A few years ago during the Super Six tournament, I wrote that I didn’t want to speak to anyone who couldn’t respect Glen Johnson. Glen Johnson’s boxing story is something you expect to see in a Hollywood script. He’s had amazing highs and devastating lows in his career against a who’s who of big names in boxing. Despite being 45 years old and with a record of 54-18-2 (27 KOs), he still feels that he can compete with the best. Although he announced his retirement two years ago, Johnson continues to fight and hopes to land a coveted rematch with Bernard Hopkins.
Glen was kind enough to take time out of his day to speak with me.
BOXING 4 FREE: Glen Johnson, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. How are you doing today?
Glen Johnson: I’m doing good, man. I’m excellent.
B4F: I was looking at your record and noticed that your last fight was exactly twenty-one years and two days after you made your pro debut. Did you ever think when you started out that you would be fighting this long.
GJ: (chuckles) No, I thought I would retire when I was about thirty-four.
B4F: You said that after losing to Andrezej Fonfara in 2012 that you were going to retire but you’ve had four fights since then. Why are you still fighting?
GJ: Well after the Fonfara fight, I was going through drama in my life. It was an emotional decision at that point but once I cleared my head and I was able to take care of some of the drama I was going through I felt a lot better. I was much more focused and I said ‘I have a lot left’ and decided to give it another shot.
B4F: So it’s not because you need the money, you’re doing it because you feel you can still fight?
GJ: Well, I don’t know anybody who works for free…
B4F: (chuckles) That’s true!
GJ: I mean, Bernard Hopkins, I don’t think he’s hurting for money and he’s older than I am. He’s still around, he’s still fighting.
B4F: Right, right, I want to get to Bernard later. I want to actually talk about a series of fights you had with Antonio Tarver. You have one win and one loss against him but a third fight never happened. Do you know why?
GJ: Sure, I know why it is. People who fought me before know how tough it is and they don’t want to fight me again and they stay away from me. Same thing with Roy Jones after I knocked him out he went and fought Tarver but he never once called my name for a rematch. He called everybody for a rematch but me!
B4F: It’s funny, I was watching that fight before I called you. It’s one of my favorite fights and I’m not just saying that because I’m talking to you. I watch that fight and think that it’s such a great performance with a real chilling knockout at the end.
GJ: Well, I’m a big Roy Jones fan. There were two boxers who during my time really made an impact on me. That was Roy Jones and Mike Tyson. The fact that I had an opportunity against Roy was pretty important to me and the fact that I was able to win was even more important. I would love to get a rematch there if that’s possible but the guy I would really like to set everything up with would be Bernard Hopkins.
B4F: Let’s talk about Bernard Hopkins. You fought him back in back in 1997 and he was the first person to beat you. I found an interview you did back in 2009 where you said he was your toughest opponent. Do you still stand by that?
GJ: Oh sure, definitely! At that point in my career what he showed me that I wasn’t ready. It was a lesson for me. I improved and grew from that and it got me to where I am today.
B4F: I noticed yesterday (May 1st) on Twitter that you were being very vocal, calling for a rematch with Hopkins. Was that something you tried to make happen after he beat Tarver for the Light-Heavyweight championship?
GJ: I’ve been trying to get a rematch for a very long time now. Ever since Roy Jones and I fought, I tried to get that fight. Ever since Tarver and I fought I tried to get that fight and then after the rematch with Tarver and I lost, I wasn’t in the drivers seat no more. And now he [Hopkins] is in the driver’s seat so I’m hoping that he’s man enough to make it happen because when I was in the driver’s seat I was pushing to make it happen. So now he’s in the driver’s so let’s see what he’ll do.
B4F: You also mentioned that you gave Bernard a hard time during a sparring session between the two of you. What can you tell me about that? When did it happen?
GJ: The sparring session, I think it happened before I fought Eric Harding [in 2003]. Bernard was getting ready to fight…somebody, I can’t remember who, and he came to Miami and he wanted me to spar with him and we sparred. And I put it on him when we sparred. And he told me, “Man, you’re going to be world champion!”
And I swear he was the first person to tell me I would a world champion. I always knew I would be a world champion, but no one ever said it to me, except Bernard Hopkins. So after we sparred he recognized the difference from when we fought. So he himself recognized that he’s not on my level.
B4F: What do you think of the crop of light-heavyweights out there? I’m talking about fighters like Adonis Stevenson, Sergey Kovalev and Bernard Hopkins?
GJ: Stevenson, I think he’s raw but he’s very, very strong. I think Kovalev is better, he’s the better fighter than Stevenson. And Bernard Hopkins is the most crafty. Bernard Hopkins is very smart, very crafty. He’s not trying to do anything he can’t do. He’s just going to outmaneuver you.
B4F: Do you have any fights coming up?
GJ: No, I have nothing scheduled right now. I just hope Bernard Hopkins give me a call so we can go out there and do it.
B4F: It would be an interesting rematch to see. Your fight was in 1997 and since then your careers have had interesting highs and lows. People have said that after you lost a certain fight that you were done, then you come back and score an impressive victory. It’s similar to what Bernard Hopkins does.
GJ: Exactly and we’re from the same era, we’re close to the same age and we’re still relevant. He’s more relevant than I am, I recognize that, but nevertheless, we’re both doing our thing at a high level and I don’t see why he shouldn’t give me a rematch.
B4F: Glen, what do you think the secret to your longevity has been? Most fighters don’t fight into their mid-forties and we’re in a time where if a fighter gets two losses, people call for his retirement. You started in the early 1990s and you had a fight this past January. How do you keep going?
GJ: I take care of myself. I treat my body well. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t put anything toxic in my body and I’m careful about the things I eat. When I step into the ring I’m not careless, getting knocked down and all that other stuff. So I think all of that, with me keeping my brain intact is where the longevity comes from.
B4F: Do you have any advice for any up and coming fighters who might be reading this interview?
GJ: Definitely. Listen to your elders and don’t think you know everything because you don’t. You have a lot to learn. I’m fourty-five years old and I’m still learning myself.
B4F: Glen, do you have anything to say before we wrap this up?
GJ: They’re the greatest fans in the world! It’s not easy to be a Glen Johnson fan with so many ups and downs in my career but they’ve been supportive. It’s amazing. I don’t think any other athlete appreciates their fans as I do mine.
B4F: Glen, I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to talk to me. I really appreciate it and hope we get to do it again sometime.
GJ: You’re welcome.