Fighter Profile: Chris John
Chris “The Dragon” John is the longtime WBA Featherweight Champion. The Indonesian is undefeated in 45 bouts. At 30, John has made a name for himself internationally and now looks to kick his career into high gear.
John began boxing at a very young age. His father, a former amateur, trained him. At the age of 18, John turned pro. Fighting in Indonesia, the practice of young fighters fighting anonymous opposition is even more exaggerated than in other parts of the world. John would face 13 opponents before facing one who had more than one win on his record. The lack of resistance shown by his early opposition did not seem to hamper John’s progress, as he began fighting more experienced journeymen with good results.
At 28-0, John faced his first test in the form of future world champion Ratanachai Sor Voraphin of Thailand. After decisioning the 46-7 veteran, John moved up in the ratings.
After a few more perfunctory victories, John earned a shot at the interim WBA Featherweight Title against fellow top-ranked contender Oscar Leon. John was soon after named “full” champion.
John began his illustrious reign with a decision over Osamu Sato. His first win over a name recognizable to western boxing fans took place when he comprehensively beat former titlist Derrick Gainer.
Two fights later, John was the underdog for the first time as he faced preeminent featherweight standout Juan Manuel Marquez, who had begun to make serious strides into the top of the pound-for-pound rankings. The fight was close and Marquez was penalized twice for low blows. It wouldn’t have mattered, as John won by 5 and 6 points (twice) on the scorecards for a unanimous decision win.
This win created a buzz among those who never heard of John before. The problem is that very few people were able to see the fight and the fact that it was in Indonesia left some observers assuming that John must have received some hometown assistance to secure the win. Either way, he never seemed to get the credit that a win of that magnitude would suggest. In fact, it was Marquez who would go on to secure the more marquee and lucrative matches, while John continued to prove his mettle by continuing to win.
Five more solid defenses followed before John finally left Asia to secure bigger fights. First up was a high-profile HBO date with contender Rocky Juarez in Texas. John looked flat and managed to escape with a draw and his title. It was revealed that John had been sick, which would explain his uncharacteristically listless performance.
In a rematch at the MGM, John did better, winning a unanimous decision. He reverted back to his highly stylish technique, speed, and guile to frustrate the tough Juarez throughout. His defense was great, as he moved and rolled with Juarez’ offerings. His amazing sense of distance was in full bloom, as he struck only to move away as Juarez began his offense. While not awe-inspiring, it was a good way to put the bad memories of their first fight behind.
Staying at featherweight for 13 defenses and not moving up for more meaningful matches may have paid off, as the featherweight division is now bustling with talent. John would like to secure matches with Juan Manuel Lopez or Yuriorkis Gamboa, either of which would be high profile fights for the Indonesian champion.