Chad Johnson has certainly not taken the conventional path to the boxing ring.
The former Bengals Pro-Bowl wide receiver has been out of organized football since a one-game spell with the Monterrey Fundidores of the Liga de Fútbol Americano Profesional de México.
But on Sunday, Johnson will open up the Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul fight card with a four-round exhibition matchup against bare-knuckle boxer Brian Maxwell.
How has Johnson prepared himself for the first, and possibly only, boxing match of his career? Here’s a look at how he’s gotten ready for Sunday.
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Boxing for years
Johnson has never stepped into a ring professionally, but that doesn’t mean the sport is new to him.
According to a report from ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe, Johnson has had boxing training every football offseason since he was in high school with the goal of helping his hand-eye coordination and footwork.
That training helped him get the attention of Mayweather’s manager, Leonard Ellerbe, who offered him the chance to fight on the ticket, Johnson said to the podcast, I Am Athlete.
“I wouldn’t step in the ring with Charlo or Canelo [Alvarez], but the opportunity presented itself to move around with somebody who has skills and has ring experience,” Johnson said in the ESPN report. “I felt I was in adequate enough shape and had enough background to do it. With huge amount of respect for combat sports, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
Sparring with the Charlo brothers
It hasn’t been enough for Johnson to prepare for the fight just in the football offseason. He’s had to work with some professionals.
And they aren’t taking it easy on him.
Johnson told TMZ Sports that he’s been sparring with the Charlo twins, Jermell and Jermall Charlo. Johnson said that during a recent session in the third round, he was “in the middle of the ocean with no life vest and I was f—ing drowning.”
Though he’s been feeling the punches of a pair of pressional boxers who have won 65 matches and lost just once, he said learning from them and their sparring partners has helped him prepare for the upcoming matchup.
“It was an experience where I was taken advantage of and it’s a great thing. Obviously going in the ring with someone that does it at the highest level and learning the mistakes. I like it like that,” Johnson said, according to TMZ. “There was no other way to prepare for something of this magnitude. I had to come here. It’s just — there’s no other way.”
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In addition to the physical and technical aspects of training, Johnson is also making sure he’s taking care of what’s going on internally.
The Orange County Register reported that he has been on a diet ahead of the exhibition fight, cutting out McDonald’s — which had been a staple during his NFL career — and avoiding cigars for the past two months.
While on the podcast I Am Athlete earlier in 2021, Johnson said that he never got hurt because he ate McDonald’s consistently.