Tureano Johnson: ‘David Lemieux is perfect for me’
NEW YORK, N.Y. – The announcement of the David Lemieux-Tureano Johnson fight took a lot of fans and members of the boxing media by surprise.
It wasn’t a bad surprise. Most recognize that the crossroads middleweight bout, one of the chief supporting fights to the Canelo Alvarez-Rocky Fielding main event on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, is a potentially explosive matchup.
It’s just that the fight sort of came out of nowhere because most had lost sight of Johnson since the former contender was stopped in the 12th round of a grueling fight with Sergey Derevyancehnko last August. Prior to that FS1-televised bout, Johnson had fought only once since winning an IBF-title elimination about against Eamonn O’Kane on the undercard of Lemieux’s challenge to Gennady Golovkin in October 2015.
Out of sight, out of mind in the boxing world. Johnson (20-2, 14 knockouts) understands this and he intends to remind us how determined and formidable he can be by making a statement on the DAZN-streamed show.
“I was out for awhile but I haven’t been away from boxing,” Johnson told The Ring after Wednesday’s media workouts. “I’ve been training really hard all year. I have had to come back from injuries – my shoulder after the O’Kane fight and then my ankle – and I’ve had to give myself time to recover and thank God I’m healthy now.”
Without going into detail, Johnson says he wasn’t 100% healthy going into the Derevyanchenko fight. He says members of his camp tried to talk him out of taking the fight, but stubbornness is part of what makes the 34-year-old pressure fighter dangerous in the ring.
“I had to take the challenge and I felt confident of winning it because I was still No. 1 contender (in the IBF) and I felt that I had to be willing to fight anybody, even if it wasn’t the best move for me businesswise,” he said. “People in my camp told me ‘Tureano, you’re not completely healthy,’ which is true, it wasn’t a healthy camp, but I had to do it my way. If I had to make that decision again, I’d do it again.”
That’s the kind of fighter Johnson is. Fearless. It’s why he took on Curtis Stevens in 2014 (and almost had the dangerous contender beat before getting clipped and stopped – controversially so – in the 10th and final round). It’s why he jumped at the chance to face the brutal-punching Lemieux (40-4, 34 KOs), who scored a KO of the Year candidate by starching Gary O’Sullivan in one round on the undercard of the Canelo-Golovkin rematch, even though he’s been inactive for 16 months.
“It’s been more than a year (out of the ring), but I’ve been in this position before, I had been out of the ring for 14 months when I fought Curtis Stevens, and I always bring it,” he said. “(Inactivity) is nothing new to me, but this time I’m stronger, I’m faster, I’m more intelligent because the training has never stopped. It’s good for a boxer to take a break and let his body heal because boxing can put some wear and tear on a body.”
Johnson, a Bahamas native who trains in Brooklyn (at Sadam Ali’s gym under the watchful eyes of Andre Rozier and Gary Stark Sr.), says he’s not just physically strong for Saturday’s showdown, he’s mentally focused on Lemieux. He has been for quite some time.
“This is a fight I’ve been looking forward to for years,” he said. “David is perfect for me. This is something I prayed to God for, and He gave me the perfect opponent. His fighting style, his power – that tremendous power that I have so much respect for – it will bring out my best. We’ve been on a collision course for a long time.
“There was an opportunity for me to fight Lemieux just before he won the IBF title (against Hassan Ndam in June 2015), and even as his first title defense, but he was offered the GGG fight and he took it. I would have been bad news for him back then and I still am today because my style matches perfectly against his.”
Johnson is not only confident of victory but of he and Lemieux stealing the show.
“We both are come-forward fighters, we are alike in that we don’t take prisoners,” he said. “However, he is one who relies on the excruciating pain from his punches, whereas I am now becoming a more fundamentally sound fighter. But I can tell you this—the power is there for me, too.
“So, with both of us coming together with power and the intentions to do damage, it makes for a great fight. You know, I’m a fan too, so I’m here to please the fans, but at the same time I’m here to survive and live and provide for my family, so to win – and also protecting myself – is the best way to do it.
“That’s what you’re going to see Saturday: The perfect matchup of come-forward fighters, but this come-forward fighter is the much-more intelligent fighter.”
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer.