By Andre Courtemanche
Former middleweight and light heavyweight champion Reggie "Sweet" Johnson (43-7-1, 25 KOs) has had a good career.
In his first world title fight in 1991, Johnson had a prime James Toney legitimately down and hurt, but lost a razor-thin split decision. Two fights later, he lifted the WBA strap from the talented multiple world champion Steve Collins, no easy feat, and then successfully defended three times.
In 1995, coming off a two-and-a-half year period where he had fought less than one round, he knocked out IBF Champion Williams Guthrie to take his second world title. He defended successfully twice before losing respectably to all-time-great Roy Jones Jr.
If he were to retire today, the boxing world would remember Reggie Johnson as a very good fighter.
That's not enough for Reggie.
"It will mean the world to me," says Johnson of someday being inducted into boxing's hall of fame. "Let's see if a third world title will concrete me in with the greats."
The 41-year-old Johnson will begin his quest for a third world title, and the accolades that could come with it, at the "Fight Night for Climate Change" event on February 23 at the Civic Center in Lake Charles, Louisiana, when he faces top contender and fellow former champion Julio Cesar Gonzalez for the IBA World Championship.
Energetic and over-flowing with confidence, Johnson agreed to talk about his immediate plans, his future plans and where he hopes to end up.
How are you feeling? Are you injury free and coming into this fight at 100%?
I'm feeling great! Thanks for asking. Yes I'm healthy and my elbows haven't felt this good in almost a decade. I'm at 120% going into this fight. God willing I will be there to give the boxing fans of Lake Charles, and the world over, the best Reggie Johnson.
You were originally scheduled to face Glen Johnson last year and then suffered an injury. How did your opponent go from Glenn Johnson to Julio Gonzalez?
Well, when my elbow injury happened, Glen got the opportunity from Showtime to fight Chad Dawson. It was a big letdown because a lot of work, money and resources were spent to make Johnson vs. Johnson a reality. Glen Johnson is the #1 contender by the IBF and it was a huge shortcut for me and Team Johnson. We had been working on this fight for two years. So when Glen took the Dawson fight, I did my research and found out that Gonzalez had a win over Glen. He was also a respected former world champion who had fought Roy Jones, Montell Griffin, and Clinton Woods. So a win in great fashion over Gonzalez should position me and shine a light on my pursuit of a third world title.
Why such a tough opponent for your first fight in almost three years?
Well when I knocked out Fred Moore, then the # 15 guy, I had been away from the ring for three years and eight months. My mindset has always been to win fights in the gym. I know that with young, hungry, world-class fighters pushing me everyday as my sparring partners, and add in my 23 years of experience, it makes sense for me to start at the top. Besides it's not in my DNA to fight ducks. My resume will indicate.
What do you see in Julio's style that you can take advantage of?
For starters Julio helped me get ready for a few of my light heavyweight world title fights. This was when he had about 10 fights, so I know him well. Julio is like all the great Mexican fighters who fight with a lot of passion and heart. Julio's tough, but him being 6' 2" and fighting like the average Mexican fighter plays in my favor. So I see his style making my job a little easier. His trainer Dub Huntley worked with me in 1989 when I moved to L.A. to pursue my career. So he knows what Julio is up against and he also knows that Reggie Johnson never over-estimates or under-estimates any man when that bells ring.
You've had a terrific career already, what is pulling you back to the ring?
Well security of family is always a motivator. Plus I have some unfinished business. But I really want to position myself to one day get in the Boxing Hall of Fame. I was invited out there in 2005 and 2006 which I think is a good sign, so lets see if a third world title will concrete me in with the greats. If it is God's will to bless me in that way, it will mean the world to me.
How is working with your promoter Kerry Daigle going?
Kerry Daigle serves as my friend first and as my agent. He's been awesome and was the first to believe in my mission and vision. He's been another one of blessings from God. Kerry and I have been together for three years now and he and I both has seen a lot of people come and go in reference to Team Johnson. Kerry has been consistent and loyal and that's hard to find in this our industry.
Fighting in Louisiana, do you feel as though you're the hometown fighter?
Somewhat. I've spent a lot of time doing business there in reference to staging the Johnson vs. Johnson fight in Lake Charles. Lake Charles is a low key city that I am falling in love with. Great people and food is really what Lake Charles host for the world. Lundy & Davis Law Firm and Trinity World Boxing L.L.C. have been great handling the legal end and going to bat for Team Johnson making my return to the ring a reality in the state of Louisiana. We want to really thank Mr. Hunter Lundy for spearheading the event. If you're ever in Lake Charles, you most visit my new-found friend Tony Bruno at "Sweet and Treats" Bakery. I vote it the best in the world. Tell him to give you some Tea Cakes on me.
Has your style changed at all, or are you still the same "Sweet" Reggie?
My style is still the same for the most part from my middleweight days but as a light heavyweight my power has improved at least 50 percent. When you add my experience with the punching power, I'm knocking guys out accidentally. My last fight with Fred Moore, I set him up and hit him with a uppercut and then went to grab him but he was out cold.
What are you up to outside the ring? Are you set up for life after boxing?
Well I'm involved with my new church home (St. Stephens - Pastor Paul Landrew), the youth in my community, speaking engagements, getting my promotional company up and running, and then there's my real job: my kids.
Which one of the current light heavyweight world champions would you most like to fight?
The first one that gives me the opportunity or the first one I position myself to fight by becoming the #1 contender.
Tickets are on sale now, priced at $100 Ringside (Limited Seating) and $40 (Reserved Stadium Seating) and can be obtained through www.ticketmaster.com or by calling the Paragon Casino Resort at 1.800.WIN.1.WIN. For more information on the upcoming show, go to www.keeppunching.com. To visit the fabulous Paragon Casino go to www.paragoncasinoresort.com.