Callum Johnson returning at cruiserweight for one last roll of the dice

Callum Johnson has confirmed he will return to the ring and he is coming back at cruiserweight.

The former world light-heavyweight contender, who dropped champion Artur Beterbiev in their four-round shootout in 2018, last boxed winning a majority decision over Server Emurlaev in October of 2021, but he has subsequently thrown himself into training and refused to be absorbed by life after boxing. Now, after 20 wins and the lone loss to Beterbiev, he will return.

“Firstly, yes, I’m coming back at cruiserweight,” Johnson said. “I’ve been planning on coming back for six-eight weeks, maybe even longer, three months, and the reason behind it is when I quit the sport I threw my dummy out and quit – I don’t say I retired because I quit. I couldn’t do the weight anymore, it was killing me. I was so depressed, so unhappy, had no energy and I just couldn’t do it. I’m coming back at cruiserweight because I need one last roll of the dice for myself, and this time it is for me and nobody else and I’m looking forward to it.”

Johnson has been posting workouts and strength sessions on social media for months. He’s bulked up, but making the weight was always so hard he was waiting to be able to fill out properly. But away from social media, he has also been having sessions with trainer Joe Gallagher in Manchester.

“I’ve been going up to see Joe, going up once a week or once every two weeks for the last couple of months and it will be with Joe, he will be training and managing me, and I’ll be starting camp back up in Manchester next week so I want to get myself sparring and ready to fight and see where we’re going to go,” Johnson said. “What is there for me? It’s alright saying I’m coming back and I’m going to fight again and everything else, but I’ve got to sort out whether there’s anyone there who wants to give me some fights.” 

Johnson missed out on all manner of big domestic clashes at 175, failing to land fights with Anthony Yarde, Joshua Buatsi, Craig Richards or Dan Azeez, but there is a British world champion at cruiserweight he admires and would like to test himself against, Bournemouth’s Chris Billam-Smith.

“I don’t want to be disrespectful because I don’t deserve to even say I want to fight him because I’ve got to come back and I’ve got to prove myself as a cruiserweight but if you ask me do you think you could beat him, yeah, I do,” Johnson added. “I really think I can beat him on my first fight back and that’s not me being disrespectful because he’s a good kid, that’s just me believing in myself. But it’s not even worth me talking about because it’s stupid and disrespectful I know I’ve got to fight and earn the right to put myself back in the mix.”

Johnson sounds more excited to prove he can be a force at cruiser to himself rather than anyone else. He has always been a puncher, with 14 of his wins coming by stoppage and a legend in the gym for being able to take people out and hurt them.

“If I get to those big fights, it will be a bonus,” Johnson continued. “If I don’t, I can say at least I’ve had a go. I think about getting into big fights for titles and it just excites me. I’m not deluded, and the way I’m performing in the gym and the way I feel physically and mentally, I’ve not felt like this for a long, long time. Even before my dad passed, I’ve not felt like this mentally, so I’m just excited to see what happens.”

First things will have to come first, but the 37-year-old Johnson has a good reputation and is clearly going to be in shape at 200lbs having toiled for so long at 175.

“My main focus is just to get back in there,” Callum admitted. “I need to get back in there for myself so I can live the rest of my life in peace knowing I gave it one last roll of the dice because the way I feel in the gym, I don’t feel I could ever live my life if I don’t do it. I would always regret not giving it one last go and, at the end of the day, there’s going to be people out there that say things, good and bad, but it’s not about them, it’s about me. I’ve got to live with myself for the rest of my life and I need to do this for myself. That’s the main reason, and what will be will be.”

Johnson was tagged into a post as a possible opponent for Brandon Glanton recently, and Johnson had not heard of the American but, as they say, Johnson wants the smoke. He’s unafraid of getting back into it straight away at a high level. 

“I have no idea who he is, but I haven’t needed to know about him because he’s a cruiserweight,” Johnson explained. “But that guy just tagged me in it [on Instagram] and I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever. No problem.’ I’m not a young kid. I’ve plenty of experience behind me and I want to get back in there pretty much with whoever. I’m genuinely not bothered. I just want to fight, and I believe if I bring my gym form into the ring, I’ll be a force because I feel so strong, so energetic, I’m looking forward to testing myself.”