Working on the popular Southern Jersey/Philadelphia television show ‘Foreman on Boxing’, along with the other things I do in the fight game, I have come across many fighters. One fighter that has had his ups and downs, but has never lost his confidence is Atlantic City’s own Leavander Johnson. That continued self confidence enabled him to travel to Italy and become the newly crowned IBF lightweight champion with a 7th round stoppage of Stefano Zoff. The division, in fact, is one of the hottest out there right now, with the anticipation of the rematch of possibly one of the greatest fights in history between WBC/WBO lightweight champion Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales and former champion Jose Luis Castillo. Johnson wants to add his brand of heat to the135lb mix as well. I recently spoke with Leavander and he gave me some insight on what’s going on with him.
Rob Scott: What’s going on Leavander? Let me start off by giving you big congratulations on your win last month for the IBF lightweight crown.
Leavander Johnson: Thanks. Thanks.
RS: You took on Stefano Zoff in Italy; but very few people, if any at all actually had the chance to see your win in the States. You knocked out Zoff in the 7th round. Give us an idea how hard or easy it was for you over there.
LJ: Well I did have to get acclimated; it took me about three days to get into the time switch. You know it was like a six-hour difference, so I had to get my eating right and time right. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bad.
RS: Tell us how hard the fight actually was.
LJ: Well I wouldn’t say the fight was hard. The fight was easy. The work effort was hard; the fight was easy.
RS: This was your fourth try at the title. What kept your head mentally above water in thinking this day would come, even after the setbacks?
LJ: Well, knowing that this might be my last time ever fighting for a world title, and me maintaining and staying focused. I stayed in the gym getting my work done.
RS: Being ringside for a lot of your local fights in Atlantic City, I always noticed the crowd would really come out to see you. How have they embraced you since you won the title?
LJ: It has been good, but you still have the critics out there.
RS: You were presented with the key to the city. Your win could actually be a subliminal key to open up some doors for other Atlantic City fighters. How do you think your victory has motivated the up and coming fighters around your area, like Shamone Alvarez, Julio Sanchez and Lorenzo Bethea?
LJ: Well Shamone Alvarez, and those other guys have been dedicated since day one, so they’re alright. I hope it motivated the younger youth out here that we have today, to see somebody come from the bottom where they are at too. That it can really happen. Lorenzo Bethea, ‘The Rock’ they call him, is a 4-0 pro now. He was a big help to me in winning the title.
RS: Your father Bill Johnson is your trainer and he also trains a lot of the young fighters in the area as well. How often do you train with the young upstarts?
LJ: I’m in the gym everyday Monday through Friday.
RS: But how often do you train hands on with them to lend your own know-how?
LJ: Oh yeah that is everyday in the gym. I got a couple of young dudes that I work every day.
RS: Through your career you have worked with different promoters like Murad Muhammad. Now you’re with Lou DiBella; how did that union come about?
LJ: My brother actually set that up. He (DiBella) has been working with us good, so I have no problem with him. Everybody else had been giving us problems, you know, giving us problems and everything, but we’re doing alright. We’re good to go.
RS: Did you see the war between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo? If so, what were your thoughts on this battle?
LJ: I think they ain’t gonna have nothing else. They’re gonna be shot fighters.
RS: They have signed for a rematch. What’s your take on that match?
LJ: I think that’s good. I see them in another war. They’ll do the same thing and make it an easier task for me to unify the title.
RS: I know those two fighters are, but who else is on your radar?
LJ: Definitely Juan Diaz, because he has the other title. I would love to unify with him.
RS: Are there any negotiations going on with anyone now?
LJ: I was supposed to be getting ready for Eric Morales who was supposed to be moving up. I was supposed to fight him for my first defense, but the fight fell through. They don’t want to fight me; blahzay blahzay, you know how that goes.
RS: That was sort of what you were going through before you won the belt in guys not wanting to fight you. At this stage in your career, any more layoffs, do you think that would be a good thing?
LJ: Well we’re fighting in September, so it isn’t a layoff. It is just a matter of ‘to be announced’.
RS: With Morales pulling out, do you have any idea who it will be? Are there a choice few?
LJ: No, I have no idea right now. My brother hasn’t gotten back with me just yet.
RS: In the mean time, are you in the gym?
LJ: Yeah, I actually will be going to the gym at 4:00.
RS: In closing, is there anything you want to say to the Doghouse readers?
LJ: Just let the lightweights out there know that there is a new sheriff in town, AC’s finest, and I’m coming to add them all.
RS: Well, good looking out with this interview Leavander. Thanks and good luck in the future.
LJ: No problem, thanks.
I want to thank Meredith Kessler and Craig Johnson for helping me with this interview.
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