By Sam Geraci: On July 13, 2012, Glen “The Road Warrior” Johnson announced his retirement after rising prospect Andrzej Fonfara convincingly outpointed him in Chicago in front of an overwhelmingly pro-Fonfara crowd.
If the fight was Johnson’s last, and there hasn’t been any indication in the past week to suggest otherwise, what a typical Johnson-like fight to go out on: on the road against a young, tall, and hungry prospect in a fight most big names who are due for one more big payday, especially Johnson, shouldn’t have taken..
Johnson, however, unlike most of today’s big-named fighters who have made their mark by expending more effort and taking more risks in their ring entrances, clothing lines, and prefight TV specials than they have in the sport, has sought out and taken the fights that he believed would be competitive, fan-friendly, and memorable. In fact, on the eve of the Fonfara fight, Johnson told me, “The best guys need to compete against a certain level of fighter…I hate to see the one-sided fight…I don’t like to watch a fight and feel sorry for one guy. I want it to be competitive.”
Throughout Johnson’s career, especially in the last fifteen years, he has been more than competitive against the top fighters from 160lbs to 175lbs and no one has ever felt sorry for him. In an era in which most of the talented fighters and biggest names carved out their legacies by fighting overmatched opponents in grossly overhyped pay-per-view events with stipulations on everything from judges, referees, catch weights and glove sizes to locations, venues, and ring sizes, Johnson built a reputation as a true fight fan’s fighter willing to fight anyone, anywhere, under any conditions—a fighter who amassed a throwback record of 51-17-2 with 35 KOs over a nineteen year professional career that included fights in eight countries, fourteen U.S. states, and dozens of opponents’ hometowns.
So, is Johnson a hall of famer? If the criteria being used to determine his worthiness is predicated on his status as an all-time great, then Johnson, a two-time champion with wins over some of the best fighters of his era and close fights with some of the rest, is no worse than borderline. If the criteria being used, as expressed by the IBHOF, is to chronicle boxing’s rich heritage, then I can think of no greater ambassador to that heritage and history from this era than Glen Johnson.
Johnson is, perhaps and unfortunately, one of the last of a breed of fighters who accounted for themselves to anyone in and out of the ring with honesty and complete integrity. After his knockout of Roy Jones Jr. on the biggest of stages, Johnson said it best: “I am not the best fighter in the world. I am just the guy willing to fight the best.”
Earlier this week when speaking with a couple of advisers, writers, and managers, most of us agreed that you can’t blame a fighter for cherry-picking opponents to build a reputation in order to feed himself and his family. At the same time, fight fans, writers, and the IBHOF ought not to penalize a fighter for not cherry-picking opponents en route to building a reputation to feed himself, family, and the legacy of the sport.
Glen Johnson might not be the one of the G.O.A.T.s, but it is because he fought everyone that we are capable of making that argument. Aside from of few of his contemporaries who are certain IBHOF inductees, the same cannot be said of the majority his contemporaries who are promoted as being “great.” For these and many other reasons, there won’t be another “Gentleman” Glen “The Road Warrior” Johnson and he ought to be remembered for fight fans in Canastota, NY.