“If I got a good enough offer from Eddie [Hearn] and he wanted to pay me the money I deserve for that fight. I’d fight Buatsi in December on the Anthony Joshua card.”
Callum Johnson is willing to put aside one or two rust shredding fights to fight Joshua Buatsi later this year. If a deal could be agreed, it would be Johnson’s first fight since blasting away Sean Monaghan in March 2019.
Johnson, Joshua Buatsi and Anthony Yarde were a hot topic of light-heavyweight conversation before, during and most certainly after Buatsi’s fight against Marko Calic last Sunday. A bout that proved to be the most uncomfortable of Buatsi’s career but one that he came through with the ruthless finishing we’ve come to expect, stopping the Croat in seven rounds.
Johnson (18-1, 13 KOs) didn’t watch the fight but not long after Buatsi had his hand raised the 35-year-old’s Twitter lit up with Johnson having to do nothing but sit back and observe the opinions that came pouring in.
“I think my Twitter was busier than it’s ever been, and I’d not even fought,” said the heavy-handed Johnson who chatted to Boxing Social shortly afterwards.
“I suppose it’s all good publicity for everyone involved really. Everyone is firing opinions out on Twitter, but they all mean nothing at the end of the day until we get in the ring and have a fight. I’ve seen in the past people favouring Buatsi but after last night [Sunday] everyone seems to be favouring me now. It’s a funny old game boxing. People soon forget about you. One relatively mediocre performance and they can’t help but be negative, can they?”
The words of an experienced fighter who has watched his career stall, be hindered by injury and plagued by periods of inactivity. “It is what it is” and “What will be, will be” were a couple of popular phrases that Johnson mentioned during the interview. He may only have had 19 fights in 10 years, but he has been around a bumpy block enough times to know what to expect from those who watch boxing and from those who run it.
After Buatsi’s display in Milton Keynes against Calic, a fight between Johnson and Buatsi is now one that the fans are itching to see. Neither man is opposed to facing one another and Buatsi’s current vulnerabilities may have just brought the fight closer to being made.
“I don’t think it’s going to be too long before me and Buatsi fight,” Johnson said. “Eddie’s mentioned it a few times about making it. We’re both with the same promoter. I have no problems in taking the fight. He says he’s got no problem in taking the fight. I can’t see why the fight won’t happen. As I’ve said, I’d like one or two fights first because I have been very inactive not just over the last year but over the last five or six years. I believe personally I’d be at my best anyway if [Buatsi] was the first fight back because I don’t really struggle with inactivity anyway, I’m so used to it. I’d just want it to be on an even playing field because I feel Buatsi is very much favoured and I feel like they’ll try and do him as many favours as they can and not give me the same favours.”
Johnson made it clear he will not entertain any derisory financial offer to face Buatsi who Matchroom have touted heavily for great things since he made his professional debut over three years ago, still dining out on his Olympic Games exploits in Rio the year before.
“If Eddie wants to make me and Buatsi in December I’m open to that as long as it’s not a stupid offer which he knows I won’t take anyway,” Johnson remarked.
Johnson didn’t watch Buatsi v Calic. The Boston light-heavy doesn’t tend to watch many fights unless it features any of his Joe Gallagher gym mates or the marquee events that cross over into the mainstream. Ten minutes here or there of an opponent is enough for Johnson, he leaves the rest up to Gallagher.
“I think if you watch too much of your opponent you can do your own head in because you can underestimate them or overestimate them,” he said.
However, he has seen enough of Buatsi and heard enough of Sunday’s performance to feel even more confident that one facet of his own abilities would be a telling factor if the pair ever meet.
“He’s very easily hit. He takes shots in every fight I’ve heard about him and the clips I’ve seen, he always takes a couple here and there,” said Johnson. “I believe if he takes two or three off me, he’s not going to stand up to them and that’s not just him, that’s anybody really. I do believe me at my best does a job on him.”
In the here and now, Johnson is waiting on a date that he is confident will come his way so he can fight before Christmas. Whether it’s Buatsi or a 10-rounder to shake off the cobwebs, the 2010 Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist wants to put another period of inactivity to bed and get back to knocking people out again.
Johnson would be the first to admit that 19 fights in 10 years is not the return he would have wanted by now. Some of the reasons why have already been covered and there was a time when the frustrations of being in the wilderness would have taken their toll on him. Nowadays though he has built up enough resistance that he is immune to the negative side of it and prefers to roll with the punches that not fighting bring.
“From my days in the amateur career I was always fighting, I was always active and enjoyed it,” he recalled. “When I turned professional, I had this idea that everything was going to go smoothly, a bit like the amateurs really. I did struggle with it because all of a sudden my career was in other people’s hands and I couldn’t do anything about it so it does frustrate you but I’ve got to the stage now where I think it is what it is, what will be will be. A couple of times it’s been my fault through injury and, when I lost my Dad, I went through a rough patch. I struggled to get out of bed let alone train for a fight. Apart from those couple of times it’s not really been down to me. It’s just not a nice game is it when it’s all said and done.”
The former British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion, who a couple of years ago almost took the IBF world title from divisional boss Artur Beterbiev, sounds like a content man nowadays. Time has been spent getting stronger and fitter and, if the images on his Instagram are anything to go by, he may be in the best condition he has ever been in. Someone soon is going to feel the frustrations of a man being out of the ring for over 18 months. As fans, we hope that Joshua Buatsi, or Anthony Yarde, is in the other corner ready to fight fire with fire.
Main image: Johnson drops Artur Beterbiev in an IBF title bid in October 2018. Photo: Matchroom Boxing.