Opportunity knocks; Johnson answers
With Glen Johnson there is no trash talk. No bluster. No insults. He just packs his gloves and heads to wherever the next fight is to give it his best.
This time it will be at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, where "The Road Warrior" will challenge Tavoris Cloud for his light heavyweight title on Saturday (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT).
The main event will feature the homecoming of unified junior welterweight titlist Devon Alexander (20-0, 13 KOs) against former titlist Andreas Kotelnik (31-3-1, 13 KOs) of Ukraine. In a third title bout, one that is not part of HBO's broadcast, St. Louis' Cory Spinks (37-5, 11 KOs) will defend his junior middleweight title against mandatory challenger Cornelius "K9" Bundrage (29-4, 17 KOs).
For the 41-year-old Johnson, the fight with Cloud, who is a 28-year-old making his first title defense, could be the end of the line with a loss.
That Johnson is even in position to fight for a title is surprising. In November, Chad Dawson handled him with ease in their rematch. Afterward, Johnson talked about retiring after a career in which he found late success by winning the light heavyweight championship, knocking out Roy Jones Jr., splitting two big money fights with a prime Antonio Tarver and claiming 2004 fighter of the year honors.
But not long after the second loss to Dawson, boxing's ultimate blue-collar fighter decided to give it one more try. He was in good position with the IBF and took a February title eliminator against Yusaf Mack, an ESPN2-televised bout for which Johnson received a paltry $12,000 purse, a pittance compared to what he typically earned.
Johnson (50-13-2, 34 KOs), a native of Jamaica living in Miami, did it for the opportunity. He knocked out Mack, 30, in the sixth round to earn the mandatory shot at Cloud (20-0, 18 KOs), whose notable victories came against faded former titlists Clinton Woods and Julio Gonzalez.
"I took it just for the opportunity," Johnson said. "A lot of times you fight for money, and then sometimes, in my situation, you have to fight for opportunities. That's how I look at that situation. So, just the fact that I was able to do what I did and come back strong after losing a fight to Chad Dawson, it was a good opportunity for me to come back and be able to make a statement. And looking forward to completing that statement now."
Cloud isn't impressed by Johnson's résumé and sounded dismissive of him when they spoke to reporters on a recent teleconference to promote the fight.
"I don't think Glen Johnson is the fighter that he used to be, and I don't think I will have any problems winning the fight," said Cloud, of Tallahassee, Fla.
Wasn't he at least a little impressed by how he thrashed Mack?
"I'm not impressed," he said. "Not impressed. I watched the fight. I watched the Johnson and Yusaf Mack fight, and to me it didn't look like Yusaf Mack was in any kind of shape to be fighting. He basically gave up. I don't believe that Glen Johnson was fighting a fighter who had a strong mind that night. I can look at Yusaf Mack, and I know that [Johnson will] be fighting a different kind of fighter in me."
No biggie for Johnson, who always has been the kind of guy to let his fists do the talking.
"I don't have to talk a lot of noise. To me, it's all about stepping in the ring and doing what you do. That's what I've been doing for many years," said Johnson, a pro for 17 years. "I'm never somebody who ever disrespects anybody. That's not my style. I go in the ring and do my work. That's what I'm paid for, and that's what I'm prepared to do."
Given how Johnson and Cloud fight -- with come-forward, aggressive styles -- their pairing has the makings for an action-packed fight, and that's what both have in mind.
"Glen comes right at you, and nobody will be running in this fight," Cloud said. "That's not my style. Glen is a good fighter, and so am I. St. Louis will get more than their money's worth."
Said Johnson: "I see a lot of similarity in my style and Tavoris Cloud's style. He likes to come forward, and so do I. We're both going into the kitchen to do some cooking, and St. Louis will get the meal."
Even at 41 and with so many tough fights under his belt -- including fights with Bernard Hopkins, three with Woods, Gonzalez, Sven Ottke, Eric Harding, two with Tarver and two with Dawson -- Johnson remains in top physical condition and is still hungry for another title.
"I'm blessed," he said. "I'm in that elite few that still can do sports at that age when most people say you shouldn't able to do it. So, I'm very thankful that I'm able to do what I do at this age, and I don't know what the answer is. People ask me all the time, 'How you do it?' And I say, 'I just train hard.' I don't have any bad habits as far as drinking and smoking or drugs or anything like that. I don't know if it's just genes.
"I don't know what it is, but I'm still able to do it, and I'm doing it well. I'm thankful and I go out there and try to represent myself well each and every time."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
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