Klitschko-Johnson: What happened to Kevin?
By Jim Slattengren: To listen to previously unbeaten heavyweight contender Kevin Johnson (22-1-1, 9 KO’s) speak before Saturday night’s fight, you would think that Johnson was going to rip World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko’s head clean off his shoulders. At least you would have thought that Johnson, 30 was going to make a game effort of it by going out on his shield by trying to take Vitali out with some meaningful punches.
Instead, boxing fans had to settle for seeing Johnson immediately retreat to the ropes and do little else by talk to Vitali all night while throwing only jabs and no power punches. The fight reminded me in many ways of Muhammad Ali’s bout with wrestler Antonio Anoki in 1976. Before the fight, Ali had been talking about how he was going to smash Anoki.
However, what boxing fans ended up seeing was Anoki immediately going to the canvas in the 1st round and spending the better part of the fight kicking at Ali’s legs and attempting no punches. Johnson didn’t seem to even try to make a fight of it with Klitschko. He stayed on the ropes, looking to hit Klitschko with counters. But mostly, Johnson just covered up and talked a lot.
Klitschko looked bad because he was rarely able to land cleanly with any of his power shots all night long. He tried, but his lack of hand speed was the issue. Johnson was able to either block Klitschko’s slow incoming fire or else duck them well before they would land. Klitschko didn’t help himself that he was telegraphing many of his punches.
This made it easy for Johnson to block or else get out of the way of the punches. But beyond the defensive side of the fight, which Johnson did quite well at, he fought very poorly offensively. Indeed, I’d have to five Johnson a ‘D -’ for his efforts on the offensive side of the fight. It wasn’t as if Johnson didn’t have his chances.
Klitschko looked wide open all night long for potential opportunities to be countered. The problem was that Johnson looked timid, as if he was afraid to throw right hand for fear of having Vitali land a counter left or right hand immediately after. It might happened, but at least Johnson would have had a chance to win the fight. By jabbing only, Johnson basically gave the fight away to Klitschko without much of a struggle.
Johnson’s corner was after him early in the fight trying to get him to open up more with his offense. However, Johnson looked depressed as early as the 3rd round, as if he knew he was going to lose. His body language was negative between rounds, and he didn’t look happy for an instant.
So where does Johnson go from here? I don’t honestly think that Johnson would do any better against IBF/WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. I see that as another one-sided loss for him. Unless Johnson can fix his offensive liabilities in the near future, I also don’t like his chances against other top heavyweight contenders like Odlanier Solis, Alexander Povetkin or Eddie Chambers. Johnson might have a small chance against WBA heavyweight champion David Haye, only because Haye has limited reach and sometimes fades late in his fights.
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