Kevin Johnson: A Single Parent’s Pursuit of Heavyweight Glory

By Francis Walker
Updated: September 1, 2007

Gloves NEW YORK — Being a single parent while pursing a career as a world championship contender would be a very difficult task. After all, professional athletes are required to travel, spending weeks and even months away from family and loved ones. But for heavyweight contender Kevin Johnson, his career revolves around his 8 year-old daughter Fatima.

“Everything comes after her,” Johnson said in an exclusive interview with BASN. “Anything that interferes with her schedule, I don’t want to do it.”

When asked about whether parenting interferes with preparing for important fights, Johnson said: “Training camp is really three minutes from the house.”

Some would think that a boxing gym would be an uncomfortable place for a female, especially for a young girl. The same way Johnson has a responsibility of keeping himself sharp for fights, Fatima also keeps herself busy at the Total Package Boxing Gym in Douglasville, Ga.

“She assists the ladies and guys that come into the gym. She came home with $100 the other day. You tell me if the kid loves going to the gym or not.”

Johnson, although a single parent, is not one to keep his child home from school. Johnson, whose mother was a teacher, is a firm believer in education and is constantly on top of his daughter to perform well in school.

“I want her to go to school,” Johnson said. “Then college and get four degrees. I want her to speak three languages. I want her to be a productive member of society and very educated. At 7:05 am, she goes to school. 7:10, I go out running. At 8 am, I’ll go over to her school just to see what’s going on.”

Johnson receives a lot of attention during parent-teacher conferences when school members discover that he is a professional fighter.

“Wow,” Johnson said of the reactions that he receives. “You can’t be mesmerized with a parent, as it disrupts that parent-teacher relationship.”

Johnson said that Fatima’s mother passed away four years ago. There were times when Fatima asked her dad about her mom and that there were tough moments. Johnson has structured his daughter’s life to be one of fulfilling promise and activities.

“She gets all of my time,” Johnson said. “I also have a house sitter, a very nice older lady, here on the weekends. She helps make sure that my daughter has so much, especially when I’m tired on the weekends. She does to the zoo, swimming, car washes, movies, and four to five restaurants. They also go over math, reading, writing, and language arts.”

Johnson is appears to be a genuine and most caring father. But when Johnson steps inside the boxing ring, he’s not out to provide any TLC for his opponents. Johnson is out to beat his opponents physically with his fists or even psychologically using his mouth.

Johnson talks a lot of trash. If you confront him about his trash-talking, don’t worry because he’ll agree with you.

“It’s me! I talk a lot of crap before during and after the fight.” Johnson said. “It’s like a Macintosh going on and on in my brain, and I can’t control that.”

Johnson (16-0, 6 KOs) is one of the new faces in the heavyweight division. The 27-year-old from Asbury Park, N.J., but now living in Atlanta, Georgia, talks to his opponents before, during, and after fights. It’s part of his persona as a competitor and it appears to be working, as he’s still undefeated.

In Johnson’s last bout on August 3, he outworked Damian Willis through 10 rounds. Johnson was yelling and talking trash toward Willis throughout the entire fight.

“Damian Willis said that he would break my jaw, but he couldn’t rattle my gold teeth,” Johnson added. “It was a single fight sparring session for 10 rounds. I tortured the guy. I had tougher sparring sessions than I had with him.”

“I’ve been compared to James Toney,” Johnson said. “James Toney talks the whole time. Everyone is comparing me to Muhammad Ali, as far as the mouth. Larry Holmes, as far as fight tactics.”

“I use my jab like him, but Larry had 13 different jabs. He had a jab that flicked at you, a jab that kept you back, and a jab that busted you up.”

“My purpose in boxing is to clean out the heavyweight division,” Johnson said. “My purpose is to get the division back to the way it was in the days of Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, and Joe Frazier.”

Johnson is fighting in one of the most difficult weight classes in boxing to earn a title shot. IBF heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko is recognized as the consensus No. 1. heavyweight in the world.

He’ll have a voluntary title defense in February before facing the winner of an IBF elimination tournament between Chris Byrd, Alexander Povekin, Calvin Brock, and Eddie Chambers.

Sam Peter is scheduled to challenge WBC champion Oleg Maskaev in October. Evander Holyfield is set to meet WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov in October with the winner perhaps meeting top contender Tony Thompson.

WBA champion Ruslan Chagaev could face Nikolai Valuev in his next fight.

Johnson realizes the obstacles that lay ahead of him, but he has plan of action that could take his career to another level.

“It takes hunger and a plan”, Johnson said. “Valuev, Povekin, and those guys are hungry. Those Europeans eat, drink, sleep, and crap boxing. If a lot of heavyweights have to make weight, a lot of heavys wouldn’t be boxing.”

Johnson called heavyweights Travis Walker, Chaz Witherspoon, and Malik Scott “petty prospects” and wants to “get into the ring with the major leaguers and top prospects. I want David Tua and Hasim Rahman.”

“Those two guys don’t belong in the heavyweight division anymore,” Johnson added. “They’ll also give me the ultimate test as well. Whether it’s me against Rahman or Tua, we’ll put on a beautiful performance. Imagine of all 20 prospects fought each other, everyone would be turning on TV every weekend.”

Johnson, working along side his promoter Joe DeGuardia of Starr Boxing, had dates for September, October, and November and was turned down by Tua, who knocked out an overmatched Saul Montana in the first round in a pay-per-view walkover that one was really interested in.

“He shouldn’t have gotten more than $1,000 for that fight,” Johnson said. “Boxing killed itself when it started paying too much money fight fights. Look at David Tua, who has he fought?”

Johnson is also unimpressed by Travis Walker: “He’s not that good at all. I’m the best of the young heavyweights. I am the best. I want Travis Walker, David Tua, Hasim Rahman, Sam Peter, and Wladimir Klitschko in that order.”

Although Johnson does a lot of talking, he is very confident in his ability as a fighter. Johnson believes that his hand speed and determination to win is unmatched.

“I have the fastest hands in the division,” Johnson said. “No one has hand speed faster than mine. It’s a natural gift. Hand speed is more mental than physical. Hand speed doesn’t come from exercise. It’s all about what you believe you can do. You’ve got to study and know you. Learning from my mistakes and improving.”