Dereck Chisora vs. Kevin Johnson: Head-to-Toe Breakdown of Both Fighters
This weekend is the first opportunity of the year to see Britain's premier heavyweights—Dereck Chisora and Tyson Fury are back in action on the same bill.
Both face American opposition: Fury squares off against journeyman Joey Abell, and in the more competitive bout, Chisora faces former world title challenger Kevin Johnson.
Chisora fought four times in 2013 on the rebound from his fifth-round TKO defeat to David Haye in 2012. Winning all of those contests, he has put himself back into frame for another world title shot.
Promoter Frank Warren intends for him to fight Fury in the summer in what promises to be a popular and lucrative fight, so the Finchley fighter can't afford any mistakes against Johnson.
Johnson makes his third trip to the U.K., having lost a Prizefighter final to Tor Hamer in 2012. He also dropped a wide decision to Tyson Fury in the same year—Fury kept him at the end of a jab, and Johnson showed little desire to force a fight.
Here is a head-to-toe breakdown of Chisora vs. Johnson.
Main Event: Dereck Chisora (19-4, 13 KO) vs. Kevin Johnson (29-4-1, 14 KO)
Where: Copper Box Arena, London
When: 15 February, 2014
When two guys are ranked in the top 50 in a professional sport, you'd take it as a given that they would be highly motivated. But in the cases of Dereck Chisora and Kevin Johnson, that just isn't the case.
In fact, the extent to which these guys turn up motivated on Saturday night could be a deciding factor in the fight.
Chisora's brave, committed performance against Vitali Klitschko in 2012 when he went the distance and won a couple of rounds was leagues away from the slow, lumbering incarnation who lost to Tyson Fury the previous year.
With Chisora, there is a strong correlation between his motivation and his weight. His worst performances came at 261 pounds against Fury and 252 against Hector Avila. If he's still down around the 235 mark that he made for his last two outings at the weigh-on on Friday, you know he means business.
Johnson almost always comes in around 245, and the state of his body doesn't tend to give much away. With him, the question is psychological.
In the biggest fight of his career, Johnson lost every round to Vitali Klitschko, and although he showed good defence by avoiding getting hit flush very often, he was cautious about throwing back, essentially handing Klitschko the fight.
Then when the final bell rang, Johnson squared up to Klitschko, with his chest puffed out and seeming very pleased with himself for lasting the distance. It was a strange display for a fighter who had been easily beaten and suggested that Johnson does not have a winner's mentality.
He put in a similar performance against Tyson Fury in late 2012, showing little ambition and not throwing enough punches to have a chance on the judges' scorecards. As a result, he lost 11 of the 12 rounds. The question that surrounds him is whether he turns up to win or simply to survive.
In his last three fights, Dereck Chisora has scored impressive wins against good but not quite world-class opposition. Malik Scott, the toughest of the three, failed to beat a count in the sixth round, whilst Edmund Gerber and Ondrej Pala couldn't make it past the fifth and third rounds, respectively.
Coming in trimmer and better conditioned, Chisora put those fighters under immense pressure, tearing after them from the opening bell and not letting up. He set a pace they couldn't maintain.
Key to those wins was ferocious body punching, and expect Chisora to do the same thing against Johnson. Whilst body punches don't capture the imagination of the crowd to the same degree as head shots, they can be the key to wearing down tough opponents.
In an interview with iFL TV, Chisora acknowledged that: "The guy's gonna be hard to break down, but I think I'm gonna break him."
The tale of the tape gives a strong clue as to Kevin Johnson's most effective weapon. Whilst Chisora has a reach of 74", Johnson, only an inch-and-a-half taller at 6'3", has a disproportionately long reach of 82".
Johnson therefore has an imperious jab and will look to keep Chisora at range with it. Chisora was able to work his way inside the giant Robert Helenius' jab but struggled much more with the elite-level punch of Vitali Klitschko. For Johnson to win this fight, he'll have to hope his jab stands up to scrutiny.
Whether Johnson ever opens up and throws more of his attacking arsenal is the big question. He doesn't tend to unless he has his man softened up and right where he wants him, so if he jab isn't effective, expect him to retreat into full-on defensive mode.
Power and Punch Resistance
It is a truism in the heavyweight division that, whatever is happening, one punch can turn a fight the other way, but with Chisora and Johnson that probably isn't true.
Chisora's stoppage wins have tended to come because he wore down his opponents and thus exposes deficiencies in their stamina rather than their punch resistance.
Even his most dramatic TKO win against Sam Sexton in 2010 only came after a significant number of punches found their mark.
He was stopped for the first time in 2012 by David Haye, having previously demonstrating an iron chin in losses to Vitali Klitschko and Robert Helenius.
Since the Haye defeat, Chisora has looked easier to hurt and was visibly shaken by his recent unfancied opponents, Pala and Gerber.
It is often the case, be it physiological or psychological, that once a fighter has been knocked out once, he becomes easier to stop in the future. It may also be that in losing weight, Chisora has lost ballast. Either way, it is unlikely that Johnson will throw enough power shots to test these hypotheses.
Kevin Johnson's biggest wins have almost all come by decision, and the knockout wins on his record have been against hopelessly outclassed opposition.
The exception was his 2012 Round 9 TKO win over Alex Leapai, who bizarrely and undeservedly has the next shot at Wladimir Klitschko's world titles. In that fight, Leapai simply ran out of gas, allowing Johnson the chance to lower the boom.
Despite four losses on his record, including wide points defeats to Fury and Vitali, Johnson has never come close to being stopped or even been seriously hurt.
If Kevin Johnson fights the way he has fought for the last four years, there is only way one to envisage him winning, and that is if Dereck Chisora punches himself out.
Johnson was a fairly late replacement for Chisora's original opponent Andriy Rudenko, and in interviews, Chisora has expressed some reservations about his new foe, particularly in terms of the entertainment value, or lack thereof, that Johnson brings to the table.
Speaking to iFL TV, Chisora said, "Is it gonna be a fight the public want to watch? No." He added, "I'm worried about that—people are gonna start booing."
If Chisora goes hell for leather trying to force the action and a stoppage against a never-stopped opponent, he may play into Johnson's hands.
In peak condition, Chisora does have excellent stamina, but if Johnson is able to block and dodge most of Chisora's attacks whilst not throwing much himself, he would likely be conserving far more energy than his opponent.
Johnson has shown in the past that he is quite happy to stink the joint out, but Chisora, fighting at home and having voiced fears about the crowd reaction, may put undue pressure on himself.
On recent form, Johnson will only open up and attack fully when his opponent is prone, so it is crucial that Chisora paces himself and thus denies Johnson the one opportunity he might actually try to take.
As much as one can hope that a fight will break out in this one, it would be foolish to predict anything other than a Dereck Chisora wide points victory.
Kevin Johnson is an enigma of a fighter. He is a large heavyweight with good defensive skills, a long jab and decent stamina. But unless he has a heavily overmatched opponent, he simply doesn't throw punches.
It is not for nothing that the self-styled "King-Pin" has become known in boxing circles as the "Safety-Pin." Realistically this is Johnson's last chance of reigniting his career at age 34, but you could have said that about his last fight against Christian Hammer in December, and he didn't turn up then either.
Expect Chisora to come out fast and back Johnson up in the early rounds before having to settle for a points win, once he realises that Johnson isn't going anywhere and that he won't open up enough to give Chisora chances to land big shots.
Even though Johnson often looks disinterested, he never quits, so it would be a surprise if Chisora is able to force a stoppage. That was something domestic rival Tyson Fury couldn't do over 12 rounds in late 2012, and therefore, it would be a real feather in Chisora's cap.
All the same...
Chisora UD12 Johnson