Jesse Hart barely gets by Dashon Johnson
PHILADELPHIA, PA ÔÇö Jesse Hart did a different brand of road work over the last couple of weeks. The Philadelphia fighting legacy ran everywhere he could throughout the city. He went door-to-door, went on local TV and radio, put out fliers that he stamped on telephone poles and hung in city nightclubs to sell his fight Friday night at the 2300 Arena against Dashon Johnson in a 10-round super middleweight bout.
The results were good. It was a sellout.
But the crowd saw a little more than what they might have expected.
Hart wants to make a large impression in 2016. He’s 26 and doesn’t want any more time passing by him. This wasn’t the way to do it, suffering a devastating knockdown in the waning seconds of the 10th round before struggling to his feet to beat the count.
The 6-foot-2 Hart (20-0, 16 knockouts) has ability, but got himself in a momentary fix against the 5-foot-9 Johnson, who was 4-5 over his last nine fights, before winning a 98-91, 97-92 and 95-94 unanimous 10-round decision.
At risk before the soldout, raucous crowd was a WBO mandatory for the winner of the Arthur Abraham-Gilberto Ramirez fight on April 9. What was initially more like a controlled exhibition than a fight took a wild turn after the bell in the sixth round.
Up until then, Hart did what he was supposed to do against the rugged, much shorter Johnson (19-19-4, 6 KOs). He used his superior height and reach to break down Johnson, who at times tried roughing up Hart.
“That kid was a tough journeyman, I hit him with everything but the kitchen sink, and in the last round, I got careless,” Hart said. “It happens in boxing. I showed I can handle adversity. I got up like a true champion and kept rumbling. Everyone wanted to know how I handled adversity. The best of them get knocked down. Now no one can say I’ve never been through a tough fight, or ever been knocked down.
“I took my eight-count on my knee, tied him up and I got busy boxing. He was coming. He was a road warrior. I beat him every single round, and he hit me in the back of the head (after the sixth round). I got hit in the last round. Most fighters would have quit. I kept rumbling. I won every round decisively.”
In the third, Hart began opening up, again using his reach to keep Johnson away. A pair of left uppercuts did some damage and Hart appeared in control.
Hart began the fourth the same way he did the third, attacking with clubbing uppercuts and cleaving Johnson’s high guard with the effective left uppercut. Johnson was mere fodder, even the times Hart slowed down his pace and packed away. Johnson had a brief spell inside of a minute in the fourth, getting inside of Hart’s reach radius. With about :35 left in the round, Johnson pulled a little cheap shot, head butting Hart in the chin. It had no effect.
Things took a scary spin when Johnson hit Hart in the back of the head after the bell ended the sixthÔÇöand hurt him, knocking him down. A groggy Hart answered the bell in the seventh, and Johnson pressed the action, making what had to that time been a lopsided fight into something fairly competitive.
By the eighth, Hart was back in control. But that didn’t last too long. Johnson had stung Hart with a pair of overhand rights, before clobbering the prospect with another looping right that floored Hart with :15 left in the fight. Hart landed on his back, rolled over on his knees and finally got up to beat the count.
If the fight had gone another round, Hart would have been in serious trouble.
Instead, he has a host of mistakes to ponder.
The victory motivated Hart to aim at larger targets later this year.
Hart, the son of former Philly favorite Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, is a little tired of being matched with fighters who are barely over .500.
This year, he feels, is the time he makes his move.
“Honestly, all of my losses came from immaturity and misguidance, taking fights on short notice,” Johnson said. “I knew doing a fulltime job and taking on these guys, I sacrificed a lot. I don’t have a trainer. I train myself three times a day. I’m not going to sit here and cry. I know I hurt him in the sixth. I know it was a knockdown, he knows it was a knockdown. It was a clear knockdown. That’s two knockdowns that I missed. Even when I knocked him down in the last round. Right when I was ready to continue, the ref (Ernie Sharif) pushed me back twice. It’s the hometown giving in. Anyone that fights me from here on in knows they’re going to go through hell to beat me.”