Johnny Garton - English Champion

Being the first at anything can be daunting.  Breaking new ground and achieving what others before you have failed to do is a big ask and for some, creates a burden that makes a task go from hard to impossible.  For Johnny Garton, when he stepped into the ring against Ryan Fields back in May of this year, he was looking to become the first boxer out of the Goodwin Promotions stable to capture an English title.  It was a long road, he was initially meant to be fighting Tyler Goodjohn for the title but a hand injury forced his opponent out.  As Garton tells me though, the extra weight of the belt being on the line was a forgotten entity in the buildup.

"Last time I was meant to be fighting him I forgot it was even for the title until it fell through – it was only when it didn’t happen and my Manager told me I would still get a shot at the belt that I realised!"  Garton laughs.  Of course that shot at the belt transpired to be the only one Garton needed as he dispatched Fields with a left hook that was as brutal as it was spectacular.  Now, just two weeks away from his first defence, Garton is in full preparation to face his original foe for the title, Tyler Goodjohn on September 17th.

"I keep forgetting the title is on the line, I’m just so excited about the fight!   I keep forgetting I’m the champion now" says the ever humble Peckham born and bred Garton.  Known as 'The Pexican', he will be facing the man from the East coast who goes by the moniker of 'Tornado'.  Both men are renowned for bringing a fight to the centre of the ring and producing a style that leaves the fans as breathless as the participants.  It is that style clash which has whet the appetite of Garton.

"No matter what we have planned or what he has planned, at the end of the day at some point me and him will just clash and meet in the middle.  I do think at some point it will be a tear up.  He might try and be tricky at first, try and edge the win, but at some point we will stand and have it.  I can’t wait!"

The fans are in for a treat.  The fight is the headline act of the season opening show for Goodwin Boxing on a card that sees innovation once more from Steve Goodwin and his team.  "It’s a good way to start the season off.  I was talking to someone last night about the cruiserweight contest (Fascia and Glazing Supplies Fight Cup) – there’s four lads in that who are all evenly matched and they’re all 50/50 fights so that’s a good event as well as the Justin Menzie versus Bradley Pryce fight.  It’s a really good bill and will be a top night."

Garton is renowned for bringing a large following to his fights at York Hall, where this potential classic will take place.  Goodjohn himself has a vociferous backing, so what kind of experience is Garton anticipating on fight night?  "My fans, they’re always there, I’m sure you’ll hear them!  I’ve always had a cracking support off the Millwall supporters and the people I’ve grown up with, I’ve always had a good following and I believe Tyler does too, the Fen Army.  It’s going to be a great fight and the atmosphere will be amazing from both sides."

Garton tells me he has crossed paths a number of times with Goodjohn at shows, describing him as a nice guy.  "End of the day, he's coming to take my belt though" he says when putting business in front of feelings.  So has he watched many of his opponents fights over the years?  "I’ve seen him when he boxed my mate Ricky (Boylan), I’ve seen him box John Wayne Hibbert and a couple of other fights.  When he’s been on TV I’ve tuned in because you always get a good fight out of him and he’s good to watch.  He was a light welterweight though so I never thought we would meet.  Then I was fighting on the same card as him when he moved up to welterweight and I thought that was interesting that he’d moved up – next thing I know I’m fighting him!"

He tells me that his training camp has gone well, but there is a clear frustration that 14 nights sit between when we speak and the moment the two meet in a ring.  "I’m at the point I’m ready to go, you do six to eight weeks of training and now I’m ready to go.  I can’t wait, I just can’t wait."  He admits that when it comes to big fight experience, Goodjohn may have the upper hand, having fought in numerous title bouts and at venues such as the O2.  But the weight is new to Goodjohn, only having recently stepped into 147lbs division that Garton has made a career at.  "I think it levels us out if I'm honest" says the Londoner.

When he talks about the success of his career and picking up the English title, it is almost as if he is cautious of overstating it in his own head.  Garton is as down to earth as they come, having spoken to him numerous times prior to winning the belt there is no additional ego that has come with the strap.  As he puts it himself, the ability to let his success sink is always tempered by the reality of everyday life.

"When I see the belt it does sink in that I’m the champion.  After winning it, I won it with a massive knockout so I was buzzing and then before I knew it I was back to work on Monday and it was back to reality, back to normal.  People assume that all boxers are with the big promoters and are on TV and box full time.  End of the day I don’t get that, I box and then I’m back to work at the garage.  I get that bubble of boxing and then I’m back to being a mechanic."

The bubble is special though.  A fighter such as Garton can bring York Hall to life.  His fans shake the old balcony upstairs, his ring walk often accompanied by chants repeated from the New Den that afternoon.  The Fields victory was as much for was for Garton, once his opponent had raised from the canvas and was medically cleared Garton was quick to acknowledge those that had come to share his moment.  The left hook that ended the fight left Fields unconscious on the mat; for the referee a count was not required but instead his arms were used to usher in the medical staff from ringside.  Was it a shot that Garton had been working on at the IBox Gym where he trains, or was it more a reactionary punch born of instinct?

"It was a natural shot.  I’d been working a bit on it in training, one of the guys that comes in and does pads has been telling me I’ve got a good left hook on me and was working on it, that may have had something to do with it.  But it was just a natural shot, I slipped his right hand and saw his left shoulder move so I just threw my left hook and it landed perfectly.  It was just one of those well timed, well placed shots" he says.  Is it a punch that he has admired many times since that night?  "After the fight I kept getting tagged in videos of it on Facebook!  I try not to watch it now, but I’ve seen it a few times."

Garton won't look past this fight, he realises that it is a proper challenge to beat Goodjohn and one that he thrives upon.  But get the win on September 17th and it opens doors to aim for the British welterweight title - an honour presently held by gym mate Bradley Skeete.  "I’ve already said I won’t fight Bradley for the British as we’re in the same camp, I’d wait for him to vacate and see what happens then.  But for now I need to beat Tyler." 

Although he refuses to go too far down that thought process, it does raise the chance that Garton could yet aim for another first with his Promoters at Goodwin Boxing.  So how much does his relationship with Steve Goodwin and the team mean to him as a fighter?  "He did say it to me before, told me I’d be his first English champion.  It made it a bit more of a personal achievement for both.  Obviously I was happy being the English champion, but to know I was Steve’s first English champion made me that bit more proud and happy for Steve.  Hopefully I can be his first British champion too!"

Garton is right not to overlook the challenge of the man from Cambridgeshire, Tyler Goodjohn.  It is a huge challenge for a first defence of the title, but you get the sense that Garton wouldn't wish for it any other way.  I have seen first hand the difference between Garton when he is facing a less threatening opponent and when he is facing a live one.  Goodjohn is certainly the latter of those; a man who will come to bring it to Garton and try to tear that newly won title away from 'The Pexican'.  It makes for an intriguing night and has all the markings of a fight that those in attendance will discuss a long time after the winner has his hand raised.  For Garton, the battle is the enjoyment as he gets to put eight weeks of hard work behind him.  The two warriors will leave York Hall a breathless venue as either The Pexican or the Tornado leave town with the English title in tow.

Johnny wished to thank his sponsors PSD (South East) who have helped support his journey as a professional boxer in preparation for this fight.