Johnson wins decision that counts

January 03, 1993|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff Writer

In his heart, Mike "Cobrafast" Johnson knew he had won the fight.

It was the rematch of the World Martial Mania Federation cruiserweight championship -- a combination of kick-boxing and judo -- against former champion Andre Blignaut of South Africa. It took place May 18, 1991, at Westminster High School.

After nine rounds, Blignaut came away with a controversial, but unanimous, decision. Johnson, a Manchester resident, said he felt he was robbed.

The feeling around the Johnson camp was the federation wanted the title back in South Africa. A year before, Johnson went to South Africa and knocked out Blignaut in the fourth round to gain the title.

A year and a half and three official protests later, Johnson, 25, has learned he is again the WMMF champion after hearing from federation officials in South Africa that the decision had been overturned.

"I still can't believe it," Johnson said.

"It was tough getting over the fight, and you can't change the things that have followed. It was kind of like someone spending time in jail for a crime they didn't commit. I faced a lot of ridicule from certain people for losing, but truly never claimed I lost the fight."

A couple of weeks after the fight, Johnson sent a letter of protest and a videotape that apparently never found its way to the nTC federation's headquarters in South Africa.

A second attempt was made, and federation officials said there was no way the decision would be changed.

The third protest got into the hands of Johann Haywood, the referee of the fight and a member of the board of directors with the federation. Four months after the fight, the protest was accepted.

Johnson was to be notified of the decision at that time by a United States representative of the federation, John Doudrick, but was not informed. Johnson mentioned differences between the two. Doudrick, of Harrisburg, Pa., could not be reached for comment.

Johnson learned the news Dec. 23, when Haywood telephoned him at 5:30 in the morning from South Africa.

"He [Haywood] called and said merry Christmas and that kind of stuff and then apologized for the delay in reissuing the new belt," Johnson said.

"I said: 'What are you talking about?' I was shocked."

Haywood told Johnson the new belt, along with a certification letter, was on its way, and the talk of defending the crown came up.

But a lot has changed for Johnson in the past 1 1/2 years. He got married during the summer, and he and his wife, Tammy, are expecting their first child. His tae kwon do school in York, Pa., is flourishing, and he also is teaching the art at The Westminster Inn.

The possibility of Johnson climbing back into the ring seems remote.

"I hinted to some people at a party this past week that I'll be back fighting just to test my wife's reaction, but she's strongly against the idea," Johnson said.

"It's a completely different lifestyle, and you have to have your mind set in preparing for a fight. A lot has changed with me now married and soon to be a daddy.

"I'll probably stay retired, but I've changed my mind before."

He added, "I'm pretty much finished."

Johnson believes justice has been served. He said he would show the tape of the fight to friends and stop it before the decision. Now it doesn't matter.

"I'm still trying to get used to it," he said.

"My students are starting to call me champ again, and my wife has even said it a few times. It's a nice way to go."

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