Glen Johnson: My Fighter of the Year

By Tom Donelson
Updated: January 11, 2005

Glen Johnson
Glen Johnson

NEW YORK, NY—Glen Johnson is my fighter of the year. Who would have thought that at the end of 2003 that the best light heavyweight fighter would be Glen Johnson? Who would have believed that by the end of this year, Glen Johnson would have defeated both Roy Jones and Antonio Tarver? Certainly, not I.

When Glen Johnson traveled to Memphis to face Roy Jones, I was invited to pontificate about the fight on the George Lapides morning show. Like everyone else, I predicted an easy Jones victory. The Jones-Johnson was to be Jones big comeback from his two round loss to Antonio Tarver but Johnson refuse to be a prop in a Jones fight.

In the first round, he rushed out and forced Jones on the rope. Throwing punches from every angle, he managed to connect in between Jones’ defenses. Throughout the fight, Jones looked lethargic and Johnson maintained a strong pace. There were moments that Jones would unleash the devastating hand speed and attack that stunned so many light heavyweights but on this night, Johnson merely smiled after such a combination. Nothing was going to stop him. Only Johnson and his corner knew that he could win.

Johnson knocked out Roy Jones in the ninth and set up the surprise meeting with Antonio Tarver in December. Glen Johnson was a better fighter that his record would suggest as he often travel to the other guy back yard. Johnson lost many close decisions that could easily go the other way. In the fall of 2003, Johnson fought a draw with Clinton Woods for a share of the light heavyweight title but many pundits felt that Johnson should have won the fight. This fight represented all what went wrong with Johnson career. Close fights tended to go against Johnson. Johnson himself said that he was not the best but he would fight the best. And he did fight the best throughout his career, though he lost many of those battles. But only one fighter stopped Johnson before the final bell and that man was the future hall of famer Bernard Hopkins. Johnson may have lost many of close fights, but he was in every one of those bouts. He scrapped and clawed in every fight he was in. Defeat may have followed him at times but defeat was not welcomed.

Johnson would avenge that draw and beat Woods as the 2004 season opened up. This hardly sent shock wave across the boxing world. It was a so what, just another alphabet champion. The true champion was the winner of the Jones-Tarver. So we all thought.

When the Tarver perfect left sent Jones down for the count, the boxing world was shocked. Everyone expected a third fight Jones-Tarver. Johnson derailed those plans when he knocked Jones out and then in December, Johnson showed that he belong with the light heavyweight elites. In a dramatic close fight that could have gone either way, Johnson constant hustle earned him a victory. In past years, this fight would have gone Tarver ways but on this night, Johnson hustle produced the upset in the eyes of the judges.

Johnson beat three of the world’s best light heavyweights and at the end of the year; he sat upon the boxing world as its fighter of the year. One of boxing’s good guys, Johnson demonstrated that sometimes-good guys do finish first.