Nicknamed Bump City, Johnny Bumphus began boxing at the Tacoma (Wa.) Boxing Club. After amassing a 341-16 record as an amateur he turned pro in 1980. In 1984 he won the vacant WBA Light Welterweight Title with a Jan. 22, 1984 decision over Lorenzo Luis Garcia. His title reign was short-lived as he lost a few months later to Gene Hatcher in a fight which featured a strange ending. Bump City would get another shot at a world title in 1987 against Lloyd Honeyghan but was beaten by TKO in the 2nd round. Bumphus retired after that 1987 bout with a record of 29-2.
SM: Johnny let me ask you how it all started in the ring.
JB: I started in 1968, I was 8 years old. My friends like Rocky
Lockridge were all winning trophies and I decided I wanted one so I started boxing. I signed up at the Tacoma Boxing Club under Joe Clough. Before you knew it I was winning all kinds of tournaments. In 1972 we had a guy from our team make the Olympics, Sugar Ray Seales. When he got the gold medal and I saw all the recognition and notoriety he got, I told myself that I would have a gold medal too someday. I kept winning and in 1976 I wasnt old enough to go. So I continued and waited for the 1980 Olympics. By then I had won five national championships and was already on the Olympic team. I think I was 23-3 in international competition. But of course we couldnt compete because of Jimmy Carter. That dumb-butt wouldn’t let our Olympians go because of the Russians in Afghanistan. To this day I hate him for it because it didn’t accomplish anything. We ended up having a gathering at the White House later and the President gave us all gold medals.
SM: How did the boycott affect your career?
JB: I think it did definitely. I was so against that boycott and so hurt that I didn’t get to compete because I had already beaten the top guys. When we fought in Germany prior to the boycott I was the only boxer to win all three of his fights. I had beat the top German, Russian, all the guys that placed in the Olympics. The Olympic gold could have been worth millions in the future.
SM: The plane crash in 1980 when members of the US Olympic team were killed. A real tragedy huh?
JB: Yeah it was. The plane I just got off of was the plane that crashed 12 hours later on its way to Poland. That was bad, real bad.
SM: Who were some of the tougher opponents, before you won the the title?
JB: One guy I remember was Rocky Lockridge. I fought him in the amateurs in 1970 and 1976. He was tough.
SM: Tell me about the Lorenzo Luis Garcia fight.
JB: I was disappointed in my performance. He wouldn’t fight for like the first 6 or 7 rounds. He was running and I was chasing. I did have an exciting moment in the fourth round because he knocked me down. It was more of me being off balance than a clean punch. Thats when I really started chasing him. The fight picked up in the 8th through 12th rounds. When I won the title you fought 15 rounds. He tried to pick it up in the later rounds but I was too far ahead anyway by then. I just couldn’t get to him and won by decision.
SM: You lost your title a few months later to Gene Hatcher, what happened?
JB: Gene Hatcher was one of the luckiest guys in the world, with a lucky punch and a referee that wouldn’t let the fight continue. By the 11th round I had already won 9 of those. I was getting real weak because it was so hard for me to make that weight. After that fight I knew I would have to move up to welterweight. My trainer George Benton and manager Lou Duva saw how hard it was for me to make weight. I think that was the biggest factor. After I made weight I really wasnt thinking about the fight. Im not taking away from Hatchers ability to fight. In the 11th round he caught me with a left hook and I went down. The referee jumped in and I got up and tried to balance myself on Hatcher. I lost my balance and fell down and the fight was stopped. I was in good shape for the fight but making the weight hurt me a lot. I really felt I could continue. But they stopped it.
SM: Tell me about the Honeyghan fight.
JB: Honeyghan ran across the ring at me and hit me before the bell even rang. He should have been disqualified. The referee never gave me a fair shake. Watch the tape of that fight. He should have been disqualified and I should have fought
someone else for the title or be given a rematch. A big factor though was that my legs were gone. I did so much running in the previous years that I just killed my legs. As far as boxing ability though I should have beaten him.
SM: Why did you quit at a young age of 27?
JB: Lou Duva sent me to a specialist in Los Angeles because he was concerned with my ability to stand. I had some stumbling problems. I would get knocked down and I wouldnt even be hurt, but just couldn’t get up. I was diagnosed with an
equilibrium problem. In boxing, if you have problems like that youre not going to win. You better quit boxing before you get
SM: Was it brain damage?
JB: The doctor really didn’t know much when we got there. He said it could have been a number of things. It was the first time according to the doctor that he made such a diagnosis on anyone, of equilibrium being off.
SM: What was the first thing you did after you retired?
JB: Turn to drugs, that’s what I did.
SM: How are things today with you?
JB: Im disabled now due to my problems walking. I moved back to Nashville after I retired and that’s when I became a drug addict. Crack cocaine. I went through treatment and my wife stood by me. About a year later I went back to drugs and she left me. It happened because of me and my drug use. She raised my son well and she was always looking out for me. Even today her family consider me a member of their family.
SM: Any final words?
JB: I just want to thank all the fans out there that watched my career. Especially those in the Atlantic City area. Whenever I fought there I always had a good turnout. To all the boxing fans throughout the world, thanks not only for supporting me but all the fighters out there.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV