Kirk Johnson Has Little Appetite For Success

BY Rick Folstad ON December 09, 2003
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Bubba didn't have a good night.

Maybe that's because waffles, chocolate cake, Big Macs and mashed potatoes don't sit well when you're getting ready to fight. Ding Dongs and Twinkies are not the breakfast of champions.

In preparing to go 12 hard rounds in a career-making fight, most fighters will actually watch what they eat. It's part of a popular program known as "training."

Heavyweight imposter Kirk Johnson obviously gave his food just a casual glance and a smile before it quickly disappeared off his fork.

That must explain the Goodyear radial jiggling just above his belt line Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. That must be why he looked like a guy who had just been recruited to fight while standing in line at the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.

In what could have been the biggest fight of his life, Bubba decided to eat his way into infamy.

Now we know why they call him Bubba.

When Johnson approached the ring Saturday night for his fight with Vitali Klitschko, he did it with a slow, deliberate walk, a kind of "Hey, look at me, I'm Kirk Johnson," stroll down the runway in one of those silly, dramatic entrances that remind you of spoiled Hollywood starlets and pro wrestlers.

Pose, strut, glare. Pose, strut some more, glare again.

We thought his slow, agonizing entrance was for effect, a little extra theater before the start of the real drama. What we didn't know was, that was as fast as Johnson could move. He was on full throttle, but it looked like slow motion to the rest of us.

It turns out that Bubba, who weighed in at 260 pounds in his sweats, already knew what some of us only suspected. His walk to the ring would last longer than his fight, so he needed to drag it out, to get the most of it. It was his time in the spotlight.

When the opening bell finally rang and Johnson waddled out to the center of the ring, I had a flashback to Bert Cooper.

Cooper used to carry around a few spares, but that was just how he was built. It was how he trained, what he was, how he grew up. He didn't try to hide it, because he couldn't. But he could still kick your butt on any given night. Or at least come close.

But for Johnson, this was a new look, the circus Strongman deciding he wanted to go on stage one night as the Fat Lady.

Unfortunately, the act was a bust.

When Saturday's one-sided mugging was finally over with six seconds left in the second round, Johnson was tangled up in the ropes and Klitschko was trying to figure out what happened to the real Kirk Johnson, the 240-pounder he'd been training to fight. That guy never showed up.

In the immortal words of Larry Merchant, "the whale got harpooned."

For Klitschko, it turned out to be a surprisingly easy night, an early Christmas present that wasn't expected. Of course, who knew Johnson was going to look and fight like Santa Claus?

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