There certainly have been some gruesome ring injuries over the years.
A couple of that might come to mind are the horrendous cuts around the left eye of Vitali Klitschko in his heavyweight world title challenge against Lennox Lewis in 2003 that ended after six rounds due to the wounds and the massive vertical cut suffered in the middle of Badou Jack’s forehead in a split decision loss to Marcus Browne in an interim light heavyweight title bout in January 2019 that left Jack with blood gushing down his face and covering his body.
Middleweight contender Tureano Johnson suffered his own severe cut on a right uppercut from former junior middleweight world titlist Jaime Munguia in the sixth round of their action-packed DAZN main event on Oct. 30 at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California. The punch sliced Johnson’s upper lip all the way the through, leaving two sides of the lip unattached to each other and a bloody mess.
Although referee Raul Caiz Sr. called timeout to have the ringside doctor examine the bloody wound, the fight was allowed to continue for the final 20 seconds of the round. But Johnson’s lip was so severely cut and so bloody that Caiz stopped the fight in the corner after the round.
With his adrenaline pumping, Johnson barely flinched when the cut happened and now is looking forward to having his lip heal and getting back into the ring as soon as he is medically cleared.
“My lip is great. Thank God for the medical assistance I received,” Johnson told BoxingScene of his trip to a Palm Springs hospital. “They stitched me up very well.”
Johnson, who will be sidelined for at least 60 days before he can train, required 24 stitches on the inside and outside of the awful-looking gash as well as stitches for a cut in his left eyebrow.
Johnson has heard from people shocked by how bad the cut looked but he didn’t think it was as severe as it looked.
“I can’t call it bad. To me it was not that terrible of a cut,” he said. “Bleeding, yeah, but to me it wasn’t that bad.”
Then Johnson, in good spirits, added with laugh, “I was gonna live. It wasn’t gonna take my life. Me, as a fighter, we are gladiators. We go in there to fight and it comes with the territory. I didn’t think it was something devastating.”
Johnson, who is typically in crowd-pleasing bouts, reminded his questioner that this was not the first time he had suffered a bad injury in a fight.
“I had a rotator cuff injury in 2015. When I fought Eamonn O’Kane, I tore my right rotator cuff in the first or second round of that fight and I continued to fight,” Johnson said of the middleweight title eliminator he went on to win by unanimous decision on the Gennadiy Golovkin-David Lemieux undercard. The injury sidelined Johnson for 17 months and he never got his title opportunity.
“That’s what we gladiators do. We find ways. We have resilience and creativity, find ways to be innovative, doing whatever it takes to win and that’s what I felt even in this fight,” he said of the bout with Munguia. “If I had a cut on my lip, I didn’t think it would hinder me from fighting.”
Johnson said he was ready to fight on but understood why Caiz stopped the fight.
“I think the referee did what a good referee does. He was looking out for me,” Johnson said. “He saved me from myself. I would have liked to continue but that is my nature. We fight. We fight until the last. So, the referee did what he’s supposed to do and stopped the gladiator from hurting himself.”
Johnson said that the punch from Munguia, in his second fight since moving up to middleweight, drove his mouthpiece into his lip, causing the laceration. While it was good, solid punch, Johnson said he had been careless in picking his mouthpiece.
“It was my fault. I didn’t take responsible steps in acquiring the proper mouthpiece,” he said. “The mouthpiece did not fit into my mouth properly. It was my negligence and I didn’t make my coaches aware of my situation.”
He said he bought a mouthpiece at the last minute, was careless not to break it in and didn’t tell his team because he was embarrassed that he lost his proper mouthpiece.
“The new one did not fit right. I didn’t even use it in sparring. That was the first night I used that mouthpiece,” he said. “My wife said the mouthpiece didn’t look right. I said don’t worry. He’s not going to hut me in my mouth. I blame myself. That was my ego, my arrogance that took hold. Boxing is a contact sport. You’re going to get in your mouth. I had no respect for my opponent. That is one thing I have to take into great consideration. Always respect your opponent because he’s capable of doing many, many things, including punching you in the mouth, especially when you don’t have the proper gear to protect your mouth. Had the right mouthpiece been there we may have gotten a different result in that fight.”
Although Johnson (21-3-1, 15 KOs), 36, a 2008 Olympian from the Bahamas, trailed 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47, he said he felt like he was just starting to get through against Mexico’s Munguia (36-0, 29 KOs) and was ready for a big second half before the lip injury short-circuited the bout.
“We were doing very well,” Johnson said. “We were just beginning to accelerate. Our endurance and speed was something we worked on. We escalate as the fight goes on and I get better and better. You would have seen a stronger fighter as the fight goes on. I’m a distance fighter.”
He had the unusual injury cause the end of the fight with Munguia, the serious shoulder injury against O’Kane and lost out on a fight with Lemieux in 2018 when it was canceled at the weigh-in because of Lemieux’s inability to make weight. He feels like he just can’t catch a break.
“It is unfortunate,” Johnson said. “I guess that is the purpose God has me here for. He has a plan for me. I don’t know what it is yet but God has a plan. I’d like to get a little foresight into it. I have faith in my heart I will be a world champion.”
When Johnson returns he said he is willing to fight anyone at either middleweight or super middleweight.
He named fighters such as middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo, secondary titlist Ryota Murata and interim titlist Chris Eubank Jr. as desired opponents in addition to wanting a rematch with Munguia.
“And I have no problem going up to the super middleweight division, which I think I’d be even more devastating at, to fight Billy Joe Saunders and even Callum Smith,” Johnson said. “The possibility of me getting those fights is slim to none because I don’t think any of those fighters would take the challenge but I would love an opportunity to fight Murata and I would love an opportunity to fight Callum Smith. I believe they are great fights to make and I’m telling you, if you want a good fight you put Tureano in the fight. I don’t care who you put me in with.”
What he wants most, however, is a rematch with Munguia.
“More than anything else in this world. I would love that fight,” he said. “Munguia was an opponent tailor-made for Tureano Johnson. It hurts my heart that I was so close to opening that door but still didn’t go in. That fight was mine to win. I really want that fight. I really want the rematch. It was a close fight. I had only just begun.
“I was going to be like an alligator – take my prey into deep water and drown them before he devours them. That was my plan. But I take nothing away from Munguia.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.