The Comeback Trail Continues For Stevie Johnston This Sunday

02.12.05 - By John Way: Denver native Stevie "Little but Bad" Johnston is set to make his second comeback fight since suffering a devastating eleventh round knockout defeat at the hands of Juan Lazcano. Following a series of stints in prison for failure to pay child support, the former pound for pound entrant finally seems to have his life under control, with his last fight happening less than three months ago, in which he scored a flawless eight round decision over James Crayton.. Reportedly, Johnston displayed flashes of the speed, skill, and savvy that helped make him a top fighter for so many years, and could make him very demanding gatekeeper for the lightweight, or junior welterweight division.

Johnston first rocketed into prominence with an impressive ninth round TKO victory over recent Floyd Mayweather victim, Sharmba Mitchell, who had previously been beaten only once in thirty-two fights. Considered a prodigy on the level of Jimi Hendrix, "Lil but Bad" had only eleven contests under his belt at the time, and continued to amass an impressive record against some of the toughest opposition available, including men like Corey Johnson, who he knocked out in eight rounds. While Western states like Colorado are largely reputed to be a spawning ground for the modern tomato can, Johnstonís managers were brave far beyond the call of duty to match their young charge so competitively.

Shortly following an impressive win against once beaten Howard Grant, Stevie was given a title shot against hard working Frenchman, Jean Baptiste Mendy for the WBC lightweight trinket. After taking the belt back to America by way of a heated split decision, Johnston rattled off three title defenses against the cream of the lightweight crop before losing to his hard nosed arch-rival, Cesar Bazan; whoís also making something of a comeback nowadays. Sporting a red-hot record of 31-2, Bazan won the title by the narrowest of verdicts, setting the stage for a rematch.

After an interim victory, and the one of the toughest training camps of his life, Johnston got off on the right foot in the early rounds of the rematch, and stood his ground down the stretch to win back the crown, again by a split verdict. This time, Stevie managed to hold on to the title for four defenses, including a virtual clean sweep versus another Floyd Mayweather victim, Angel Manfredy before losing the crown again. This time Johnston dropped a majority decision to an unlikely candidate, Jose Luis Castillo in a fight that would later be named the Upset of 2000 by the Ring Magazine, again setting the stage for a rematch.

At the time, Castillo was more known for his susceptibility to facial injuries than for the rock chinned infighting tactics that have made him a marquee attraction and household name synonymous with toughness. Considered to be crude, slow, and utterly lacking in defensive abilities, "El Temible" was a big underdog going into his rematch with Johnston, despite scoring a convincing win in the first fight. This time though, Johnston did much better, even if the result (a majority draw) didnít reflect his vast improvement. Standing and trading with his hard hitting opponent for the full twelve rounds, both men put on a show for the ages that left ESPN viewers begging for more. However, the contentious draw with Castillo proved to be Johnstonís last great performance to date, having lost a furious battle with Lazcano in his last major fight. Claiming to be under trained and severely weight drained from a lengthy stay in prison, Johnston showed flashes of brilliance early on, even decking his larger opponent hard in the second.

However, as the fight went into the later rounds, Lazcano repeatedly found success by pinning Johnston against the ropes, utilizing a ferocious body attack until the eleventh round, when the fight was mercifully stopped. Finally, with the longest stretch of inactivity in his career broken, Johnston is set to take the second step back to championship glory with a low profile bout against nondescript journeyman, Vladimir Khodokovski, whose 12-8-2 ledger is somewhat deceptive, considering that heís never been stopped or dropped. In his last fight, Khodokovski traded leather all night long with wicked-hitting prospect, Kendall Holt, dropping the decision while putting in a Spartan effort. Previously, Vladimir had taken rounds away from highly regarded prospect, Yuriy Nuzhnenko. With the biggest fight of his life looming near, it has yet to be seen if
Khodokovski can step his game up to the next level, and make Johnston work for his money.

All told, Johnston is certainly doing the right thing by fighting frequently, though his quality of opposition is somewhat lacking. After this second tune up, look for "Lil but bad" to make a big statement by facing a sterner test early in 2006, against someone like Nate Campbell, Julian Lorcy, or perhaps even a rubber match with Bazan to settle the score once and for all. Comments or questions are welcome below.

Article posted on 02.12.2005

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