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A Champion Who Never Got His Just Due From Boxing When He Reigned Supreme – The Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson Story

Exclusive Interview by “Bad” Brad Berkwitt

You just don’t know what this interview for RSR means to me after all these years of not being mentioned.”–Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson

A man goes through life plying his trade to maintain not only himself, but also his family in the process. This man may be a carpenter, a truck driver, a Wall Street broker, or, in this case, a World Champion prize fighter. All men yearn for respect when they give their profession everything they have. Desiring recognition in ones respective field from their peers is a very human trait. Former IBF Featherweight Champion Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson went to the mountaintop of the boxing world firmly digging his stake into the record books when on February 26, 1993, he beat then IBF Featherweight Champion, Manuel Medina, via split decision for the belt.

Respect came for the new champion, you would think. Well, you would be wrong. Ok the boxing world says to Johnson, “Prove yourself”. Johnson replies, “Sure I will”. And over the next four years, he wins in eleven title defenses along with a few non-title fights as well. Now he gets the respect he deserves right? Wrong again! He is hardly ever mentioned in the boxing world and this is a crime to say the least.

Only in title defense number twelve when he loses via TKO to, then WBO Featherweight Champion, Prince Naseem Hamed, does he get some press, but just that he lost the fight.

Sitting and talking with Johnson one would have to be hearing impaired not to realize he was proud to be a champion; something he has carried with him everyday since he won it back on February 26, 1993. As any other champion, before and after him, yearns to be recognized, but often a few fall through the cracks of the boxing columns through no fault of their own.

Well, that lack of recognition ends with this interview. RSR brings you Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson in his own words.

BB: Update the RSR readers on what you have been up to since you retired in 2002?

Well, I have being working really hard and went through a bad divorce, but trying to turn things around now in a positive manner. This week I am going back to the gym and actually as we speak, I am walking around at 136 LBS. I run as often as I can, and shadowbox every day between 6-8 rounds. I have no intentions of trying to make a comeback, but I want to be in shape because I would like to teach some of these young guys out there the proper way to box via being a trainer and hopefully guide a young man to a world title. Also, I work full-time at Collins & Aikman, an automotive plant here in Detroit, Michigan.

BB: You turned professional on October 28, 1986 with a TKO win over Aaron Brumfield. What do you recall about having your first professional win under your belt?

It was a good experience, but I really was well prepared for my first fight because I went away to training camp. I actually saw Brumfield fight in the amateurs when we were coming up at the same time and knew I would beat him, but it was great to get the win by knockout.

BB: You don’t let anytime slip by and in 86, you have one more fight, 87 has you winning seven more times, 88 gives you six more wins, and in 89, four more wins. Today, you hardly see a young prospect have this many fights. Why do you think that is?

I think the fighters today are not fighting as much because their camps are protecting their marquee value. They may win a championship belt, but in their first defense, they wind up losing it. The advantage for me fighting as you mentioned so frequently was it allowed me to face so many diverse opponents in the ring, which improved my adaptability for almost any style out there.

BB: In your 21st fight, on July 3, 1990, you face tough as nails Harold Warren, to whom you drop a ten round decision. What do you recall about this fight and what did your first professional loss do to your mindset?

I think it was a good fight and I have it on tape now. It was a tough match and I felt I won it, but the judges felt the other way. For the first time in my career, I had a big head going into the fight and felt no one in the world could beat me. Before the fight, I had some problems with my team which I think kind of affected my mindset going in. But with that said, I think losing at that time was the best thing that could have happened to me because Warren was the first southpaw I faced in the ring. Before this fight, I never watched tape and went in cold, but after this fight, I learned you have to be prepared on all levels. One of the best things I had in my boxing bag was the ability to make adjustments to a fighter when I was in there, but against Warren, I waited too long to make those adjustments needed.

BB: On November 18, 1990, you face for the second time, former IBF Featherweight Champion Troy Dorsey for the NABF Featherweight title and the fight ends in a draw. Dorsey, an ex-kickboxer, was never known for his power, but had solid stamina in the ring. What are your recollections of this fight?

I beat Dorsey in this fight without a doubt in my mind till this day. When I walked into the ring, I knew I was going to beat him as I did once before when we fought. Prior to the Dorsey fight, as you know, I lost to Harold Warren. I had walked into the gym and told my trainer Mitch that I know how we can get back on top in the boxing world and that was to face the number one contender Troy Dorsey. My trainer looked at me and said, “Boy, you must be crazy”.

God as my witness, I came home that same day and received a phone call asking would I fight Troy Dorsey? I asked when? I had two weeks and I took it. It was a good 12 round fight and I feel I won eight of the twelve rounds. The fight was in his hometown and the draw, I feel, was a hometown decision.

BB: Five years into your professional career, you are finally challenging for the IBF Featherweight title against Manuel Medina. This fight ended by a technical decision for Medina when the fight was stopped in the ninth round because of a cut. After the fight, once again, you waste no time in the ring and go on to have four more fights with each ending in a “W” for you. Your second chance comes against Medina again on February 26, 1993. This time around, you are a winner by split decision and the new IBF Featherweight Champion.Describe the fight and why it was so close? What did you feel now being a world champion would do for you?


I think it was close fight, but yes, I do think I won it.

Medina was not by any means your typical Mexican fighter in the ring. He had a lot of boxing ability and fought every round hard causing me to make many adjustments against him. If you look at his career, he was not an easy fight for anyone who faced him.

Honestly, I felt becoming a world champion would change everything in my life from that day forward. The reality of being a world champion never set with me in my career because when I came back home no one acknowledged me. In fact, no one from my promotional outfit came to my fight.

Everyone thought that I would lose this fight. I have to tell you a very personal thing while we are talking right now. You just don’t know the gratitude I have towards you right now for making this phone call to me today to conduct this interview for RingsideReport. I have spent the last ten years of my life trying to figure out what happened? When they talk about champions, my name has never been mentioned amongst good or great fighters.

As tough as things were and as hurt as I was, I still became a world champion and since February 26, 1993, I have carried that with me deep in my heart and no one can take it away from me.

BB: Over the next four years, you make eleven successful title defenses over the likes of (Sugar Baby Rojas UD12, Stephane Haccoun TKO9, Orlando Antonio Soto UD12, Benny Amparo TKO12, Franciso Segura UD12, Manuel Medina UD12, Eddie Croft UD12, Jose Badillo MD12, Ever Beleno TKO12, Caludio Victor Martinet KO7, and Ramon Guzman UD12.

Two observations about all the opponents you fought. First, how were you able to make so many defenses in such a short period of time and what was the goal? Second, no dig on you, but it appears you could not get a big name fight that would attract the boxing world to take notice and make a nice paycheck for you as well. Do you agree with this statement and if so, what was going on?

I was able to make all of those title defenses because I was always prepared to fight and in shape. If I had just fought in a 12 round fight on the weekend, I would be back in the gym the following Tuesday, training just as hard.

Honestly, I have this discussion all the time on your second question about the big name fight. None of the big names around ever called me out. Kevin Kelly would have been the big fight during this time, but he out priced himself by asking for two million dollars.

BB: With no big names calling you out, what stopped you from moving up to Junior Lightweight for some big fights?

Nothing really stopped me, but I walked around at 128 LBS and moving up to 130 with guys coming in even higher in weight the night of the fight, would have put me at a disadvantage.

BB: In the eleven defenses listed, who do you feel was your toughest opponent and why?

Manuel Medina because styles make fights and I had to make so many adjustments against him, even though he was not a big puncher.

BB: On February 8, 1997, you put your belt up against then WBO Featherweight Champion Prince Naseem Hamed. You have to travel over to England to fight him and when the fight is over, you lose your belt via a TKO in the eighth round. Describe the fight, and how do you rate Hamed as a fighter?

I rate Hamed as a champion and he proved it that night. Going into the fight, I had sustained an injury (whiplash) and I was not at 100%, but because so much money was invested in it, I could not pull out.

If I was 100%, I don’t think Hamed would have beaten me.

My last day of training in New York, they put me in the ring with a sparring partner I knew nothing about nor did my team. He showed up in the gym and I rejected working with him. To this day, I don’t know who he was. The press got involved with the story about me not wanting to spar with him, so I broke down and sparred with this guy. Two rounds into the sparring session, I threw a punch and backed up. When I did, his head ran into my neck, causing whiplash. It ended my training, which was two weeks before the fight.

BB: You go on to have 14 more fights in the next five years, but losing half of them and in your last two fights against Jesus Chavez and Jorge Paez, you were stopped. My gut tells me something in you changed or was lost in the Hamed fight. In your words, what happened to you as a prizefighter?

Your observation is correct. After the Hamed loss, something in me died that night in the ring as a prizefighter. My intestinal fortitude was gone. I was devastated because when I walked into my dressing room, I heard everyone who was in my corner and representing me sitting there and deciding who was going to talk me into retiring?

This was the first fight I lost in several years and the loss was not a total beating like many others you have seen. The one conversation had them talking about who was going to tell me to retire and the other, who was going to ask me for their paychecks? Mo Sims was the only one who refused to be part of that conversation and walked out of the dressing room that night. To this day, Mo and I are the best of friends. (Note: Some of these feelings really hurt me back then and I wanted to describe that period to you. However, since that time, I hold no ill feelings against anyone on my team and thank all of them for making me a world champion and the man I am today.)

BB: In the almost twenty years since you turned professional, do you feel the sport has moved ahead or backwards?

I feel it moved ahead by allowing fighters to make a lot more money today with the right team behind them. I think where it moved back is the fighters today don’t train like they should. They have no science in what they are doing like we had.

BB: In your prime, how do you feel you would stack up against the featherweights of today?

I would be a World Champion. In my prime, I was a very hard guy to fight because as I said earlier, I could make all kinds of adjustments in the ring. I could take a punch and I could throw a pretty decent one as well.

BB: In all of your fights, which fight did boxing fans see you at your very best?

I would have to say Ever Beleno whom I stopped in the 12th round.

BB: Do you favor a mandatory retirement fund for all boxers and if so, how would you like to see it accomplished?

Yes, I do. I believe the fund should be started as soon as the fighter turns professional and he cannot touch it until a certain age or illness that would prevent him from making a living. This income would help take care of him especially if it happened inside the ropes.

I feel that the fighters as I said should pay into it as well as the promoters that make money off of the fighters. Go one more step on this. Anyone on his team who is making money off the fighter should pay into the fund as well while they are still making money from the fighter.

The Government eventually will have to get involved, so get them involved from the start so everyone especially the fighter, is protected.

BB: Now that you are totally retired, how would you like the fans of Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson to remember you?

As a guy who always showed up to fight in the ring.

BB: Finally, what is the saying you live your life by?

I made it by the grace of God to see another day”.

Boom Boom” wanted to add to our interview:

If there was one thing I could really say again is thanks for this call because it will change the way I look at life from this moment on. After all these years, somebody has paid my career some attention.

I would also like to inform your RSR readers and other boxing folks out there that I am really looking to train some young fighters as I mentioned earlier in our interview. If there is anyone out there looking for a former World Champion with 24 plus years of experience in boxing, please reach out to “Bad” Brad with your info and he will in turn, give it to me.

Tom Johnson


(128 lbs)


Professional Record: 63 fights; 51+ (29 KO), 2=, 10-

1993-1997: I.B.F. Featherweight

– 1986 –

+ (Oct-28-1986, Sterling Heights) Aaron BRUMFIELD ko 2

+ (Nov-25-1986, Sterling Heights) Victor Rogers ko 1

– 1987 –

+ (Jan-27-1987, Sterling Heights) Bobby Adams ko 3

+ (Feb-24-1987, Sterling Heights) Sammy RUIZ 6

+ (Apr-28-1987, Sterling Heights) Tony Cisneros ko 5

+ (May-19-1987, Sterling Heights) Vincent Gonzalez 6

+ (Aug-18-1987, Sterling Heights) Mario Rivera ko 2

+ (Sep-29-1987, Sterling Heights) Troy DORSEY 8

+ (Nov-17-1987, Sterling Heights) Kenny Cole 8

– 1988 –

+ (Jan-28-1988, Sterling Heights) Octavio Quinones 6

+ (Apr-27-1988, Sterling Heights) Ernesto Mota ko 1

+ (Jun-29-1988, Sterling Heights) Antonio Medina ko 4

+ (Sep-28-1988, Clemens) Jose Saldana kot 9

+ (Oct-26-1988, Clemens) Carlos Castro 10

+ (Nov-30-1988, Detroit) Gilberto Contreras 12

– 1989 –

+ (Feb-16-1989, Sterling Heights) Tony De La Rosa kot 4

+ (Apr-21-1989, New York) Eddie Garcia kot 6

+ (Jun-29-1989, New York) Fermin Rodriguez kot 6

+ (Sep-28-1989, Sterling Heights) Fermin Rodriguez kot 2

– 1990 –

+ (Jan-26-1990, Atlantic City) Anthony English 10

– (Jul-3-1990, Monticello) Harold WARREN 10

+ (Oct-23-1990, Las Vegas) Gilberto MARTINEZ kot 1

= (Nov-18-1990, Fort Worth) Troy DORSEY 12 (North America, Featherweight)

– 1991

+ (Jan-25-1991, Corpus Christi) Sylvestre Castillo ko 4

+ (Mar-1-1991, Charleston) Alex Bear kot 5

+ (May-31-1991, Kerhonkson) German Vasquez kot 1

+ (Aug-3-1991, Columbus) Arturo Padilla ko 4

+ (Oct-4-1991, Atlantic City) Gerardo SANCHEZ kot 2

– (Nov-18-1991, Inglewood) Manuel MEDINA injury 9 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

– 1992 –

+ (Jan-21-1992, Las Vegas) Rafael ORTEGA injury 5

+ (Apr-4-1992, Eldorado) Mario Lozano ko 1

+ (Jun-11-1992, New York) Kelvin SEABROOKS retiring 7

+ (Oct-20-1992, Atlantic City) Antonio HERNANDEZ 10

– 1993 –

+ (Feb-27-1993, Melun) Manuel Medina 12 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

+ (Aug-24-1993, Atlantic City) Jose Scorpion GARCIA 10

+ (Sep-11-1993, Miami) Sugar Baby Jose ROJAS 12 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

+ (Nov-30-1993, Marseille) Stephane HACCOUN kot 9 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

– 1994 –

+ (Feb-12-1994, Saint-Louis) Orlando SOTO 12 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

+ (Jun-11-1994, Atlantic City) Benny AMPARO kot 12 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

+ (Oct-22-1994, Atlantic City) Francisco SEGURA 12 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

– 1995 –

+ (Jan-28-1995, Atlantic City) Manuel MEDINA 12 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

+ (Apr-26-1995, Auburn Hills) Victor LAUREANO kot 2

+ (May-28-1995, South Padre Island) Eddie CROFT 12 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

+ (Dec-9-1995, Stuttgart) Jose Yungo BADILLO 12 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

– 1996 –

+ (Mar-2-1996, Newcastle) Ever BELENO kot 12 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

+ (Apr-27-1996, Antibes) Claudio MARTINET ko 7 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

+ (Aug-31-1996, Dublin) Ramon GUZMAN 12 (I.B.F., Featherweight)

= (Dec-21-1996, Las Vegas) Javier MARQUEZ 3

– 1997 –

– (Feb-8-1997, London) Prince Naseem HAMED kot 8 (World, Featherweight)

+ (Jul-19-1997, Nashville) Vincent HOWARD 10

– 1998 –

– (Feb-21-1998, Miami) Santos REBOLLEDO 10

+ (Apr-30-1998, Fort Lauderdale) Javier DIAZ 10

– (Sep-4-1998, Kolding) Dennis Holbaeck Pedersen 12

+ (Nov-6-1998, Detroit) Jose Luis MONTES kot 8

– 1999 –

– (Feb-17-1999, Grand Rapids) Junior JONES 12

– (Jul-31-1999, Carlisle) Charles SHEPHERD 12

– 2000 –

+ (Apr-29-2000, Aruba) Agustin LORENZO 10

+ (Jun-16-2000, Detroit) Felipe GARCIA kot 4

– (Jul-15-2000, London) Scott HARRISON 12

– 2001 –

+ (Jan-12-2001, Southfield) Ernest KOFFI kot 5

+ (Feb-2-2001, Sarasota) David TURNER 10

– (Feb-23-2001, Austin) Jesus CHAVEZ retiring 8 (North America, Junior lightweight)

– 2002 –

– (Feb-22-2002, Lemoore) Jorge PAEZ kot 2

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