Saturday in Potsdam, Germany, Kevin Johnson battles Michael Grant. This fight is not very relevant to the top of the heavyweight division. But is a curiosity for sure, and one I can not pass up commenting upon.
Johnson and Grant are both former heavyweight contenders who have long since passed into the status of “guys who make a living losing to contenders.” Johnson turned professional in 2003. In his fourth fight he battled to a draw with Timur Ibraginov. At the time, Ibraginov was 13-0 as a professional and a former Olympian. Johnson was very much being fed to him. The fact that he fought him on even terms for four rounds showed that he was a fighter worth following.
Johnson went 22-0-1 in his first 23 fights and faced the great Vitali Klitschko in December 2009. He lost every round of the fight, but simply going the distance against Dr. Iron Hammer was a remarkable achievement. He has built his career around it.
Since losing to Klitschko, Johnson has made a career out of losing to contenders who want a recognizable name on their resume. Virtually every notable English contender of the past decade had defeated him–Tyson Fury, Derek Chisora and Anthony Joshua. He’s lost to Tor Hammer, Cristian Hamme, Manuel Charr and Kubrat Pulev, too. Just two weeks ago he was knocked out by Croatian Petar Milas, a 22-year-old who improved to 11-0 with nine KOs on the strength of that win. Now 38, Johnson sports a record of 32-9-1 with 16 KOs.
Grant turned professional way back in 1994. In 1999 he won back-to-back fights against Andrew Golota and Lou Savarese, to run his record to 31-0. In 2000 he was knocked out in Round 2 by Lennox Lewis.
Grant is 45, but I view him as the more lively fighter in this matchup. He’s 48-7 with 36 KOs. He’s been stopped in each of his last three fights, against Carlos Takam, Manuel Charr and a Polish guy named Krzysztof Zimnoch. His last win was a come-from-behind stoppage of fellow old man Franz Botha in 2011.
It’s uncommon to see a couple of stepping stones like Johnson and Grant face off. It’s an indication that the heavyweight division is indeed lively–both men still view it as worth the risk to add a recognizable name to their ledger.