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Fight Preview: Glen Johnson v. Yusaf Mack

Yusaf Mack gets one of the biggest chances of his career tonight against Glen Johnson.
Yusaf Mack gets one of the biggest chances of his career tonight against Glen Johnson.
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

When the January 30 fight between Shane Mosley and Andre Berto was canceled, its undercard went with it. Kind of hard to headline in Vegas with Glen Johnson-Yusaf Mack, after all, especially with no TV.

But the fights go on. The scrap between David Rodela and Eloy Perez wound up moved a day to January 29 on another Golden Boy card in Vegas, with Perez winning a 10-round decision. Lucas Matthysse-Vivian Harris moved to February 20. Sergio Mora decided he could probably use some more time off.

The biggest of the undercard fights was to pit Glen Johnson (49-13-2, 33 KO) and Yusaf Mack (28-2-2, 17 KO) in an IBF light heavyweight eliminator. That fight is now a key part of tonight's ESPN2 Friday Night Fights from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Johnson, 41, is coming off of the widest and clearest loss of his career since his 1997 TKO loss to Bernard Hopkins (his first loss), a 12-round blowout where he was dominated by Chad Dawson in Connecticut. That November bout was a rematch of a hotly-contested April 2008 fight between the two, but didn't look much like their first meeting at all. The aging Johnson was made to look old and slow by Dawson, the first time that Johnson started looking like he was slowing down.

Was it just Dawson's speed and youth that did it?

30-year-old Mack is on a five-fight win streak since moving up to 175 pounds. He had lost two bouts at 168, one to big-punching Alejandro Berrio and the other to Librado Andrade. Mack was the first to knock Andrade down, putting him on the canvas with one of the biggest haymakers you'll ever see connect in pro boxing.

The best win of Mack's career came almost a year ago to the day, when on February 6, 2009, Mack scored a minor upset over Chris Henry to vault himself into real contention, or close to it anyway. The fight itself was a bit disappointing. On this winning streak, Mack has changed his style a bit to make himself more of a counter puncher, which keeps him largely out of those wild brawls like he had against Andrade.

Mack last fought in May of '09, beating DeAndrey Abron in Florida.

As for Johnson, ignored in all his hanging around and toughness is the fact that, if you want to get right down to it, he does not have a big win since his 2004 upset of Antonio Tarver. You can certainly argue he should have had his hand raised in his last fight with Clinton Woods (2006) and his first fight with Dawson (2008), but his only on-the-sheet wins since beating Tarver are over trial horses, fringe contenders and journeymen, the best of which is either an old Montell Griffin in 2007 or Daniel Judah last year.

A win over Mack would be Johnson's best in over a half a decade. The questions are pretty simple:

  • Is Yusaf Mack really good enough to beat even an older, fading Glen Johnson?
  • Does Glen Johnson have enough left to beat Yusaf Mack?

It's a tough call, and it's a fight where I'm having some serious problems picking a winner -- not because I care about being wrong picking fights, but because I'm not too sure about either of the questions above. Just for kicks, I'm going to say Mack takes a close decision, and Johnson complains afterward.

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