Rockville's Johnson used loss as lesson Laurel's Davis is foe tonight

November 24, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

It is not too often you hear a professional fighter discuss his first loss -- or any loss -- in a positive manner.

But promising Rockville middleweight Les Johnson, who battles Demetrius Davis of Laurel in the main event at Martin's West tonight, believes the one blemish on his 16-1 record was a valuable learning experience.

Last fall, Johnson, then 10-0, found himself in the ring at the Pikesville Armory against Kevin Tillman, a crafty left-hander from Philadelphia, who had been brought in as a last-minute substitute. Tillman consistently beat the stalking Johnson to the punch and won a well-deserved, eight-round decision.

"I believe everything happens for a reason, and getting beat by Tillman was the best thing that ever happened to me," said Johnson, 24, who has been boxing competitively since he was 8 and won several amateur titles.

"It was like a wake-up call. It took away the pressure of protecting an unblemished record, but it also taught me how much I hate losing and made me that much more dedicated."

It also convinced Johnson to change his managerial team. He appointed Rockville lawyer Thomas Doyle, a lifelong friend, as his financial adviser, and hired Charles Mooney, a silver medalist the 1976 Olympic Games, as his trainer.

Bill Green, his original trainer/adviser, is still involved, but playing a lesser role.

"I just thought that Mooney had the boxing expertise to take me to the next level," said Johnson, ninth in the U.S. Boxing Association 154-pound rankings. "I've watched him work with other fighters, and he impressed me with his teaching techniques."

Johnson, a rawboned 6-footer with the looks of a Marine recruit, boasts surprising power, having stopped 12 of his 17 pro rivals.

"I guess a punch is something I was just blessed with," said Johnson, who was coaxed into boxing by his father, Les Sr., an avid fight fan.

"Once I got into a boxing gym, I just caught the bug," he said. "I started out at Hillcrest Heights, with Pepe Correa as my first trainer."

Johnson learned the ropes quickly, sparring against the likes of Simon Brown and Maurice Blocker, who both went on to win world titles in the welterweight division.

When he turned 16, he represented the South Atlantic Region as a lightweight in the National AAU tournament in Columbus, Ohio, and upset Darrin Van Horn, another future world champion.

"It should have been a wonderful memory for me," Johnson said, "but my father, who came with me to the tournament, had a heart attack and died at 40. He was always my inspiration, and I still feel his presence whenever I'm in the ring."

Johnson has the fighting style and intellect to become a major box-office attraction, but first has to carefully chart his boxing future.

He recently was offered a USBA junior middleweight championship match against Baltimore's Vincent Pettway, but turned it down.

"We'd love to fight Pettway," he said, "but my natural fighting weight is close to 160. It would take too much out of me to try and make 154. I think I have the power to compete against top middleweights, but I'm not rushing into anything."

* NOTES: Promoter Stuart Satosky, testing Martin's West as his new boxing venue, has booked a seven-bout show in the 2,000-seat banquet hall. Highlighting the undercard are a pair of eight-round fights. Cruiserweights Jason Waller (14-4) of Stafford, Va., meets Baltimore's Scott Jones (5-1) in a rematch of their lively fight in January 1991, when Waller, now a title contender, won a split decision. Glen Burnie junior welterweight Chuck Sturm (25-3) continues his comeback from shoulder surgery against Genaro Andujar (6-4), of New York. The bouts start at 7:30.

Facts and figures

What: Seven-bout professional card promoted by Stuart Satosky.

Main event: Les Johnson (16-1, 12 KOs), Rockville, vs. Demetrius Davis (9-2-1, 6KOs), Laurel, middleweights, 10 rounds

Where: Martin's West, Belmont Avenue, Woodlawn.

When: Tonight, first bout 7:30.

Tickets: $30 ringside, $25 reserved, $20 and $15 general admission. For information, call (410) 528-1932.

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