Johnson has endured a turbulent two years and now faces a shot at securing ultimate glory, live on talkSPORT
On September 24, 2016, Callum ‘The One’ Johnson stopped Willbeforce Shihepo in the ninth round to win the Commonwealth light-heavyweight title.
The former Commonwealth Games amateur gold medallist was crowned Commonwealth champion as a professional and it now seemed he would finally be able to kick on after the stop-start first six years of his pro career.
However, that wasn’t to be the case.
Johnson struggled to return due a combination of injury setbacks and the mental strain of having unexpectedly lost his 52-year-old father to a heart attack earlier that year.
He described his Dad, Paul, as his best friend and hero, admitting that the shock death left him having thoughts about ending his own life.
While absent from the sport, Callum Johnson was installed as mandatory for the British light-heavyweight title held by Frank Buglioni, and the fight was finally scheduled for September 2017.
Even then, the now-33-year-old still didn’t make it back to the ring as he pulled out of the bout on fight week due to severe chest pains.
Despite it looking as though he may never box again, the Buglioni fight was remade for March 24, 2018 – one-and-a-half years to the day after his last win over Shihepo.
Johnson stunned the British boxing scene as he smashed through the champion to win by first-round knockout.
Despite 18 months out of the ring, he displayed no ring rust whatsoever and became the UK’s number one light-heavyweight in an instant.
What followed was unexpected, as his win earned him a place in the IBF world rankings and the governing body soon came calling to offer him a title shot.
Artur Beterbiev is a formidable light-heavyweight world champion.
The 33-year-old Russian is 12-0 with 12 KOs after an exceptional amateur career in which he became a world ruler and two-time European king.
He is heavily favoured to walk through Callum Johnson in Chicago on October 6, and understandably so.
However he, like Johnson, has also been inactive.
Beterbiev won the IBF belt with a final-round stoppage of Enrico Koelling last November and this will be his first defence, eleven months later, as a promotional dispute has kept him out of the ring.
He’s now signed a co-promotional agreement with Johnson’s own promoter Eddie Hearn and was due to make a mandatory defence having missed his chance to choose a voluntary opponent.
The IBF contacted several top fighters in their rankings, including rising Brit Anthony Yarde, all of whom turned down the chance to face Beterbiev as mandatory.
They then had to make an entirely new list of contenders in March, at which point Johnson beat Buglioni and declared that he would step up to the plate.
So, despite having just one fight in two years and plenty of mental/physical trauma in the interim, Callum Johnson is set to challenge Artur Beterbiev for his light-heavyweight world title this weekend in Chicago.
The Lincolnshire man has stated that, if he wins, he will take his new world title belt to his father’s graveside, present it to him and say: “We did it.”
This could truly be one of the greatest feel-good stories boxing has produced in recent times. Don’t miss it.
Artur Betebiev vs Callum Johnson will be live on talkSPORT from 3am on Saturday night/Sunday morning.