FOR the best part of eight years Callum Johnson has been in desperate need of worthwhile opponents, some momentum and a bit of good fortune.
Now, a few weeks on from a stunning first round knockout of Frank Buglioni, the new British light-heavyweight champion is overwhelmed with opportunity and forward motion, and is left pondering whether to claim his current belt outright or aim for bigger titles instead.
“It’s not something I’ve really thought too much about but it’s definitely something I’d like to do,” says the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist. “Who wouldn’t? Everyone wants a Lonsdale belt for keeps.
“But if any opportunities come up that are bigger or better, I’d be happy to move on. I’m 32 now, so I’m not the youngest. I haven’t got bags and bags of time. But if I can make three quick defences, who knows? We’ll see what Eddie (Hearn, promoter) and Joe (Gallagher, coach) come up with and take it from there.”
Johnson, 17-0 (12), is less enthralled about the idea of giving Buglioni an immediate rematch. It was mentioned in the aftermath of their March 24 fight, when a shell-shocked former champion understandably wanted the chance to right a perceived wrong, but Johnson believes Buglioni must earn his shot at his old crown, given the manner in which it was surrendered.
“Yeah, it could happen in the future,” he says, “if he gets back to winning ways and earns his rematch. But I don’t think he warrants a rematch right now because of the way the fight went. It wasn’t like it was a close points win or controversial. It was just a sort of one-round destruction, if you like. I’m not sure the boxing public would want to see a rematch at this point.
“I’d prefer to see Frank fight Hosea Burton in a rematch. I think Hosea deserved a rematch from the start because of the way that fight (in December 2016) went but Frank never wanted to give him it. I’d like to see those two fight.”
A more enticing opponent for Johnson, meanwhile, could emerge in the form of Anthony Yarde, the 15-0 (14) Londoner who has long been gunning for the British light-heavyweight throne. Like Johnson, the 26-year-old hits hard with both hands, is big for the weight, and has yet to suffer a setback in a three-year professional career.
“I’ve not see loads of him but I’ve obviously heard lots about him,” says Johnson. “He’s done well so far and looks the business. He can really punch.
“There are a lot of people saying me and Anthony Yarde should fight and that’s another big fight that can happen down the line. Whether it will happen next or not, I’m not sure. But I’m sure two or three fights down the line we will make for a big fight. We’re both British – everyone likes a big British clash – and we can both punch. He’s highly-ranked with the WBO and I think I’m going to be world-ranked by a few organisations now as well. So we’re both moving in the right direction.
“I’d like to think I’ll be European champion this time next year and knocking on the door for big fights on the world scene. If a big opportunity came up for me now, I’d jump at the chance. I am 32, I’m very strong, very powerful, so whatever comes, I’ll be ready for it. But, ideally, I could do with two or three more fights before I start looking at the world scene.”
Callum Johnson is no longer playing catch up, nor making up for lost time. He has arrived.
*** The full Callum Johnson interview, in which he explains how much his British title win meant to him and his late father Paul, can be read in this week’s Boxing News (digital: April 10, print: April 12) ***