A lay-off of well over 12 months came to an abrupt end in March for Callum Johnson. The Lincolnshire man picked up where he left off and obliterated Frank Buglioni (W TKO 1) inside 2 minutes.
It was a frightening display of just what we had been missing since September 2016 from the big Commonwealth and British Light Heavyweight champion. But at 33-years old there is no time to find out just how many knockouts Johnson 17-0(12KO’s) could have tallied up at domestic or European level. Now he finds himself precisely where he wanted to be, on the highest level against the very best at 175lbs.
During a Russian revolution in the division, Eddie Hearn – Johnson’s promoter – may just have picked the best of the lot. That point is debatable, but in a division that remains stacked, Artur Beterbiev carries a terrifying reputation.
Beterbiev 12-0(12KO’s) has stampeded his way to the IBF Light Heavyweight crown, starting in just his 6th fight when he ended former champion Tavoris Cloud’s (W KO 2) career in his adopted home of Canada. Jeff Page Jr (W KO 2) met the same fate as did a host of other names on route to a world championship.
His crowning night finally came in Fresno where he boxed candidly through the opening 11 rounds before he dispatched Enrico Koelling (W KO 12) in the closing moments.
Critics would say that Beterbiev’s display was ponderous, that the overmatched Koelling should have been finished much earlier than the 12th and final round. But nevertheless, Beterbiev’s 100% knockout record remained intact, as did his reputation as the most fearsome puncher in the division.
Therefore questions remain over the head of the 33-year old Russian, giving hope to Johnson’s travelling army of fans that one of the year’s biggest upsets can be caused in Chicago.
Furthermore Johnson is a vast unit, with a body made to withstand substantial punches. His size will be sufficient to ensure that Beterbiev cannot intimidate his rival physically like he has been permitted to in his short professional career.
Thus far there has been little to fault regarding Johnson’s game, but that is largely down to the level he has found himself at in his 17 professional contests. The step up to world level was necessary, but it is on Saturday night that any weaknesses in his artillery are exposed. And against a ruthless operator like Beterbiev, this is far from the ideal setting for Johnson’s flaws to be uncovered.
Johnson’s guts should be admired for taking this huge undertaking on, and given his size and amateur experience his confidence will be rife that he can shake up the Light Heavyweight scene.
He could well give Beterbiev the sort of problems he has never encountered without the head guard and vest. But his long lay-off came to an end in just a single round, and ultimately it was not at the sort of level that signals he is in anyway ready for this challenge.
After a cautious couple of rounds, Beterbiev will rock Johnson and it won’t be long after before the referee is stepping in, kerbing Johnson’s challenge in the 4th.