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Boxing: Boxing: Johnson itching for shot at Lewis after watching champ struggle vs. Klitschko

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posted on Jun, 27 2003 @ 12:31 PM
Canadian Press - June 26, 2003

(CP) - Kirk Johnson watched in frustration as heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis struggled to beat Vitali Klitschko in Los Angeles last weekend.

The North Preston, N.S., fighter was supposed to be in the ring with Lewis at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles on Saturday night, but was forced to pull out with a chest muscle injury and was replaced by Klitschko. Now Johnson, 31, wants to fight the 37-year-old Lewis more than ever.

"I was going to say eight rounds, but I could have knocked him out in four or five," Johnson said on a conference call on Thursday. "If we fight, I'll knock him out."

A sluggish Lewis certainly looked vulnerable in his first bout in a year. He was trailing 58-56 on all three judges' cards when the ring doctor stopped the bout after six rounds because of a series of deep cuts around Klitschko's left eye.

It was to have been Johnson's shot at stardom and his chance to redeem himself for losing a WBA title fight against John Ruiz last July on a disqualification for repeated low blows.

But two weeks before the fight, Johnson pulled a pectoral muscle while training. He will be out of action until late September.

When he returns, he wants Lewis, or at least a fight against a top heavyweight like David Tua or Hasim Rachman.

Another big-name heavyweight, Evander Holyfield, is already committed to a fight with cruiserweight champ James Toney on Oct. 4.

Dino Duva, Johnson's promoter, is pushing for a Johnson-Lewis showdown in Canada, which he said would be "the biggest single sports event in Canadian history."

Lewis was born in England, moved to Canada at 12 and won gold for Canada at the 1988 Olympics, but returned to Britain when he turned pro. The Canadian-born Johnson was on Canada's team at the 1992 Olympics.

An obstacle is money. The Staples Centre originally put up $8 million US to be the host venue, which may be too rich for Canadian arenas. The site fee was slashed when Mike Tyson pulled out of his fight on the undercard.

Duva said staging the fight in Canada at a major venue like SkyDome in Toronto or the Bell Centre in Montreal was "very doable.

"Lewis versus Kirk should be in Canada, even if it means a little less money for both of them," said Duva. "Lennox has enough money.

"For the historic factor, what it would mean to Canada, Lennox should be willing to fight Kirk in Canada."

Plans are already afoot for a Lewis-Klitschko rematch, so Johnson may have to find another opponent first.

One title holder looking for an opponent is Chris Byrd, the undersized but dangerous counter-puncher who holds the IBF belt.

"I'm ready to fight anybody," said Johnson. "The only thing that puts me off fighting Byrd is (promoter) Don King.

"Look what happened in the WBA fight (against Ruiz). I got robbed. But I know that I can beat anybody. I'll fight any of the top guys, but the main guy I want, who's been shooting his mouth off, is Lewis."

Johnson was upset at what he said were suggestions from Lewis that he wasn't really injured and had ducked the fight.

"I said Lennox was great and then he talked bad about me," said Johnson. "I should have called him a big fake."

Meanwhile, other Canadian fighters are gearing up for significant bouts.

It will be retro night at Canwest Global Stadium in Winnipeg on July 5 when veteran Donny Lalonde (41-4-1) continues his comeback against Virgil Hill (48-4). On the same card, lightweight Billy Irwin (40-5) faces Mark Riggs (24-0). Both fights are to be televised in the US on ESPN2.

On July 12, Halifax heavyweight David Defiagbon (19-0) takes on Charles Hatcher (14-4) at Caesar's Tahoe in Las Vegas.

Super-welterweight Fitz Vanderpool (24-4-4) of Kitchener, Ont., will be in tough July 26 in Los Angeles against former champ Fernando Vargas (22-2).


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