Callum Johnson was on his way home to Lincolnshire when 32Red caught up with him ahead of his return to action this weekend. The mobile signal was terrible, dropping in and out and, at times, disappearing all together.
Suddenly, the pieces fit together. This must be the reason why Johnson’s phone hasn’t rang for two years. It’s is the only reasonable explanation.
Johnson is head of the British branch of boxing’s ‘Who needs him?’ club. Lots of fighters have had to accept that their careers have been put on hold over the past year but for Johnson to have been put in cold storage is almost impossible to fathom. Even if his light heavyweight rivals might not be too keen on facing him unless the rewards are worth it, while boxing fans, promoters and television channels all need as many exciting, big punching fighters as possible. For all the latest fight odds, visit our sportsbook.
“It’s a mystery to me too. You talk about people wanting excitement and knockouts, well, that’s me. One thing I guarantee is that when I step in the ring I’m there to try and knock the other guy out,” Johnson (18-1, 13 KO’s) told 32Red.
“Even the couple of years I’ve been out of the ring it was mad. The fans never seemed to forget about me. People were always talking about me and asking where I was and when I’d be back. It’s a strange one. I always seem to excite the fans and they’re always asking where I am and when I’m fighting yet I was never getting any interest. That’s gone now. We’ve got the opportunity now and I’ve got to deliver. You can have all the opportunities you want but you’ve got to deliver when you get them.”
As Johnson says, those days are now over. This weekend he makes his BT Sport debut against Emil Markic (32-2) and can’t wait to get going.
Inactivity is nothing new for Johnson – he has been restricted to just 19 fights in 11 years – but the past two years have been hard to deal with. After a breakout year in which he stopped Frank Buglioni in a round, engaged in an exciting four round shootout with IBF world champion Artur Beterbiev and knocked out the well regarded Seanie Monaghan in the third, he vanished.
“I never gave up hope but if I said I never had those feelings I’d be lying,” Johnson said. “But as quickly as those thoughts came, I moved them away just as quickly. You can’t sit around dwelling on those thoughts. I always try to be as positive as possible. It’s hard sometimes but look now, I’m gonna get the opportunity I’ve been hoping for and waiting for.
“It’s kind of surreal. I’m thinking about fight week again. I’m thinking about going to the weigh in and the feeling after the fight. I can’t wait to get it done now and hopefully perform the way I can. I wanna get the first one out of the way and get that weight lifted off my shoulders and just breathe again.
“It’s been hard because I’ve stayed professional, active in the gym but when there’s no money coming in and plenty going out it doesn’t take long for it to run out. It’s been tough mentally, physically and emotionally but now we’re back on the road.”
BT has become the home of the light heavyweight division in recent months. Joshua Buatsi apart, it is home to the cream of the British crop. Lyndon Arthur is riding high after outboxing Anthony Yarde and the ‘Beast from the East’ himself is pencilled in to return shortly. Johnson still has his eyes fixed on the fighters at the top of the world scene but if he has to go through his British rivals to get there, so be it. Whoever, wherever, whenever. Johnson isn’t looking to ease himself into life on BT. He is coming to wreak havoc.
“That’s what I want,” Johnson said. “I don’t want keep busy fights. I want to be active but I want the best fights possible. I want to get back in that world title mix and whoever I’ve got to go through to do that, that’s what I’ll do. We won’t know whether I’m good enough to do that until it actually happens but I’m pretty confident that I am.
“I’m open to anything but obviously my number one aim is a world title fight. If I can get one straight away that’s all well and good but if I have to go through a Lyndon Arthur to get it then that’s what I’ve got to do. My main objective is this weekend because if I lose here none of that will happen.”
At 35 years old, Johnson doesn’t have time to waste. He may not have fought in months but he is back and being pitched directly into what seems like a sure fire firefight with the big punching Markic this weekend. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“A few people said they expected me to have a little warm up but at the end of the day what am I going to get from that? Nothing. I want to get back on that world title stage as quickly as possible. I’m not a young man so I’m coming back against a guy who’s 32-2 and he’s scored 24 knockouts. He’s a dangerous opponent really and I’ve gotta make sure I’m on song and do the job. It’s sink or swim time isn’t it?”