WASHINGTON, DC - The DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) is often synonymous with youth athletics, Pop Warner, summer pools, picnics in the park and great weekend events. However what many may not know, is that some of DC’s best and brightest boxers have trained in DPR sponsored boxing programs; a few nationally ranked fighters, such as Lamont Peterson, Seth Mitchell and Tiara Brown, currently work out/train from time to time in DPR boxing facilities and gyms; and that Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, the first African-American to capture a World Flyweight title and the newest member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, is a Roving Leader, working at the DC Department of Parks and Recreation – where he shares his wisdom, his talents and his time with the inner city youth of Washington, DC. On June 10th, 2012 – Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY. Johnson is the first boxer from the District of Columbia, and the youngest boxer ever, to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Along with Johnson – the 2012 Boxing Hall of Fame inductees included fellow boxer Thomas “Tommy The Hitman” Hearns, trainer Freddie Roach, ring announcer Michael Buffer, writer Michael Katz, and Showtime boxing analyst Al Bernstein. Johnson’s induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame is an amazing honor for a Washington DC native and DPR employee who often times was shunned by his competitors because, simply put – he was a force to be reckoned with in the ring. Roving Leader Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson has worked at DPR for the past 8 years and he has influenced hundreds of kids over the years with his work at DPR and on his own, in the community. When asked what advice Johnson had to share with kids, he said, “Never stop dreaming, always obey your mother and father, as well as your elders. Never be a follower, be a leader, stay off the corners, and go to the recreation centers. Get in one of the great DPR programs.”
A skilled and notoriously fast southpaw, Johnson was often a boxer that competitors attempted to avoid at all cost. It was commonly known in boxing circles that fighters did not want to step into the ring with Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson. It was almost an automatic “L” for any competitor, and a “Win” for Johnson. During his career Johnson held an impressive 44 Wins (with 28 Knockouts); 5 Defeats (with 3 Knockouts); 0 Draws and 1 No Contest. In 1989 he was the United States Amateur Light Flyweight champion, and during his professional career, he fought in the flyweight, super flyweight, and bantamweight divisions. Johnson won titles in the flyweight division (IBF Flyweight Champion – 1996 to 1999); super flyweight (IBF Super Flyweight Champion – 1999 to 2000 and WBO Super Flyweight Champion – 2003 to 2004); and junior bantamweight (IBF). At the height of his career – from 1990 to 2006 – Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson was not only the first African-American boxer to capture a World Flyweight title, but he was one of the top pound-for-pound fighters of his time.
Too sharp for comfort
“I was the most feared fighter from my weight class to probably two or three weight classes above me, but I could never get the endorsement and sponsorship deals or the fights that I truly wanted,” said Johnson.
“Yet I was persistent. I was determined to pave the way. I put Washington, DC on my back, because after Sugar Ray Leonard, boxing was dead in the DC area. Then you have a guy like me, as a flyweight, I was No. 3, pound-for-pound, in the world. After Roy Jones, there was Shane Mosley and then me.” Despite being one of the sport’s all-time under-exposed, under-appreciated and underpaid fighters, Johnson earned three title belts over the course of two divisions, and retired as the first African American to win a 112-pound title belt.