This weekend on the undercard for Francisco Vargas vs. Miguel Berchelt, middleweight contender Tuerano Johnson returns to action vs. Antonio Gutierrez. Johnson is a talented fighter who has gone largely forgotten when major fights are discussed in his division. It is a sad story that is all-too-familiar in boxing.
Johnson, an Olympian from the Bahamas who spent time training with the elite Cuban amateur program, is just a bit too good for his own good. His reputation with the fans is small. But the risk he presents in the ring is anything but.
Johnson is 19-1 with 13 KOs. That loss was highly controversial. In April 2014, he beat the brakes off from Curtis Stevenson for nine rounds before getting stopped inside of the last minute of the fight.
I am not one to criticize stoppages. The warriors in the ring are often as not willing to fight up to death’s doorstep and then across the threshold. That is how they are wired. It is up to the referee and the physicians at ringside to protect them.
But in this case, Johnson looked buzzed but still able to defend himself intelligently. He protested vigorously when the fight was stopped, breaking down in tears of frustration. The fight with Stevenson was his big break, a nationally televised main event against a recent title challenger. He was less than a minute away from making good on it.
Referee Gary Rosato deserves the benefit of the doubt for the stoppage. We should assume he acted in good faith. He has a better angle than fans like me, watching on television, to know if Johnson was truly in trouble. He is in a position of grave responsibility.
But it was impossible not to feel for Johnson. It was obvious what the set back could do to his career. On paper, he had just been knocked out by a guy who was knocked out by Gennady Golovkin. But in the ring, he had just demonstrated that he would be a very tough test for almost anybody.
Since then, Johnson has fought a string of low-profile fights against unknowns. He’s kept his record in tack, but his status has stalled. His fight this weekend with Gutierrez is another stay-busy bout.
Let’s hope Johnson gets the kind of second chance he deserves before the end of 2017.