Johnson Hits the Road…as Usual
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Oct 31, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
Photo: Glen Johnson
I'm guessing that if you flip through the well-worn passport of Glen Johnson- who faces Lucian Bute this Saturday night on Showtime (9 PM, ET) – you’ll see a mélange of colors and stamps from various locales throughout the world. In many ways, it's the road map of a storied career which earned him the moniker of the “Road Warrior” (move over, Mel Gibson). And the reason Johnson had to pack his bags to make a living is very simple- he's had no other choice. His niche is built on going into another guy’s hometown and giving him hell.
In Johnson’s last five outings, he has traveled to Atlantic City, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Ft. Lauderdale and Hartford but for years, his itinerary saw him in exotic locales such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Aruba, Italy and Germany. Have Everlasts-will travel.
If there's a boxer who should get an endorsement deal with Samsonite, it should be this guy. Johnson's probably racked up so many frequent flier miles, I doubt he even pays for his flights anymore and I'm sure he's always upgraded to first-class.
In an era when so many pampered prizefighters (whether they can sell out an intimate ballroom or not) don't even consider taking their talents overseas to make a living, Johnson is that rare throwback who, without the consistent backing of a local region or premium cable network, will face anybody at anytime, anyplace, as long as the price is reasonable. Where Kelly Pavlik didn't dare venture as he works out his life, Johnson took just a fraction of what he was to receive to face Bute on the IBF super middleweight titlist’s home turf of the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City.
The mere thought doesn't even faze him.
“Well, for me, I just gotta stay focused and just fight. I don't care about the audience. I don't care about what they're doing and what they're saying. There's three people going to be in that ring- as long as the referee's not hitting me, I'm alright,” Johnson told Maxboxing last week while still in Miami, Florida.
As he embarked on his career waaaaay back in 1993, the large majority of his bouts were staged in South Florida. But as Johnson’s career went through various twists and turns, he was forced to expand his horizons. “When I first turned pro, obviously, I was not seasoned yet but as I started fighting overseas and even start fighting here in the United States in other guys’ backyards, it just became comfortable. I knew this is the way that I had to go in my career because I wasn't going to sit back and get those opportunities if I didn't decide to take risks with my career and take chances and capitalize on opportunities.”
That said, being the home fighter comes with its own set of pressures: high expectations, distractions and ticket demands from friends and family. To Johnson, however, those ancillary issues are offset by the fact that in many cases, the local favorite is up a few points on the scorecards before the fights even begin.
“They have the benefit of the doubt,” said Johnson, who's been on the business end of a dubious verdict more than once while on the road, “because anything they do, they're going to get a cheer. If they give an effort, they're going to get a cheer based on how the audience feels about them. Just the cheering alone from the audience, some judges are effected by that and might give rounds to guys that don't deserve it. So I'm concerned more about that part than anything else. For me, I gotta go in there. I try to keep the crowd quiet and the more the crowd is quiet, then I believe I'm being effective.”
Johnson is still bitter over losses on his ledger to Sven Ottke and Silvio Branco. He had to travel to Britain three times to face Clinton Woods and may have won each time but came away with just a win, a loss and a draw. Of that title-winning effort against Woods in 2004 (their second meeting), Johnson says, “It has to be the most memorable [trip]. It changed my life.”
Hitting the road means you have to come in with a hardened- perhaps even cynical- psychological outlook on the business of boxing. You're not just facing your opponent but his manager, his trainer, promoter, the local commission and oftentimes, a whole country. Then there are the familiar horror stories of being the visiting fighter where the treatment is less than hospitable along with tales of faraway hotels (not exactly rated five-star by Orbitz), fire alarms being pulled in the late hours and food which is barely edible.
But according to Johnson, “I never really faced those things. I don't really focus on those things anyways. For me, it's about business and keeping my head in the game and not getting distracted by it, by any activities or anything people might be doing or saying or whatever. For me, only thing I care about is food, pay attention to what's going in my body, make sure that it's not messed with in any way. Those are the only things that I care about. I don't really care about the setting and all that stuff.”
Again, it's all about creating a mindset. In many ways, it is you against the world. Quite frankly, a lot of today's contemporary fighters probably don't have the gumption to stray from their safe cocoons. Johnson, who I've called “The Ol’ Battleship” for his travels across the world and his many wars inside the ring, is much like Archie Moore in an era of boxers who have a sense of entitlement based solely on who promotes or advises them.
“It takes a confident man to take the chances of going into a backyard and take the risks that's necessary to go on these trips,” said Johnson, who has amassed an old-school record of 51-15-2 with 35 stoppages. “It takes a confident person to do that and if you're not in that situation where you have to do those things, I guess, in this business with the way it's set up now, if you can stay in one place, more power to you and good luck on capitalizing on what opportunities that are in front of you. But a guy like me, you can say a man without a country, where I have to go and take the risk, I gotta take chances to get opportunities and shock the world. 
“These are the chances and the risk you have to take. I'm taking them.”
Rest assured, while the 42-year-old Johnson is the underdog, he doesn't need any extra inducements such as a bonus to press Bute throughout the night. Whatever he has left that night will be expended. This won’t be an Omar Narvaez-type scenario. Johnson doesn't fight just to survive but win.
He also realizes that he's running out of time and chances.
“Oh, definitely. I gotta go in here and definitely convince myself I'm the best super middleweight in the world. That's how I'm looking at it. I gotta take that approach,” says Johnson, who's coming off a June loss to Carl Froch. But a loss to Bute won’t necessarily signal the end for him. His manager, Henry Foster says of that loss to Froch, “[Johnson]'s still at least, in one judge’s opinion, equally as competitive as the current world champ, who is ten years his junior. So I still see fights for Glen as a manager where Glen would travel overseas and I see a couple of potential fights in England. Again, I'm looking ahead just as a manager, as a businessman would. Glen is in extraordinary shape right now on all levels. I'm delighted with his condition and he's peaking. We can't wait for this fight.”
Even at this stage, you could argue that this version of Johnson is the best foe that has ever been in the opposite corner of Bute, who has become one of the sports premiere draws. Besides, going from Miami to Quebec City is like a trip to the corner store compared to some past jaunts.
Laughing at the thought, Johnson says, “Well, for some places that I've been to, you could look at it that way but this is still a huge city. This is a huge fight. This is the point of my career where I really need to take a stand and make an example of this guy, so I'm really looking at it from a different standpoint. I'm looking at it where I need to give it 110 percent and I got a clear mind now and I believe that this is a goal I can accomplish.”
It's another chapter of what has been a storied and colorful career. A decade ago, Johnson was put on the scrap heap and yet here he is, still involved in significant bouts. Part of his lore has been his willingness (or necessity) to travel wherever he has to. For Johnson, it's been a fun ride.
“I definitely have had fun. I've enjoyed my career,” he says. “I believe I've beat most of the odds. There are still some odds out there that I'm fighting against and still need to prove myself and those are the ones that keep me going. But when you look at my whole career and where I started and how much I had to overcome and to get to where I am, I believe that I've had a great career and a successful one.”
On Saturday afternoon, I got this email from a Sherman Morgan, who was a bit frustrated in his pursuits to purchase tickets to the December 10th bout in Washington D.C. between Amir Khan and Anthony Peterson (also featuring Seth Mitchell who, like Peterson, is from the local region). This is what he sent me:

I guess this may be somewhat of a little rant, but I just wanted to drop a few observations about this event. Living in the DC area, I was pleased to hear that we would finally have a big time boxing event coming to town. Making the trip up to Atlantic City for some fights is a good time, but a 20 minute drive and sleeping in my own bed is much better.

I always read about the dreadful situation for fans when it comes to brokered tickets in Vegas for big time fights and to my dismay, it seems like that may be occurring with this fight as well. I was able to buy two of the $150 tickets not long after tickets went on sale. When I looked at where my tickets were placed on the seating chart, it looked to me like my tickets were in the back end of the $150 section. My first thought was.. damn, maybe this market really has been begging for a big fight if even the more expensive seats were going this fast. Then I started to hear from a lot of others that they attempted to buy $25, $50, and $75 tickets but were informed that a total of only 10 tickets remained at those price ranges.

Now I could be wrong, maybe this event is a hot ticket, but I get the feeling that it can't be THIS hot the very first day the tickets were made available. Although I disagree with brokering tickets, I understand what they are trying to do in Vegas. You maximize your revenue by having big spenders fill your casino, but in Washington DC.. what gives??”
I asked on Twitter if anyone else had a similar experience. It turns out Sherman wasn't alone. Later on that afternoon, I got this: 

   I saw your comments on Twitter about Khan-Peterson tickets.  I had similar problems to the person who responded to you.  I was planning on getting $75 tickets and so I logged on at exactly 10 AM...a few tickets were available at that price but no seating chart was posted -- not on GBP's website (which didn't even acknowledge tickets were going on sale), not on the Convention Center's site, and not on Ticketmaster's site.  So I said, screw that -- I'm calling for tickets to get some answers to know where this section even is.  Of course, Ticketmaster is all automated, and by the time I got through the menus, I was told ALL TICKETS UNDER $150 were sold out!

I was disgusted -- and I certainly wasn't paying $150 a pop for seats for which I don't even know the location.  I go back online and sure enough...all tickets under $150 had "sold out" within 15 minutes of going on sale.  

A few minutes later I tried again and $25 tickets popped up so I grabbed them -- even though I had no idea where they are.  The others ($50 and $75 tickets) were still unavailable.

Something fishy is going on.  I e-mailed Golden Boy about it but I don't expect a response.  On the bright side, today there is a seating chart posted at Ticketmaster...just in time for you to pick up a nice $150 or $300 seat if you wish.  But all others are "unavailable".

We'll see -- maybe on December 10th the place will be packed with several thousand folks that went online and got tickets within the first 15 minutes.  But I doubt it.  It's disgusting since it's been several years since a "big" fight in DC, and we get treated like this.

Vito Fiore
Arlington, VA”

I also got these tweets: 
From Brian Griffith (@bpgriffith): 
@stevemaxboxing I logged into ticketmaster about 2 hours after they went on sale and the $75 tix were already all gone.
From “jacked and tan” (@ConcealedSavoy): 
@stevemaxboxing right. I tried without the code and had no luck. My one buddy was "forced" to buy tickets 2X the amount he planned to spend
From there, I forwarded Vito's email to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer to get his response. He replied, Steve we had a HUGE ticket demand on the first day. So maybe all available tickets were sold? Dave will clarify. Thank you though for pointing it out to us.


“Dave” would be David Itskowitch, GBP’s Chief Operating Officer, who is doing much of the legwork locally for Golden Boy in the nation’s capital for this promotion. On Saturday night, he informed me that tickets were available at all prices. On Sunday morning, he sent me two links, one for Ticketmaster ( and a seating chart (
OK, I asked a couple of my friends to see if they could get tickets at all the price points. Like them, I found that trying to get a pair of tickets in the $25 and $50 sections was not possible but I was able to purchase two $75 tickets.
From the very beginning, I've always been an advocate of placing fights in non-casino venues which make sense in local markets. In these locales, there is a natural pull (this case being Peterson and Mitchell). The track record has shown that if the right events are placed in the correct regions, promoted and marketed properly and (this is just as important as anything else) priced affordably, they can be very successful. Boxing, more than any other sport, needs to get back to its roots and wean itself from the overreliance it’s had on the free room, food and board the casinos offer. Once that’s out of the way, this sport can finally create local attractions like a Bute and others who keep boxing relevant in their hometowns.
I'll give Golden Boy the benefit of the doubt. Let's hope that there is such an overwhelming demand for tickets that many who wanted those lower-priced seats simply could not get them or there was a glitch with Ticketmaster's system. But it would be an absolute shame (or would it be a sham?) if what takes place at most fights in casinos (such as the built-in deals with ticket brokers that create an artificial secondary market that gouges the paying public) is taking place here.
It's obvious that people want to come to this event. It's been many moons since D.C. has had a major boxing event. Let's not kill a market before it's even hatched.
I've been meaning to mention this for awhile but I found it a tad ironic that on the same day that Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson fought in front of a freebie-laden crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles (with less than 50,000 pay-per-view purchases), on the other side of the pond in Liverpool, a heated battle took place between Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew in front of a passionate and lively crowd at an Echo Arena that seemed filled to capacity.
Now, it points out what I've believed for quite awhile, that you can have all the “skillful” bouts you want (I mean, don't Hopkins and Dawson have an abundance of “skill”?), fights that are “important” (wasn't Hopkins-Dawson for the ever-important Ring magazine title while Cleverly-Bellew was contested for the WBO strap?) and “best vs. best” (where if you ranked the four fighters mentioned, certainly the consensus would have Cleverly and Bellew bringing up the rear) but ask yourself this: which event would you have rather attended or paid to watch? Which fight brought you a memorable night of entertainment? Which event had an audience?
There should be more than just looking at rankings and determining what is a “big fight.” Such ancillary issues such as styles and public demand should be paramount and those in charge, such as networks and promoters, should always keep that in mind and not be pressured by a vocal minority that lives in an abstract reality.
Hopkins-Dawson is something that most people didn't want to see the first time. Cleverly-Bellew is something I'm sure many folks would like to see over and over again.
Hernan “Tyson” Marquez certainly put an exclamation point on his rivalry with Luis Concepcion, didn't he?...I like the way Eloy “The Prince” Perez is coming along. He's developing nicely as a professional, going from pure boxer to a guy who is now sitting down a bit on his punches and blending the two...Some fans told me that was a much easier source to get tickets for the Khan-Peterson fight. Now, it looks like it's a British site. Is there the possibility that this is one way of procuring a pro-Khan/UK crowd on this night?...Andrew Luck showed me something on Saturday night after throwing that pick-six against USC. He is as tough as he is talented...I might be in the minority but from start-to-finish, I think Stanford-USC was the best played game of the year that had BCS implications...Next Saturday night is quite the night for any boxing and college football fan with good looking cards on both Showtime, HBO and then ‘Bama-LSU in prime time on CBS...The Broncos had Tim Tebow against the Lions but they didn't have a prayer. I guess you could say the Lions ate the Christian (yeah, I went there. It was too easy)...I'll say this; if there is one Miami Hurricane who has flourished in the Al Golden regime, it's “Touchdown” Tommy Streeter. Never thought he'd ever be this good...Right now, CAAAAAAAAAM Newton isn't just “Rookie of the Year.” He might just be a Pro Bowler...

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