 3 D’s – discipline, determination and dedication – I’m ready for anyone, anywhere, anytime. The Dragon has plenty of fire left!
Photos / Suhaimi Abdulla-Getty Images, Ethan Miller-Getty Images