Born on August 13, 1971, in Washington, D.C., Mark Johnson began his professional boxing career in 1990. He became the first African American to win a major championship as a flyweight in 1996, and three years later he duplicated the feat in the super-flyweight division. After retiring in 2006, Johnson became the youngest boxer ever inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.
Marcellus Joseph Johnson was born on August 13, 1971, in Washington, D.C. A son of boxing trainer Abraham "Ham" Johnson, the youngster stepped into the ring for the first time at age 5 and developed into a dominant amateur. Although Johnson lost to Eric Griffin in the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials, he won the U.S. Amateur Championship as a light flyweight the following year.
Johnson turned professional in 1990 with his father as his trainer. Unlike many young fighters, he sought fights outside the comfort of his hometown region, but impressed any unfriendly judges with his speed and punching power. Johnson steadily moved his way up the flyweight ranks, beating Alberto Jiménez to win the minor World Boxing Board championship in 1993.
After successfully defending the WBB title 10 times, Johnson scored a first-round knockout of Francisco Tejedor in May 1996 to claim the International Boxing Federation belt and become the first true African-American flyweight champion. Seeking new challenges after seven successful title defenses, Johnson began training as a super flyweight. In May 1999, he made history again by winning a unanimous decision over IBF champion Ratanachai Sor Vorapin to become the first African-American title-holder in that division.
Ironically, Johnson's superb talents may have undermined his ability to earn recognition, as some of the top fighters of his divisions refused to fight him. Johnson also hurt himself by getting arrested for an altercation with his wife, landing him in jail for 11 months during the prime of his career.
Johnson moved up to bantamweight, winning the first two fights in the division before losing a controversial bout to Rafael Márquez in October 2001. The rematch in February 2002 wasn't as close, as Márquez stopped Johnson in the eighth round to hand him his first truly resounding defeat.
But Johnson proved he wasn't finished after dropping back to the super flyweight division. In one of the highlights of his career, he earned a majority decision over unbeaten Fernando Montiel in August 2003 to claim the World Boxing Organization super flyweight title.
Johnson successfully defended the title twice before suffering an eighth-round knockout by Iván Hernández in September 2004. After another eighth-round knockout at the hands of Jhonny González in February 2006, the 34-year-old called it quits with a career record of 44-5, including 28 knockouts.
After hanging up his gloves, Johnson joined the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation's Roving Leaders program as a mentor to at-risk youth, and expressed interest in one day returning to the ring as a referee.
He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame at age 40 on June 10, 2012, making him both the youngest boxer and the first from Washington, D.C. to earn induction.
The Hall of Famer's path took a downturn when he was arrested in December 2012 for possessing liquid PCP with intent to distribute.
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