Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson
Looking back, the 1990s were a much better decade for boxing than given credit for at the time. It may not be considered one of the sports' best decades, like the 40s, 50s, and 80s, but from the heavyweight division down, elite fighters were competing in memorable bouts.
One fighter that often gets lost in the shuffle is Washington D.C.'s Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson" (44-5, 28 KOs). In the 90s, Johnson made history in 1996, becoming the first African-American to win a world title at flyweight (112) and defended his IBF championship seven times. He made history again three years later by becoming the first African-American super flyweight (115) champion in 1999.
Perhaps, it was due to his style of being a high-level technician who could punch and was a southpaw; Johnson didn't receive significant fights until he was nearing the end of his prime. Contemporaries in his weight class at both flyweight and super flyweight, such as Danny Romero and Johnny Tapia, vacated their titles and moved up a division before having to face him.
In 2001, Johnson faced off against Rafael Marquez at bantamweight (118) and suffered the first losses of his career since his second professional match. The first bout with Marquez was highly disputed. But, he was stopped for the first time in the rematch months later with the IBF bantamweight title on the line.
Johnson would move back down to super flyweight, where he would arguably have the defining moment of his career. In August 2003, it was thought that Johnson's best days were behind him before facing off against the heavily favored Fernando Montiel for the WBO super flyweight championship. With Johnson scoring a fifth-round knockdown to earn a majority decision, he gained some of the notoriety and acclaim that eluded him throughout his career.
Mark Johnson was one of the fighters that genuinely fought in the wrong era.
In today's boxing landscape, fights with Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, and Naoya Inoue could have been some of the most significant in the history of the flyweight and super flyweight divisions.
To this day, there are few fighters with his craft and style in these weight classes. Johnson would have provided a stern challenge for any of the top fighters below bantamweight in the past decade.
Overshadowed by fighters such as Pernell Whitaker, Roy Jones, Oscar De La Hoya, and others, on his best night, Mark Johnson was as good as any of them. Johnson was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.