CALLUM JOHNSON is coming out of retirement and will restart his career at cruiserweight.
Last November the former British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion bid farewell to the sport after 12 years as a professional. Via his social media channels Johnson made the emotional announcement after a career blighted by injury and inactivity.
“I don’t think retiring is the right word, so I’ll say quitting,” he said nine months ago. “But the boxing days are over, not by choice really or on my own terms, but more by lack of self-discipline and struggling to battle and deal with my own mental struggles & demons. I tried and I tried again but kept failing.
“I’ve let a lot of people down, especially this year and I’m truly sorry and I never meant for it to end this way and honestly never saw it ending this way.”
Followers of his Instagram account since then will have noticed from his posts that they show a man transformed into a power-lifting machine. His struggles at making the 175lbs limit are long gone. Nowadays he resembles a weightlifter but if the 35-year-old still possesses the devastating punching power he had at light-heavy then he could be an interesting addition to a busy cruiserweight scene.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist spoke to Sky Sports about his comeback and explained why he’s lacing up the gloves once again.
“I’ve got bored of this retirement and I’m gonna come back and have a go at cruiserweight. One last roll of the dice.”
Johnson admitted that even just one fight would give him inner peace knowing that he gave his career one final shot. And the move to cruiserweight is one he certainly embraces after his struggles at light-heavyweight.
“I was thinking about it a couple of years ago because I’ve been struggling to make the weight for a long time, but I thought it was just too big of a gap,” Johnson said.
“So, I stayed down at the weight all the time thinking my opportunities are there at light-heavyweight. It got to the point where I couldn’t do it anymore and it was killing me. So, I’ve been away, I’ve been training, and I found myself [at] 15 stone very, very quickly. I was getting stronger, and I was thinking I think I can do it. I thought I can’t live the rest of my life never having a go. If I have one fight back and that’s all I have I’ll be able to live the rest of my life at peace. I believe I’ve got two or three or four good fights left in me.”
In his 21 fights Johnson stopped 14 inside the distance and lost just once to Artur Beterbiev five years ago. Their fight in Canada exhibited proof of the Brit’s power when he dropped the fearsome Russian early on. And while it only lasted four rounds it was evident that Johnson could compete on the world scene.
Overwhelming Sean Monaghan in his first fight back kept up the momentum created from wiping out Frank Buglioni for the British title prior to facing Beterbiev. However, Johnson would spend just over two years on the side-lines before re-joining Frank Warren who promoted his next two fights against Emil Markic and Server Emurlaev, respectively. Thirteen months after beating Emurlaev the retirement of Johnson was announced.
Coming back and into the cruiserweight division is no easy task. Chris Billam-Smith, Lawrence Okolie and Richard Riakporhe lead the British scene with Smith the current holder of the WBO title. Up and comers Jordan Thompson, Cheavon Clarke and Viddal Riley are all in the running to lead the next generation of UK cruisers.
“You look at what’s happening in the domestic scene it’s gone like the light heavyweight has or used to be or still is really, but the cruiserweights are up there as well,” Johnson said.
“I just wanna get back in there and fight again whoever it might be against. I’m not bothered who it is. Listen, I’m not stupid I can’t just come back and say I want to fight him, and I want to fight him. It’s not gonna work like that and I might never ever get the opportunity. I’ve gotta be in it to win it and I wanna get back and see what happens.”