By Keith Idec
Glen Johnson wasn’t Lucian Bute’s No. 1 choice of opponents for his fight a week from Saturday, but the unbeaten Bute considers “The Road Warrior” to be the toughest opponent he has faced in his eight-year pro career.
The Romanian-born champion can say that with certainty, even before they touch gloves at Pepsi Coliseum, because they sparred nearly 100 rounds against each other in the fall of 2009 while preparing for fights against Librado Andrade (Bute) and Chad Dawson (Johnson).
“Glen Johnson has seen almost everything in boxing,” Bute said on a conference call to promote their Nov. 5 fight in Quebec City. “He’s always there, he’s always in great condition. He’s been facing all the greatest fighters — Jones, Tarver, Dawson twice. He even fought Hopkins in his beginning and he looked good, even if he lost [that] fight. I watched them all. I can say, by far, he is the best opponent [of my career], with the best credibility, the best resume. His resume speaks for itself. So, for me, it’s a major step up.”
Johnson is 42, but he is a former undisputed light heavyweight champion who knocked out Roy Jones Jr. seven years ago and beat initial Jones conqueror Antonio Tarver by split decision in his next fight.
The Miami-based, Jamaican-born boxer has been stopped just once in 68 professional fights, against Hopkins. But even that fight was halted with the rugged Johnson on his feet.
Though 11 years younger, the 31-year-old Bute might not be the best southpaw Johnson has fought, much less the best boxer overall.
“He’s a great fighter,” Johnson said. “He has a lot of talent, a lot of skills. He shows a lot of that in his fights. He’s got fast hands and he’s sound. He ranks among the best guys, but this is not sparring, this is fighting. So this is a whole other level of fighting.”
Johnson (51-15-2, 35 KOs) and Bute (29-0, 24 KOs) will meet in a 12-round fight for Bute’s IBF 168-pound title. The fight will be broadcast by Showtime.
Keith Idec covers boxing for the Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.