Glen Johnson, Lucian Bute agree to fight
Ultimately, it was not about the money for Glen Johnson. It was about the opportunity, which is why Johnson said he has accepted a deal to challenge super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute.
Johnson, nicknamed "The Road Warrior" for regularly going to his opponent's turf throughout his career, will do it again when he meets Bute on Nov. 5 on Showtime. The fight will likely take place at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City, though the Bell Centre in Montreal is also a possibility, InterBox's Jean Bedard, Bute's promoter, told ESPN.com on Wednesday. Bute, who lives in Montreal, is a major star in Quebec.
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"We reached an agreement. I'm just waiting for the paperwork and I'm moving forward. I'm preparing myself mentally and physically," Johnson told ESPN.com. "I have every intention of going to Canada to derail that train."
Bedard and Showtime, which signed Bute to a multi-fight contract late last year, had hoped to match him with former titleholder Mikkel Kessler of Denmark. When Kessler declined the bout -- he will instead challenge titlist Robert Stieglitz on Nov. 5 in Denmark -- they turned to former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, who said he wanted the fight.
Pavlik promoter Top Rank negotiated a deal with InterBox, but Pavlik surprised everyone when he rejected a $1.35 million offer earlier this month.
That left Johnson, the well-respected former light heavyweight champion and the 2004 fighter of the year, as the most significant available opponent.
However, InterBox's initial offer to Johnson was less than $300,000 after Showtime dramatically cut what it was willing to pay for Bute's next bout.
Leon Margules, Johnson's co-promoter with Lou DiBella, said the offer eventually was improved, but he was still not happy with it. However, Johnson so badly wanted the fight, he gave Margules firm orders not to blow the deal. Margules didn't and Johnson accepted an offer that will pay him less than $400,000.
"It's a better deal than they initially offered, but it's not as healthy as it should (be)," Margules said. "But at the end of the day, Glen's the boss and he wanted the fight. The difference in money, while important, was not going to deter him from making sure he got this opportunity."
Johnson said while money is important, he more wanted the opportunity, even if it meant taking less than he felt he deserved.
"To be honest, I stopped focusing on the dollar value and just kind of wanted to keep my eyes on the prize, which is the opportunity to derail that train and then make a splash in a rematch or fight somebody else for big money," Johnson said. "It is not about what I get for this fight. Even if I got what I wanted to get, or somewhere in between what I wanted and what I'm getting, it really wasn't going to change my zip code. I had to just focus on the opportunity to fight for a world title against a major star in the sport in Canada. It doesn't come any better than that."
Bedard was pleased to finalize the deal with Johnson, even if Showtime cut down the money.
"We worked very hard for the Pavlik fight and we were very surprised with what happened," Bedard said. "We were already planning press conferences. But at least he pulled out three months before the fight and not three days like he just did (for a fight scheduled against Darryl Cunningham on Aug. 6). We know we have a guy, Johnson, who will be there. This is Lucian's biggest opponent. He's fought everybody. He's only been knocked out once and that was by Bernard Hopkins in 1997, and he didn't even go down.
"For Lucian, there are still a lot of people who don't think he's the best super middleweight, so I think it's a great fight for fans to see where Lucian is now. People (in Quebec) are happy that we can bring this quality of fighter here to fight Lucian. A lot of people think it's a tougher fight for Lucian than Pavlik."
The 42-year-old Johnson (51-15-2, 35 KOs) dropped down from light heavyweight to join Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic as an alternate when Kessler dropped out with an injury, and he knocked out Allan Green in the eighth round in November to advance to the semifinals.
On June 4, Johnson challenged Carl Froch for his 168-pound belt and lost a spirited majority decision. Froch advanced to the Oct. 29 final against fellow titleholder Andre Ward. For Johnson, getting the shot at Bute is the next best thing to being in the final.
"I'm extremely excited. I'm delighted. I believe this could not come at a better time," Johnson said. "I'm coming off a loss I'm disappointed in. There's nothing like getting an opportunity to go out there and redeem yourself, so this opportunity couldn't have come at a better time."
Johnson and Bute are friendly with each other. They got to know each other in late 2009 when Bute trained at the same Miami gym as Johnson. They were both getting ready for fights and sparred numerous rounds with each other.
"He's a tremendous body puncher," Johnson said. "I've seen him work. He's an overall good boxer. He's a southpaw, so that bring its own difficulties. I have tremendous respect for his abilities and I have huge respect for his stardom and for him as a person. But this is a business and this goes out the window when the bell rings. I'm trying to feed my family and beat him."
They will train at different gyms for this fight. Bedard said Bute will leave for training camp Sept. 5 in Boynton Beach, Fla.
"It's really a fight Glen's wanted since they sparred," Margules said. "He's always believed he could beat Bute. Glen wanted the fight in the worst way." The Jamaican-born, Miami-based Johnson, who has suffered several debatable decision losses in his opponent's hometown, said he is not concerned about going to Bute's turf for the fight. He said he knows he cannot leave it to the judges.
"I believe the knockout is going to happen. I feel like this is something I need to win the fight," Johnson said. "I just need to dominate. I'm not going to win a close decision. I better go in there and separate from myself from Bute in every fashion and a knockout would be the best way, the sure way to get that victory."
Bute, 31, has held his title since 2007 and has made eight defenses, including a fourth-round knockout of mandatory challenger Jean-Paul Mendy of France on July 9. The fight with Mendy was in Bute's native Romania, where he fought professionally for the first time.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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