Tureano Johnson in his own words

Photo by Tom Casino/Showtime

Photo by Tom Casino/Showtime

 

Interviewing fighters on the phone isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. Putting myself in their shoes, I’d imagine there’s a disconnect for these guys when a faceless reporter tries to establish an affinity to the questions they ask. Not to mention that there is a viable chance they have already answered these questions before. Tureano Johnson is a middleweight contender who fights on the Gennady Golovkin-David Lemieux HBO Pay-Per-View undercard this tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He takes on an Irishman, Eamonn O’Kane, 14-1-1 (5), in a crucial eliminator to become the No. 1 contender, and mandatory opponent, for the IBF middleweight title. A belt that is being fought for in the card’s main event that will also be unified with the WBA title by the night’s end. The stakes are high for Johnson, 18-1 (13), a 31-year old Bahamian who is still seeking his first shot at a world title. He’s gone through the trials and tribulations so many fighters have experienced that ultimately hinder their progression. Yet this Saturday not only marks a fresh start for Tureano with a new team behind him but a win can propel him into serious discussion for a big fight in the future. He’s one of the few outspoken pro boxers on social media that actually has a thoughtful opinion on the sport, rather than imprudent tweets or Instagram posts that are littered with emotions. This phone interview was much easier, and more fluid, than any other I’ve done before (and if you want the full experience, read Tureano’s answers in a Caribbean accent). It left me rethinking my prior assumptions I had about phone interviews. I don’t know who came up with the saying but I use it often: “A lot of people got it but few people get it.” Tureano Johnson gets it.

 

Mike Baca: You and your opponent, Eamonn O’Kane, are in similar positions here. Both are in your early-30s, both have only accounted one loss; now you’re fighting each other in an IBF middleweight title eliminator. Could the stakes be any higher for you two on the 17th?

 

Tureano Johnson: Boxing is a lifestyle and not a sport for me. To be at this point is not a surprise for me. This is what I’ve been living more. I’m just ready to go the extra mile. Of course, this is another big stage for me fighting at the Madison Square Garden on an HBO Pay-Per-View card. It’s just another big move right now for me to just overcome these obstacles that stand in my way from becoming a world champion.

 

MB: What do you expect to see from O’Kane?

 

TJ: After doing some recent studies of O’Kane, and the way he moves, he goes around his business, I see that he is one that is very serious about this fight. Because of that, O’Kane has made extra measures to make sure his training is at the top notch. O’Kane…he’s a formidable opponent for me, indeed, but I know within myself that I will be the one coming out with my hand raised as the victor.

 

MB: Have you noticed that O’Kane has been consistently involved in head clashes the past few fights and how can you avoid that?

 

TJ: Yes, that is something that me and my team has looked at and it’s with the territory of fighting that accidents do take place. But on the case of O’Kane, it’s being so regular that it doesn’t seem to be an accident. So yes, we do have a formula and a plan going into this fight, prepared for that and many more of the O’Kane game plan.

 

MB: You’ve been out of the ring for nine months. How do you avoid ring rust?

 

TJ: Nine months isn’t a problem for me because there has been times where I’ve been out of the ring for 14 months. I took the fight with Curtis Stevens on three weeks notice; I was out the ring for 14 months. I said it before and I’ll say it again; boxing is a lifestyle to me, so with nine months, there is no rust. I’m constantly training. I’m always in the gym working out. I know what it is to take punches and to give punches. There is no ring rust.

 

MB: Is it safe to say your absence on Twitter is because you’re focused on training right now?

 

TJ: Yes indeed; this fight has become such a big climax for myself and to look at such an opponent as O’Kane, and look at the measures he has taken in preparation of this fight, I spared no change or no expenses into this fight. I think it will be only more necessary for me to do likewise and substitute a lot of things that I usually do in my training camp as far as communicating with the fans, which I love to do. But right now, I’m not taking any prisoners, no hostages. This fight is very serious to me and means a whole lot to me. I have to win this fight. So of course, as O’Kane is doing himself, so am I. I’m taking no chances. I’m trying to take care of every issue that is there to be taken care of when it comes to this fight.

 

MB: I mention your Twitter because you’re one of the best boxing follows out there – boxer or not. That’s just my personal opinion. In your twitter bio, it reads, “Middleweight boxer on a mission to be the most exciting fighter in the world.” Do you believe there is a forgotten idea in the sport that there is a necessity to entertain the fans?

 

TJ: Well, indeed; I mean, look at it now today. The sport has become one that needs to be like the days when the best fight the best. When action is able to be seen in the ring rather than a ballet match inside the ring. You want to see men fighting men; you know? We like that now today but the good thing is that I can see it coming back up on the rise. With a promoter like Golden Boy [Promotions], who are constantly putting on good fights, such as [Viktor] Postol and [Lucas] Matthysse just recently. It was a very, very good fight. Put the best in the ring with the best. Yes, that is where I stand. It’s what I believe in. I want to be the most exciting fighter out there in the world. Not to say I just wanna go out there and take punches; you know. Taking punches doesn’t make you an exciting fighter. But my activity inside the ring, my nasty nature of fighting, that’s what I want people to see. That this is my heart, my passion and this is what you are going to see – excitement.

 

MB: Your new boss, Oscar De La Hoya, shares the same belief. How has it been so far being with Golden Boy Promotions?

 

TJ: This is my first fight with Golden Boy. Dealing with the business of this whole situation, I am beyond overwhelmed. They have been so professional and accommodating me in every possible way. I have been understanding on many occasions even on the visa situation. I know they are a highly recognized and respected organization. That’s why I dare not even cry about a visa situation, which has already been clarified. Unlike O’Kane who has cried about it. I say, listen, there is no reason to really cry because there is no excuse when it comes to the fight. I’m only gonna bring results. Golden Boy has done a tremendous job when it comes to do doing business with me and I’m most certain that they are honorable.

 

MB: I was at the Golovkin media round table on Tuesday (Oct. 6) and former HBO commentator Larry Merchant sat in on it. He believes the middleweight division is about to embark on an interesting journey in this time and Oct 17 will be and, I quote, “The first shot fired and there will be many shots.” How excited are you about the 160-pound class in which you compete?

 

TJ: Well, I must thank the Almighty God for this moment because it couldn’t come at a better time than now. I mean, look at it; now you have this middleweight division and it is about to explode like never before. You see the 154-pounders can barely make 154 anymore. So now you’re gonna see those fighters come up into the middleweight division at 160 pounds. You have Canelo Alvarez, who is 154, coming up now at fight at 160 for the middleweight world title, for the WBC, fighting Miguel Cotto, who is also coming up in the division. The middleweight division is once again going to be the cream of the crop when it comes to the weight classes. You’re gonna have some really, really good fights and that is why I am so grateful to be inside a division such as the middleweight division.

 

MB: Do you still have the desire to avenge the loss to Curtis Stevens?

 

TJ: Oh, yes. It was a loss that I found was very unfair. It would have been OK to lose to Curtis Stevens but I lost to Gary Rosato [the referee] in a very unfair decision by a very early stoppage. But hey, you know what? The referee made his call. Fine. I would love to have a rematch, yes, but I also would love Stevens to get back up on the horse. You know, let’s make it interesting. How about you bring a few more big fights and we can make this happen? So that is where I’m at right now dealing with a rematch with Curtis Stevens.

 

MB: I agree. I’m on your side on that one. Rosato should have let you keep fighting. That was a weird stoppage…

 

TJ: It was in the fourth round that Stevens had given his best onslaught on me and, even then, I finished the round very strong. To stop the fight after Stevens had only landed two punches and throw eight after that, and did not connect on any of those eight punches. I found it to be…I don’t even want to say [I was] robbed. Somebody needs to find a word and put it in there for me because if I have to say what I have to say, it’s not going to be nice. It was unfair.

 

MB: Have you gained any positives from that fight?

 

TJ: Well you know, I do owe Stevens and Rosato a whole lot. I have to be grateful for that opportunity. A lot of weight has been taken off of me. At that moment, I felt a lot of pain and suffering to lose my “0” by not just a loss but one by TKO. It taught me to be more careful, especially when I’m going on the inside. Taught me, “Listen, Tureano, be that it is you’re just a few seconds away from a decision and you’re not fighting in your backyard, so here it is: You have to go in there and give it your all to leave it not to the judges but to leave it to the medical physician, or just knock them out.”

 

MB: Can you speak on how close you were to landing the Golovkin fight over the summer?

 

TJ: We were sent a contract from Golovkin. We had agreed on all terms. And, you know, it was a sad situation to see how it ended up but you know what? It’s not so sad. It’s a bittersweet moment ’cause, right now, I still have the opportunity. I’m ranked [in the Top 5] in the WBC, the WBA, working on the WBO right now, and fighting the mandatory on the 17th for the IBF. “GGG” may or may not win that fight [vs. Lemieux] but I will get my opportunity. That fight [with Golovkin] was very close. You know, GGG sure had a less riskier fight to take Willie Monroe, who was not a threat to anybody, and decided to go with him rather than to go with Tureano, who is a very formidable opponent. One who is more likely and will beat GGG.

 

MB: What are your thoughts on David Lemieux, who is also on the Golden Boy team? Win or lose, he can be an opponent for you in the future.

 

TJ: Definitely, win or lose. I would still love to get an opportunity to go up against a guy with such tremendous power like David Lemieux. I’m not to say I’m one who plans to take a blow but I do have a knack for taking a good blow. Yes, I would be more than ecstatic to feel a good one from Lemieux. I had been asking for an opportunity to fight Lemieux but, apparently, as per my managers at that time, they told me that it would not take place because Lemieux was not interested in fighting. Well, hopefully, Lemieux pulls this fight off and I would be the mandatory.

 

MB: How do you see that fight playing out between Golovkin and Lemieux?

 

TJ: In my honest opinion, GGG is the most technical fighter out of the both of them and he’s is also a powerful puncher. I think he will have the edge but, still, when a guy does have a good punch, he has puncher’s chance and that is what David Lemieux possesses. The fight is one you definitely can’t blink your eyes. As far as who will win the fight, Lemieux has a puncher’s chance and so does GGG. Given the edge, GGG has some technique, so GGG.

 

MB: Last question. You’ve experienced, firsthand, the politics in boxing. What don’t you like about the sport currently?

 

TJ: Well…At this moment, right now, I’ve suffered a lot. After the Curtis Stevens loss, dealing with management and so on. There are so much details in what I don’t like about the sport. I would not like to disclose all of that right now. I hope that the corruption in the sport will clarify itself.

 

MB: I can respect that. Thank you very much, Tureano, and good luck on the 17th. Get back on Twitter (@Tureano1984). We miss you on there.

 

TJ: Thanks and you definitely will [see me back].

 

You can reach Michael Baca II at mikebaca2@gmail.com, follow him at twitter.com/wotbboxing and visit him at his blog, writeonthebutton.squarespace.com.

 

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