Marvin Johnson is an American former boxer….who was a 3-time light-heavyweight champion of the world. As an amateur, Johnson fought in the 1972 Olympics in Munich….winning a bronze medal….and made his way up the professional ranks in the light heavyweight division soon thereafter. Early in his career, Johnson lost to Matthew Saad Muhammad and Lottie Mwale….who each would become world light heavyweight champions….on his path to winning his 1st world title….the WBC light heavyweight version…from fellow southpaw Mate Parlov of Yugoslavia with a 10th-round KO in Italy in December 1978….losing that same title the following April in front of his hometown Indianapolis fans….in a rematch to Saad Muhammad in what was perhaps the fight of the year for many observers in 1979….with both of these fights in Bone Daddy’s library. Johnson was in control in the early going, but the Philadelphia fighter hung in there, and came back to wear down Johnson, stopping him in the eighth round, despite bleeding severely from the nose and from cuts around his eyes. Franklin also beat Johnson earlier in 1977 by a 12th-round KO for a minor title.
Johnson would again win the WBA title later that year by fighting the rugged Victor Galindez from Argentina in New Orleans as part of a three-fight ‘card’ that included two title bouts (Antuofermo-Hagler I and Benitez-Leonard) staged in Las Vegas. After a see-saw battle through the first ten rounds….Johnson nailed and floored Galindez with one of his fabled ‘over-the-top-from-underneath’ left hands….and the title changed hands when the champion’s corner surrendered after Galindez hit the canvas.
Again, it was down and out for Johnson in his first title defense when, on the Tate-Weaver undercard in Knoxville in March 1980, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (née Gregory) outworked, outhustled, and outclassed Johnson en route to an 11th-round TKO. Things looked bleak when Johnson fought the up-and-coming Michael Spinks in early 1981….just before Spinks dethroned Johnson’s latest conqueror, Mustafa Muhammad. Johnson was off to a promising start, but the 1976 Olympian Spinks landed his famous “Spinks jinx” that put Johnson out for good in the fourth round.
Johnson recovered and proceeded to win 16 straight fights, defeating good fighters like Prince Charles Williams along the way, and in February 1986 would again be before his Indianapolis fans….fighting Leslie Stewart of Trinidad and Tobago for the WBA light heavyweight title that became vacant when Spinks abdicated to become a heavyweight.
Stewart, known as the “Laventille Tiger”, gave Johnson some fits….but cuts would take their toll on Stewart and were the reason that the fight was stopped in the seventh round, thus making Johnson the first ever three-time champion in the division. An injury postponed his first defense against Jean-Marie Emebe of Cameroon, but the two would hook up in Indianapolis in September of that year. It was the first time that Johnson would both enter and leave the ring as champion—he was the winner by 13th-round TKO.
Next, it was on to Trinidad for a rematch with Stewart on May 23, 1987. However, it was all Stewart this time, as he floored Johnson several times in the first few rounds, and while Johnson always regained his feet and was never counted out he did tell his cornermen after eight rounds that ‘enough was enough,’ and by doing so became an ex-champ for a third time.