MANCHESTER — Last year at this time, North Carroll's Michael Johnson was preparing to challenge for the World Martial Mania Federation junior light-heavyweight title against South Africa's Andre Blignaut.
This year, after knocking out Blignaut last spring in Modderfontein, South Africa, he is preparing for his first kick-boxing title defense.
Only this time it's in his own backyard.
The stage is set for the 23-year-old, nicknamed "Cobrafast," who will face South Africa's Schalk DeWet for the WMMF junior light-heavyweight crown on May 18 atWestminster High School.
"Every fighter dreams of having a hometown fight, and I've got it," Johnson said.
Unlike the Blignaut fight, Johnson has had a chance to see DeWet fight.
"He's a pretty good boxer, but I feel I'm definitely superior with the kick," Johnson said.
Originally, Johnson planned to give Blignaut a rematch.
But the South African put on weight after their first encounter and is now classified as a heavyweight.
After taking a month off after last May's victory, Johnson was preparing for his first defense.
"I feel great," Johnson said. "My power has improved greatly, and I am ahead of schedule. Right now, we're continuing to work on my power andspeed and doing some heavy sparring.
"I will continue with extensive training leading up to the fight, but lighten up on the heavy sparring and do a lot of swimming the lastmonth for endurance and toning," he added.
Along with the training regimen, Johnson also is busypromoting the fight.
"We haven't measured the ring yet, but we are estimating Westminster High School can hold about 2,100 people -- including the VIP ringside seats," Johnson said.
"We have a number of local businesses helping us with ticket sales and have posters which will soon be up."
Johnson also said he plans to be in touch with ESPN cable network to see if they would be interested in televisingthe fight.
The total package will feature at least four fights onthe under card -- starting at 6 p.m. (the doors will open at 5 p.m.)-- with the championship fight scheduled around 7:30 p.m., said Johnson's promoter, Larry Dickens.
"It's definitely going to be an action-packed fight. Mike (Johnson) is stronger and quicker now than he was a year ago and looks awesome," Dickens said.
The heavyweight title fight also could be on the Westminster High card, which would feature Blignaut challenging the current champion.
Meanwhile, as part of their Super Bowl party, Champ's Restaurant in Westminster will be airing last year's Johnson-Blignaut fight at 3 p.m. today.
That fight ended seconds into the fourth round with Blignaut airborne and landing on his knees under the ropes after a Johnson jumpback kick. All that was left was the ref's mandatory 10-count.
"Cobrafast" is expecting much of the same this time around.
"One kick is all it took," Johnson said. "This one will end with a good powerful kick onceagain."