Callum Johnson shocked the boxing community when he accepted to fight Artur Beterbiev – a wildly avoided light heavyweight world champion.
In an exclusive chat with WBN about the fight, Johnson’s trainer Joe Gallagher gave his thoughts on the challenge which awaits the British title holder.
“What a story Callum Johnson is turning out to be in 2018. At the end of 2017, he had to pull out of the Frank Buglioni fight and everyone said that’s him finished now, he can’t deal with the death of his father, it’s a waste of time and everything else,” Gallagher told World Boxing News before explaining how the fight came about.
“He’s come back and he got the win, disposed of Frank Buglioni in dramatic fashion in 90 seconds. The IBF went through the top 10, offered the fight for Beterbiev to Frank Buglioni at the time and offered it to Anthony Yarde, they all turned it down.
“They re-did the rankings, offered Callum Johnson and Callum went ‘yeah I’ll have it.’ Eddie Hearn didn’t believe me.
“I said [to Eddie] he needs to get paid right because he’s putting his life on the line here otherwise I want you to do a Lewis Ritson with Callum Johnson – a couple of quick defences, win the belt outright and move on.
“It’s a world title opportunity and Callum Johnson has done 90 seconds in 18 months so has Beterbiev who hasn’t been that active and has had legal issues, he wants to fight and it’s a great opportunity.
“You’ve got a kid here who dreams of being a world champion. He thought his career was over in December and here he is 9-10 months later British champion going to challenge for a world title.”
For Johnson, a world title opportunity is exactly what he wanted and relished the opportunity. Gallagher spoke about the fight – specifically:
“That’s how much a world title still means for a lot of people out there and he’s got to go out there and give it his best shot. Callum is very familiar with him, he knows him from the amateur circuit, he knows of him.
“It’s a big punch up but it’s also suspect as well. I think he can be hit on the chin and he can be knocked out, I’m sure if he hits Callum Johnson on the chin, he can be knocked out, that’s what makes it an exciting fight.”
Callum Johnson has been held in high regard for accepting the challenge when others wouldn’t.
“Hats off to Callum Johnson, no ifs or buts just make sure we get it right,” said Gallagher.
“Fair play to Eddie Hearn he delivered a good deal for Callum Johnson obviously being his mandatory challenger and where all the others knocked it back, Callum Johnson stepped up to the plate.
“Callum Johnson fights and becomes a world champion, I mean wow he’ll be a wanted man. If he doesn’t Eddie Hearn has assured that he’s going to come back and look after Callum,” he added.
Chandler Waller is a staff writer for World Boxing News. Follow Chandler on Twitter @ChandlerWaller