The road to the top hasn’t been smooth but St. Paul’s Antonio Johnson is still fighting. The junior middleweight boxer admits he’s a huge Minnesota sports fan, and watching the Minnesota Lynx fight their way to the WNBA top this year was inspirational for him.
“Without a doubt, I’m a Lynx fan,” he told the MSR during halftime of a contest this summer. Awestruck, he smiled when he recalled “meeting Sylvia Fowles and a couple of players from the [Atlanta] Dream.
I’m a diehard Minnesota fan, whether it be the Gophers, Twins, the Wolves, Lynx, the Wild — I’m all the way Minnesota.”
In his quest to one day win a boxing championship, “There’s more than one way to get to the top of the mountain,” continued Johnson on some unfortunate roadblocks, such as the “promise you the moon” side of boxing, in his ring career.
“My first manager was a great manager, but it wasn’t good for me and didn’t work out. It stalled my career for maybe three years. I had high hopes coming out of the amateurs. I should have had 20 [pro] fights right now at my age for how long I have been a professional,” said Johnson, who began boxing at age nine.
After fighting as an amateur nearly 250 times, Johnson competed on the U.S. national team and was an alternate in the 2004 Olympics, finishing with a 227-19 mark before he turned pro. “I’ve been [fighting] professional for over 10 years,” he said of his current 11-1-1 ring record, including six KOs. “I fight all over the country.”
Asked about his toughest bout, Johnson said, “The fights that I have lost, they were close ones. Most of the time it was because I didn’t do [something] and not so much the opponent…or [I did] not train as hard or came unprepared for the fight. Cheating myself have been my toughest battles. If I can stay focused, stay disciplined, and everything works out, it’s pretty easy.”
Unlike team sports, his is a solitary one. “I tell people all the time that 90 percent as a boxer, [either] as an amateur or a professional, the fun part for me is when I get to the arena, fighting in front of everybody, putting it all on the line,” said Johnson. “There’s no team in being a boxer. When you are in it, basically it’s just you and [the opponent].”
Johnson trains at Element Boxing and Fitness in St. Paul as he seeks that title shot. “There are a lot of things I aspire to be,” he said. “Obviously, being a world champion and bringing the championship here to the Twin Cities. I’m an inner-city kid who grew up with no mom and was adopted into other families. I try to do a lot of community work with the kids and the youth, to bring that attitude, that hope that you can achieve.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.