Callum Johnson reveals why he has rejoined Frank Warren after boxing frustration

Callum Johnson begins a new chapter in his career back alongside Frank Warren after a frustrating two years in boxing purgatory.

The 35-year-old has signed a new promotional deal with Warren after parting company with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom in a move he believes will lead him back to the summit of the light heavyweight division with a meeting with Joe Smith Jr and a rematch with 175lbs king Artur Beterbiev firmly in his sights.

The new deal also puts Johnson in the frame for domestic dust-ups with new stablemates Lyndon Arthur and Anthony Yarde, having seen talks to fight Joshua Buatsi while both fought under the Matchroom flagship fail to materialise.

Johnson last fought in March 2019 – a third round knockout of Sean Monaghan – and his absence from the ring since then left many fight fans puzzled as boxing restarted without him following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

‘I never felt like the forgotten man because everyone was always talking about me, always asking where I was, wanting me out there fighting,’ Johnson told Metro.co.uk.

‘But I was very frustrated and confused as to why I was left out. I don’t want to think too much about the last 18 months, I want to think about the excitement of what is happening now.’

Matchroom chief Hearn and Johnson’s trainer Joe Gallagher clashed last year with the former declaring in November he did not want to deal with the trainer.

Former British and Commonwealth champion Johnson paid tribute to long-term trainer Gallagher for doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes to get the deal with Warren done. And while he admits it might be the last chapter in a professional career that has spanned 11 years, he is confident it will be the most important.

‘I saw Frank and BT Sport putting on Arthur vs Yarde and Dubois vs Joyce, I was watching and thinking I would like to be part of that, why am I so inactive?

‘Joe reached out [to Frank Warren] so I have to thank him. He’s the one who has been working behind the scenes to get the deal over the line with Frank. I’ve got to thank him for that. I’m looking forward to this new chapter. It’s looking like it could be the last chapter, but the best chapter.’

Johnson saw potential meetings with WBA champion Dmitry Bivol and Smith Jr fall by the wayside over the last 18 months with his European title challenge against Igor Mikhalkin shelved when Covid struck in 2020.

Having been frustrated by boxing politics and unsatisfactory offers, he is eager to make up for lost time.

‘I was getting offered this and that but nothing ever happened,’ Johnson said of those fights. ‘And it also came to getting offers that weren’t really worth looking at too much. There weren’t realistic offers. So I was left on the sidelines. But now we have this new deal with Frank and things are looking up and hopefully we get a few good years.’

Johnson challenged for the IBF title in 2018, knocked out by Beterbiev in the fourth round on a night the Lincolnshire man still replays in his head, thinking about what could have been.

The challenger was floored in the first round after becoming entangled in the ropes. He responded by sending the champion to the mat in the second round with a looping left before a ruthless finish from the Russian in the fourth.

Aware of Warren’s healthy relationship with the organisation, Johnson’s first goal is to chase down the WBO belt, which Joe Smith Jr and Maxim Vlasov were set to battle for this weekend only for the latter to test positive for Covid-19 earlier this week.

But Beterbiev, who has since added WBC gold to his collection, remains the biggest prize.

‘With Frank we know he has a good relationship with the WBO. The Joe Smith fight just excites me. I think maybe because it was spoken about before and never materialised. That’s the route I want to go down and get that fight locked down.’

He continued: ‘Beterbiev obviously interests me but I’m not stupid. I know I need another fight or two to get myself to top form. That would be my biggest aim. I think of it as a fairy-tale, win the WBO and then fight him in a rematch in a unification fight. That’s the ambition.’

Johnson’s move to Frank Warren would appear to – temporarily at least – end hopes of a meeting with the unbeaten Buasti. While he places none of the blame on the Croydon fighter, Johnson doubts there were ever serious intentions when the bout was discussed.

‘It was always a fight I was open to. But I don’t think they were serious about making it if I’m honest,’ he explains. ‘I think Joshua wanted the fight because he’s a fighter but his team around him, I don’t think they want it.

‘I don’t mean that in disrespect or that they don’t want the fight in a year or two years’ time. But they never wanted the fight last year. And I think I’ve been sat on the shelf because of it.’

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