Veterans Clash at the Crossroads: Johnson vs. Gonzalez

by Andre Courtemanche: The pleasure of watching a young, up-and-coming contender stems from the thrill of the unknown. Does he have what it takes? Is his next test going to be too much, too soon? Are we witnessing future greatness? Watching a young lion scratch his way up the fistic food chain is an intriguing and often-compelling aspect of professional boxing..

But when two proven warriors duke it out at the crossroads to determine which one still belongs at the top, you know it's going to be good.

On February 29, former WBA Middleweight and IBF Light Heavyweight Champion Reggie "Sweet" Johnson (43-7-1, 25 KOs) will face former WBO Light Heavyweight Champion Julio Cesar Gonzalez (41-4, 25 KOs) at the Civic Center in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in a fight that, for the winner, will mean a quick return to the 175-lb title picture.

Defeating Gonzalez will be a huge undertaking for the smooth-boxing Johnson, who was last seen stopping Fred Moore almost three years ago. But "Sweet" Reggie has been in a situation similar to this before, coming out of semi-retirement to pull off a major upset.

In 1998, Reggie Johnson had spent the previous three years mostly inactive when he was matched against IBF Light Heavyweight Champion William Guthrie, an undefeated knockout artist. Johnson scored an amazingly brutal fifth-round knockout to take his second world championship. Defeating Gonzalez would be a quick way for Johnson to return to title contention once again.

Nine years a professional, Julio Gonzalez has spent the past four winning eliminators and tune-ups on American soil, and then losing title shots in Europe. He was last seen losing his second unanimous decision to IBF Light Heavyweight Champion Clinton Woods. A throwback-style slugger who wears down all but the strongest of wills, Gonzalez will be looking to use Johnson as the ramp to yet another world title shot.

Johnson will hope to out-slick the more mechanical Gonzalez. The question will be if his 41-year-old legs can still carry him out of harm's way for 12 tough rounds. Gonzalez will probably march forward and try to wear Johnson down before moving in for the kill. The question in his case will be if his head-first style has begun to catch up with him after 45 grueling contests.

Both men have shown the ability to end a fight with one well-placed volley of punches.

For the winner of Johnson vs. Gonzalez, there will be future glories, additional title shots and more time spent as a top light heavyweight. The loser will take a serious wrong turn at the crossroads and have a long way to come back.

The aging boxer hoping to turn back time for one more run at glory; the relentless slugger looking to prove his continued worth after a heartbreaking defeat. When two hard-nosed world-class veterans hook up, the thrill is in the known. Styles make fights and desperate times call for desperate measures.

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Article posted on 08.02.2008

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