WESTMINSTER — Cruiserweight title holder Mike "Cobrafast" Johnson of Manchester and former champion Andre Blignaut of South Africa agree on one thing.
Saturday's World Martial Mania Federation cruiserweight championship rematch will not last the scheduled nine rounds.
Blignaut "would be lucky to see the second round," Johnson statedboldly.
For his part, Blignaut, at a press conference Monday morning at Champ's Lounge, calmly predicted a fifth-round knockout.
Westminster High School will be the venue for the fight, which is sanctioned by the Maryland State Athletic Commission. The first of five undercard bouts, featuring a number of Carroll County fighters, begins at 6 p.m., with the main event scheduled for around 8:30.
"I couldhave had the fight in Baltimore or York (Pa.), but I'm having it here for Carroll County and all the people who have stuck by me and supported me," Johnson said.
"It feels great (being a world champion)," said the owner of Johnson's Tae Kwon Do in York, Pa.
"Kids come down to my house asking for autographs, and people in the streets come up and say, 'Aren't you Mike Johnson?' "
What a difference a year makes.
This time last year, Johnson was traveling to South Africa in hopes of becoming world champion.
Battling jet lag and higheraltitude, Johnson made the most of his trip by scoring a fourth-round knockout over previously unbeaten Blignaut.
"There is much less stress this time," Johnson said. "And I'm much more relaxed not having to worry about the travel and jet lag.
"There is another sense of stress promoting the fight, but it has really kept me busy, and I feel good," said Johnson, who expects much the same result this time.
"Andre doesn't have anything I can't counter," the champion said. "Everything is set, and I'm just waiting on the bell."
This year, it's Blignaut's turn to battle travel and unfamiliar environment in hopes of regaining the title.
"I feel strong and confident," Blignaut said. "The flight didn't bother me a bit, and fighting in the United States is just a minor distraction."
The opponents have employed differing training regimens to prepare for the coming full-contact fight, which combines Japanese-style kickboxing and judo. Johnson began training Dec. 1 and, aside from sparring, hasn't been in the ring.
"Right after last year's fight, I worked on some basic boxing skills I lacked," Johnson said. "I started training the first of December with the heavy bag and sparring and have lightened up the last month swimming and weightlifting.
"I feel great, and I'm ready to go,"the black belt said.
Blignaut, on the other hand, has gone 7-0 since losing his title to Johnson last May.
"I feel very calm now but went through a lot of pressure training," Blignaut said. "I'm physically fit to go the distance if necessary."
Johnson, 23, enters his first title defense Saturday with a 9-1 record and nine knockouts. The 6-foot champion will come into the ring a quicker 182 or 183 pounds, after weighing 185 pounds for last year's fight.
Blignaut, also 23, is 6-foot-2 1/2 and 200 pounds -- about the same as for last year's fight.
He has been fighting professionally since 1987 and hadsix successful title defenses before his loss to Johnson. He believes he will be champion again.
"I didn't have enough experience in distant fighting. I believe the term here is 'lucky punch,' " Blignautsaid of his KO at the hands of Johnson.
"Mike Johnson is going toget humbled Saturday," Blignaut said. "You're not a champion until you've lost and regained what you've had. That's when you're a true champion."
Johnson has other ideas.
"I busted my butt last year as an underdog and earned what I got. There was no luck involved," Johnson said of last year's fight, which saw Blignaut suffer a broken nose and cracked ribs.
"There's a meaning behind my license plate which really says it all: 1-KICK, and that's all it will take," Johnsonsaid.
Tickets are still available and cost $30 for ringside seats, $15 for lower bleachers and $12.50 for upper bleachers. They can be purchased at Leisure Health Spa, Champs and Golf Etc. in the Cranberry Mall.
Information: (717) 751-0111 or 549-6723.
The fight also will be shown live, pay-per-view, by Prestige Cable for $15. Call Prestige for more information: 857-9133.
Scheduled on the undercard are:
Drew Weaver of McSherrytown, Pa., vs. Charles Alder of Westminster; Harry Kocoronis of York, Pa., vs. John Beale of Westminster; and heavyweights Dan Whittington of Westminster vs. Mike Winter of York.
There also will be two children's demonstrations with Soky Margetas vs. Adam Tull of Manchester and George Margetas of York vs. Mike Winter of Westminster.