John L Johnson
Name: John L Johnson
Alias: Big John
Hometown: Miami Beach, Florida, USA
Height: 6′ 4½″ / 194cm
Boxing Record: click
Managers: Mike Dundee, Chris Dundee, Mac Goodman, and Pat O'Malley
- Cornerman: Benjamin "Evil Eye" Finkle
- Amateur Record: 38-0 (31 knockouts)
John L. Johnson was a promising heavyweight prospect in Florida in the early 1970s.
Johnson was born in Northern Florida in May, 1944 (boxrec lists his birthday as April, 1952)and developed a keen interest in boxing after watching Muhammad Ali fight on national television.
At the age of 15, and standing 6 feet 2 inches tall, the 165 pound Johnson embarked on an amateur career. Using a style similar to his idol, Muhammad Ali, Johnson ran up a reported 38-0 (31 knockouts)amateur record, winning both the lightheavyweight and heavyweight Florida amateur titles.
Johnson caught the eye of legendary promoter Chris Dundee, and Johnson traveled to Miami Beach, Florida to begin a professional career.
Johnson was undefeated in his first nine fights and became a popular fan favorite with exciting wins over veterans Leon Shaw, Rene Kinsey, and Virgil Ray McFarland. In his rematch with Shaw on Tuesday, June 19,1973, at the Miami Beach Auditorium in a fightcard promoted by Chris Dundee, Johnson climbed off the canvas twice in the 3rd round, to knockout Shaw in the 4th. When Johnson knocked out Carlos Dunston in 3 rounds in August 1973, he credited his cornerman, the legendary Benjamin "Evil Eye" Finkle with the victory. " I believed in Finkles powers, " Johnson said. Johnson suffered his first defeat, when James Scott climbed off the canvas in the first round to stop the undefeated Johnson in the bout's final round. Scott would go on to contention in the lightheavyweight division.
Johnson took the defeat in stride, but seemed to have lost that edge which saw him compile his previously undefeated record. Johnson fought 3-fights with hard-punching Miami, Florida knockout artist, Orestes "O.T." Davies. Johnson won the rubber match by stunning knockout. Outside of the ring, Johnson held down a job as a security guard at an Opa-Locka, Florida apartment complex owned by heavyweight contender Al Jones.
World heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali had seen Johnson in action, and the champ hired John L. to work for him as a sparring partner. Johnson was now working with his boxing idol. Johnson was a sparring partner for former 3-time World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali for three years. He also worked as a sparring partner for former WBA world heavyweight champion Jimmy Ellis.
When Ellis fought Larry Middleton in Landover, Maryland, Johnson fought on the undercard. However, Johnson's biggest moment came when he fought on the undercard of the Muhammad Ali/Ron Lyle World Heavyweight Title fight in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 16, 1975.
Johnson's last major victory was a stunning first round knockout victory over Richard Majors. Two years earlier, Johnson had fought the then undefeated Majors to a draw.
In 1983, Johnson decided to retire. He continued to live on Miami Beach, and became a fixture around the South Shore Community Center in the South Beach section of Miami Beach.
Johnson also tried his hand at mixed matches against kickboxers. Johnson lost by first round technical knockout to World Lightheavyweight Kickboxing Champion Don "The Dragon" Wilson. The match was fought in Cocoa Beach, Florida and ended when Johnson started throwing up moments into the match. John L. also lost to another World Lightheavyweight Kickboxing Champion, Gary Daniels. Johnson injured his back and was unable to come out for round 3.
The comeback bug bite John L.Johnson in 1987; however it proved unsuccessful. In 1990, he cameback yet again, but after suffering a knockout defeat, he announced his retirement from the ring.
Johnson was an exciting and popular fan favorite on the South Florida boxing scene. He fought eleven undefeated fighters, two world champions, and title contenders Scott LeDoux and Nino Ribalta. Johnson claims to have fought 62 professional boxing matches.
Johnson is twice divorced and has two daughters and a son. He is currently living in the North Beach section of Miami Beach, Florida, where he is still popular with his old fight fans.
Johnson has suffered from a number of health problems in the past few years. A heart condition has lead to two operations. In October and November, 2007, he was hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida with a staff infection on his leg. The infection opened a wound on his right leg, and in March, 2008, he was again admitted to the hospital.
Following a divorce from his second wife Linda, Johnson found himself displaced and living on the streets of Miami Beach. Efforts are underway to provide the former heavyweight boxer with a place to life, and assistance during his daily routine. However, as of March, 2008, the former heavyweight boxer remains among the over 800 homeless people living on the streets of Miami Beach, Florida.
The homeless Johnson was a fixture in both the South Beach and North Beach areas of Miami Beach. He usually slept on a bus stop on 81st Street. However, Johnson has not been seen in public for almost 5 years, and some local boxers who trained with Johnson in his glory days, report that he died from a staff infection. His death however, is unconfirmed.