Callum Johnson sent out a stark reminder to the the public of exactly what they’d missed on Saturday night, after returning to the ring in emphatic fashion at York Hall.
Johnson (19-1, 14 KOs) offloaded two years of frustration with an explosive two-round shootout against Emil Markic in which he stopped the Croat with a number of hurtful, unanswered punches.
‘The One’ flew out of the blocks and timed his opponent with several right hands, busting up his eye and showing real signs of intent. However, the 35-year-old was caught himself in the opening round and almost dropped from a huge right hand, as the pair traded bombs in the centre of the ring.
Yet, Johnson recovered well and showed his predatory finishing instincts to close the show, proving that he remains a serious player, both domestically and globally in a thriving Light Heavyweight mix.
The Boston man, who signed a four-fight deal with Hall of Fame promoter, Frank Warren in February is ranked highly with the WBO in pursuit of recently-crowned world champion, Joe Smith Jr.
A rematch with unified WBC/IBF world champion, Artur Beterbiev remains at the top of his wishlist after a valiant fourth round stoppage loss in 2018 in which he had the Russian knockout artist down for the first time in his career.
Domestically, future fights with Queensberry stablemates Anthony Yarde and Lyndon Arthur, who was watching on at York Hall remain strong possibilities, but neither seem imminent with the pair seemingly set for a rematch of their own later this year, after Arthur prevailed with a split decision in December.
Nevertheless, Johnson has options and such is his explosive style, the former world title challenger is set for an exciting few years ahead.
Joe Smith Jr
Other than Beterbiev, WBO world champion, Joe Smith Jr is a top priority for the Brit.
Throughout fight week, a potential meeting with the American was floated about and anticipation appears to be building for a fight between two hard-hitting punchers, recognised for their powerful styles.
Smith Jr (27-3, 21 KOs) claimed the vacant crown with a majority decision victory over Maxim Vlasov earlier this month and the Long Island native told proboxing-fans.com in January that a showdown is possible for the future, although his main goal is to collect the remaining world titles first.
The 31-year-old is seeking a unification with Beterbiev, whilst a rematch with WBA champion, Dmitry Bivol could also be an option providing he successfully defends his belt against Craig Richards in Manchester on Saturday night.
Smith Jr’s promoter Bob Arum has also echoed his fighter’s desire to face Beterbiev, but should that not materialise then a clash with Johnson, who is rated at #14 with the WBO could be on the cards, should he seek a voluntary against Johnson.
— Joe Gallagher (@JoeG) April 24, 2021
Smith Jr could be facing a Brit in the not too distant future with Lyndon Arthur rated as the number one contender to his title.
Should Johnson not secure the fight he desires with Smith Jr, then a potential trip stateside to face experienced contender Badou Jack could make sense.
The former two-weight world champion is familiar to the British public from his battles with George Groves, James De Gale and Nathan Cleverly, who he stopped in five rounds to win the WBA ‘Regular’ Light Heavyweight crown.
Jack (23-3-3, 13 KOs) remains a quality operator, despite a lack of activity in recent years and perhaps entering the latter stages of his career, he has only lost at 175lbs to world level opposition to Marcus Browne and Jean Pascal.
‘The Ripper’ returned to the ring with a one-sided points victory over the little-known, but resilient Blake McKernan on the undercard of Mike Tyson’s exhibition with Roy Jones Jr in November and will be looking to launch another assault on the world scene this year.
Jack, who is signed to Mayweather Promotions, the company owned by Hall of Fame, former pound-for-pound star Floyd Mayweather Jr, has high rankings in three of the four governing bodies and is rated just above Johnson in the WBO, meaning the fight could be sanctioned as a world title eliminator.
The 37-year-old Swede is a slick fighter and stylistically a bout could be a fascinating mix of styles and could conceivably take place in the UK, such is Jack’s profile here.
Ricards Bolotniks’ profile shot up after winning the MTK Golden Contract in December.
The Latvian was the deserved victor of the Light Heavyweight edition, securing three impressive wins against Steven Ward, Johnson’s stablemate Hosea Burton and a final round stoppage win over Serge Michel in the final.
Despite five losses on his record, ‘The Lion’ proved in the tournament that he is a serious threat in the division and is on a seven-fight unbeaten streak.
A charismatic character, Bolotniks (18-5-1, 8 KOs) named Anthony Yarde as a potential opponent in the aftermath of his win over Michel and now has a two-year, five-fight contract with management powerhouse, MTK Global.
The 31-year-old is ranked at #5 and #6 with the WBO and IBF respectively and is thus closing in on a world title shot himself, although a clash with Johnson could be an enticing option.
Bolotniks has an exciting style and can be a ruthless finisher as he demonstrated in the Golden Contract and a fight with ‘The One’ would not only represent a chance at some revenge for the gym following Burton’s defeat, but could also be a gripping watch.
Let us know who you would like to see Johnson face next.