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Callum Johnson believes his power is similar to Artur Beterbiev’s

Artur Beterbiev

By Tim Royner: Unbeaten fringe contender Callum Johnson (17-0, 12 KOs) believes he hits every bit as hard as IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KOs) and he intends on proving it on October 6 when he challenges the two-time Russian Olympian at a still to be determined venue. The 32-year-old Johnson is getting the fight against Beterbiev because the higher rated contenders opted not to take the fight with him due to the danger that he brings.

The International Boxing Federation had to go all the way down their rankings until they got to the #8 spot that Johnson occupies before they could get someone that would finally agree to take the fight. You’ve got to give Johnson a massive amount of respect in agreeing to fight Beterbiev in the first place.

At this point, it would be a moral victory on Callum Johnson’s part if he merely makes it the full 12 rounds against Beterbiev, because no one has done that as of yet. Johnson would receive a ton of credit from boxing fans if he went the distance with him. Winning is going to be extremely difficult for Johnson to do because he doesn’t possess the pedigree to do that. Johnson’s promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing has kept him in the slow lane in matching him against lower level opposition. It’s not good that Johnson was never given a step up fight before being signed to face Beterbiev. This is obviously not a good thing for Johnson.

In terms of punching power, Beterbiev might not be stronger than Johnson. However, Beterbiev is a much better inside fighter than Johnson, and he has a better jab. Beterbiev also has a better ring IQ. He doesn’t bum rush his opponents the way that Johnson always does. Beterbiev uses is brain when he fights, which is why he’s so effective. Sluggers are a dime a dozen in boxing. There are many fighters who can punch but aren’t top fighters because they don’t know when to turn it off, and they lack the boxing skills to compete at the top. In looking at Johnson’s fights, he fits in that category. The power is there, but he lacks the IQ and the boxing skills.

“He’s a big puncher, but I honestly believe that he doesn’t punch any harder than I do,” Johnson said to about the 33-year-old Beterbiev. “I don’t believe he’s any stronger than I am, but we’ll find out on the night. I believe, on my day, that if I detonate on someone’s chin they can’t take it because I don’t think it’s possible to take it. And that goes vice-versa; if he detonates on my chin, I’ll probably not be able to take it. This will be an exciting fight,” Johnson said.

Beterbiev can certainly punch, but there are other guys that can hit with equal power in the division like Adonis Stevenson, Sergey Kovalev, Dmitry Bivol, Callum Johnson, Marcus Browne and Oleksandr Gvozdyk. The boxing ability and the punch resistance is what give Beterbiev the advantage over a lot of those fighters. I don’t know if Beterbiev can beat all of those fighters, but I do think he can beat some of them. What hurts Beterbiev’s chances of being the best fighter in the 175 lb. division is the inactivity he’s had in the last two years. Beterbiev was out of the ring for a year from 2016 to 2017 with a shoulder problem, and now he’s about to lose another year due to promotional problems. The inactivity might be a problem for Beterbiev when he gets inside the ring with Johnson in October.

”Whether it lasts one round or 12 rounds, I think it’s a great clash of styles,” Johnson said. ”Obviously, I come to fight and I look to take guys out and so does he.”

Johnson has had his own issues with inactivity during his short career. He didn’t fight in 2017, and many of his fights have ended quickly with him knocking out his opponents. Due to his many early knockouts and his inactivity, Johnson’s stamina is a question mark. If Beterbiev is able to take Johnson into the later rounds of the fight on October 6, he could find out that he doesn’t have the stamina needed to win at this level.

Johnson can win at the domestic level with the way he rushes his domestic level opponents early on, but that approach isn’t going to work against the likes of Beterbiev, Stevenson, Kovalev, Bivol, Badou Jack, Browne and Gvozdyk. I don’t think it would even work against an old pro like 39-year-old Juergen Braehmer. Johnson has to come up with a different strategy for him to beat Beterbiev because the Russian fighter has too much experience and too many facets to his game that he can rely on to win.

Beterbiev doesn’t just overpower his opponents the way that Johnson does. Johnson has become sloppy and developed bad habits with the way he goes after his opponents early on for fast knockouts. It’s good that Johnson has been able to KO so many guys early in his fights, but it’s caused him to develop a lot of bad habits that won’t suit him against the upper tier fighters like Beterbiev.

The Beterbiev vs. Johnson is expected to take place in either Chicago or New York. It doesn’t matter where the fight is staged. It’s not likely to be decided by the judges. Either Johnson gets to Beterbiev or else he’s going to get knocked out.

Johnson holds the British and Commonwealth light heavyweight titles after beating Willbeforce Shihepo and Frank Buglioni in his last two fights. Those are decent wins over 2nd tier fighters, but neither of them are world class.

If Johnson has his mind right, he’ll try and box Beterbiev the way that Enrico Koelling did last December. Koelling was able to make it into the 12th round before Beterbiev finally knocked him out. Had Koelling tried to slug with Beterbiev early, he would have likely been knocked out. Koelling fought the best possible fight to get into the later rounds before Beterbiev finally stopped him.

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