By: Ken Hissner
Trained by former IBF World Light Heavyweight Champion Glen “The Road Warrior” Johnson, Raphael “The Nigerian Hurricane” Akpejiori who is a Nigerian heavyweight hailing from Lagos, Nigeria will be turning professional in September. As an amateur he is 13-1 with 10 knockouts.
Akpejiori was discovered at a basketball camp in South Africa and awarded a scholarship to play high school basketball at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kansas in 2008. He came to the US as an international student and lived with a host family while attending high school for two years. He received numerous scholarships from Division 1 basketball programs and decided to attend the University of Miami in FL in 2010 where he obtained a bachelor/master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
“In training him for the past six months he has learned a lot. He is a quick learner and has a great work ethic,” said Glen Johnson.
Akpejiori played power forward on the Miami basketball team from 2010-14. He joined the football team as a tight end in 2014 and played one season. After a stint in the Miami Dolphins training camp he was encouraged to pursue the sweet science which he discovered came naturally. He resides in Miami where he is employed in the Facilities Management Department as a Project Coordinator.
Akpejiori signed with Classic Entertainment & Sports because he is convinced that promoter Jimmy Burchfield, Sr. will guide him to a world heavyweight title within five years. His manager is his father Pius. His publicist is George Hanson Jr., a lawyer and boxing writer in Philadelphia who also trains you kids at the Marion Anderson Recreation Center in South Philadelphia. He is from Jamaica. I have to give him credit for making my connection for this article to him.
“Akpejiori stands 6:08 and tips the scales at 260 lbs. He has Nyquil in both hands with a jack hammer jab reminiscent of former heavyweight champion Sonny Liston,” said Hanson.
Now let’s focus on Akepjiori’s trainer the former IBF World Light Heavyweight champion Glen “Road Warrior” Johnson from Jamaica moving to Miami, FL, at age 15. He fought from 1993 to 2015.
Johnson won his first 31 bouts before getting a world title fight in July of 1997 losing to OBF World Middleweight champion Bernard “Exterminator” Hopkins, 31-2-1, by TKO11 in Indio, CA. Johnson hadn’t won a round up until the stoppage. His trainers at that time were Pat Burns and Bobby Baker.
Johnson after losing three in a row bounced back taking the WBC Continental Americas Super Middleweight title in April of 1999. His four bout win streak was stopped losing to Sven Ottke, 16-0, for his IBF World Super Middleweight title in a close fight over 12 rounds. Ottke had an amateur style. He would “touch you” and move around the ring scoring points. He was not a puncher. Another fight I felt that I won,” said Johnson.
Johnson would lose his next three fights before stopping Toks Owoh, 15-1, in London, UK, in September of 2000 for the IBF Inter-Continental Super Middleweight Title. He would return ten months later moving up to light heavyweight winning the WBO Inter-Continental Light Heavyweight Title knocking out Thomas Ulrich, 20-0, in 6 rounds at Berlin, Germany.
Johnson’s up and down career continued losing to contenders Derrick Harmon, 21-2 and Julio Cesar Gonzalez, 31-1 by decision and drawing with Daniel Judah, 17-0-1. In May of 2003 he stopped this streak defeating Eric Harding, 21-2-1, for the vacant USBA Light Heavyweight Title.
The win over Harding got Johnson a vacant IBF World Light heavyweight Title fight drawing with Clinton Woods, 35-2, in November of 2003 in the first of three encounters all in the UK. In February of 2004 in their rematch Johnson defeated Woods for the IBF World Light Heavyweight Title in the UK. “Woods was a tough guy who fed off the fans. When he fought outside of the UK he wasn’t the same fighter. I would have loved to have fought him in the US,” said Johnson.
Johnson would defend his title knocking out the former Middleweight, Super Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion Roy Jones, Jr., 49-2, in 9 rounds in the US in September of 2004. “When I fought Roy Jones he was like my favorite boxer at the time,” said Johnson.
“In Johnson’s next fight he won a split decision over Antonio Tarver for the IBO World Light Heavyweight title in L.A. Six months later he would lose to Tarver in a rematch over 12 rounds in the US. “Tarver was a big light heavyweight. I’m surprised he is still talking about fighting again,” said Johnson. In February of 2006 he won the IBA Light Heavyweight Title defeating Richard Hall, 27-5 in the US.
Johnson in his next fight had his third encounter with Woods losing a split decision in the UK losing his IBF World Light Heavyweight Title. He would go onto a three fight win streak stopping Montell Griffin, 48-6, Fred Moore, 30-6, and Hugo Pineda, 39-3-1, all in the US. “Griffin was good and very tricky,” said Johnson.
Johnson lost to Chad Dawson, 25-0, for the WBC World Light Heavyweight Title in the US. After winning a pair of bouts he lost in a rematch with Dawson in the US. In August of 2010 he lost to IBF World Light Heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud, 20-0, in the US. “He was tough with limited skills but very strong,” said Johnson.
Johnson would come back to stop Allan Green, 29-2. This was a tournament called the “Super 6” in which Andre Ward ended up winning it.
In Johnson’s next fight he would drop back to super middleweight losing a majority decision to Carl Froch, 27-1, in the US for the WBC World Super Middleweight Title. In Johnson’s next fight he lost to Lucian Bute, 29-0, in Quebec, Canada, for his IBF World Super Middleweight Title. “Bute was a decent fighter but better at home”, said Johnson. He would drop his next two fights to Andrzel Fonfara, 21-2, in the US and George Groves, 15-0, in the UK. “Tough and decent but nothing special,” said Johnson.
Johnson ended up his career at 54-21-2 (37) in August of 2015 at age 46. He then would become a trainer. In 2004 Johnson would be voted Boxing Writers Association of American Fighter of the Year. The USA Today and Ring Magazine also voted him Fighter of the Year.
KEN HISSNER: You have fought many good and great fighters in your 77 bout career. Is there one that stands out as the best?
GLEN JOHNSON: Roy Jones, Jr. and Chad Dawson. Roy was very fast. Dawson was an excellent boxer and a moving southpaw, not a puncher.
KEN HISSNER: You fought Bernard Hopkins in one of your first major bouts.
GLEN JOHNSON: He was the first I lost to and he stopped my 31 fight winning streak. I liked Hopkins.
KEN HISSNER: I believe you never fought in the country you were born in Jamaica. Did you ever want to fight there?
GLEN JOHNSON: No, I left there when I was 14 and wasn’t interested in boxing until I started boxing in Miami.
KEN HISSNER: You have fought for many titles, minor and world titles. Did anyone stand out?
GLEN JOHNSON: Winning my world title in my second fight with Clinton Woods.
KEN HISSNER: Are there any fighters you have trained that you would like to mention?
GLEN JOHNSON: I just started training fighters in the last 3 years. I have another prospect named Malik Lewis who is 24 and a featherweight. He had about 20 amateur fights and is a tremendous fighter and very good technically.
KEN HISSNER: Thanks for giving so much back to the many fans and that including myself.
GLEN JOHNSON: Call me back anytime.