Exclusive: Callum Johnson plots world title charge towards Joe Smith Jr.

"My main ambition is the world title and Joe Smith Jr. because he is the WBO champion - that is the fight I would like to get somehow."

Four rounds of mayhem, three knockdowns and two warriors shared the ring in a memorable light heavyweight world title fight in Chicago.

Unfortunately for Callum Johnson, he was on the receiving end of a vicious fourth-round defeat to Artur Beterbiev. Defeats can sometimes have a negative impact in boxing.

In fact, it enhanced his reputation as one of the biggest punchers in the 175-pound division.

That fight took place in 2018.

Beterbiev has since unified the light heavyweight division and could be in line for a showdown with Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez in 2022.

Johnson, meanwhile, has fought just once since the defeat. Now in need of fresh beginnings, the Joe Gallagher-fighter has moved to Frank Warren's Queensberry Promotions.

"The One" starts his comeback trail this weekend and faces Emil Markic of Croatia at the iconic York Hall.

His upcoming opponent has tasted just two defeats in 34 bouts and is on a seven-fight winning streak, something the British star is wary of.

"It's been a long time, I'm excited. It's been a long time since I've been involved in a fight week and I can't wait to get in the ring and let my hands go," Johnson exclusively told Planet Sport.

"He [Markic] has a good record and is a former WBO European Champion. He's no slouch and has got a winning mentality, his record suggests.

"It's a fight that I'm more than confident of doing a job in but it's also a fight I have to be switched on for and not take for granted.

"I got injured in the middle of 2019 and there were talks [with Eddie Hearn] of things happening but then I got injured so that put me out for a few months," Johnson explained when asked about his inactivity.

"I was going to fight for the European title but that got pushed back to May and then the pandemic happened. Lots of talk but no action. It's just one of them, what can you do? But I don't think about it, it's all in the past and all I can concentrate on now is the future.

"I'm pleased to have signed a good deal with Frank [Warren]. I feel like Frank's the right man to push me back to another world title shot and I'm looking forward to it.

"I've got to get Saturday out the way first. It's been a long time so I've got to get the job done and we will take it from there. It's exciting."

Options are endless in four-fight deal

Victory for Johnson will propel him back up the rankings and there are some mouth-watering fights that could await.

With the vision of returning to fight in July, a domestic dust-up could happen against either Lyndon Arthur or Anthony Yarde before challenging for world honours again at the end of the year.

Callum Johnson knocked out Frank Buglioni in the first round of their British and Commonwealth title clash in 2018
Callum Johnson knocked out Frank Buglioni in the first round of their British and Commonwealth title clash in 2018

"Styles make fights but I can adapt to all different styles. They are all great fighters and exciting fights. I'm not sure any of them are easy fights but I think I would beat all of them," Johnson said when asked about the prospect of fighting Arthur, Yarde or Joshua Buatsi.

"My main target is getting that world title fight. If I have to go through one of them to get it, then I'll have to get through one of them.

"My main ambition is the world title and Joe Smith Jr. because he is the WBO champion - that is the fight I would like to get somehow," Johnson added.

Johnson would love Beterbiev rematch

Reflecting on his world title fight against Beterbiev, Johnson believes he 'missed an opportunity to become world champion after knocking him to the canvas in the second round.

The 2010 Commonwealth Games champion would love to avenge the only blemish on his 19-fight professional record.

"I learnt a lot from that fight mentally. When I knocked him down, I had to take that opportunity and I probably never capitalised on him.

"Maybe if the first round knockdown didn't happen - which I think was an unfair, illegal shot. The referee shouted stop and the next thing I was on the canvas and it got brushed under the carpet. But then I got him in the second round and never took my chance.

"I felt him getting weaker and felt like he was holding me every time I got close to him and then I got caught and it was over in the fourth.

"I would love to have the rematch with Beterbiev because I feel like I could pull it off. Joe Smith may be the easiest fight to make because I'm fighting for a WBO title (this weekend).

"But I can't look past this weekend, because he is trying to upset the party and my plans. I have to concentrate on that."

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