Exclusive: Gallagher informs Hearn that Johnson would face Hopkins, eyes Cleverly in 2017

Phil Jay 12/10/2016

📷 Lawrence Lustig

Joe Gallagher has informed WBN he’s ready for new Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion Callum Johnson to be fully let off the leash.

Johnson, 31, defeated tough Namibian Willbeforce Shihepo in the ninth round at Manchester Arena last month to make it 11 stoppages from 16 wins and claim a first ever career pro title.

Three wins in four months following a period of inactivity have given Johnson a welcome boost and Gallagher is adamant the Boston man is on the cusp of breaking into world-class and facing the top 175 pounders.

“We want to move Callum Johnson pretty quick now,” Gallagher exclusively told World Boxing News.

“I was a great performance by Callum and I don’t think people realise what a good fighter Shihepo is. He’s a spoiler and everything else, but he gave Arthur Abraham kittens when they fought for the world title and Callum is the first person to knock him out.

“It was a great win for Callum and now we’re ready to move him on and move him quick.”

Asked what avenues Johnson may take following his breakthrough championship win, Gallagher believes the sky is the limit and even hopes to land the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Nathan Cleverly in 2017.

“It’s a shame that we couldn’t get the European title for Callum which Amar and Stieglitz are going to fight for but I wouldn’t mind putting him in with the winner of that one,” he explained.

“We’ve also got Cleverly fighting Braehmer again but who’s to say we can’t have Cleverly v Johnson in the spring or summer of next year? – That’s the kind of fight we are looking for with Callum.

“You’ve obviously got Bernard Hopkins looking for one more fight and I’ve said to Eddie Hearn, ‘if he’s looking for an up and coming kid to fight we’ll have that’ – it’s a fight I’d put Callum Johnson in for. It would be a great opportunity for Callum and potentially a great scalp.

“That’s the type of thing we want and Callum is not that far away. I’m ready to let him go as I know what’s he’s capable of. He’s only one or two fights from being in with the big boys.

“Hopkins might just look at Callum Johnson and think he ticks all the boxes. But until those kind of fights get made for him, Callum can look at a defence of his Commonwealth belt against the likes of Tom Baker or someone like that.

“A fight early next year and then Cleverly possibly in the summer. I think that would be a good fight, plus you’ve also got Hosea Burton in that division fighting Frank Buglioni so the British title scene is buzzing,” added Gallagher.