By Steve Kim Updated on August 07, 2023

'Too Sharp', Too Good

Picture for 'Too Sharp', Too Good

So this past weekend the circus pitched it's tent in Dallas, Texas, at the American Airlines Center, where the latest boxing escapade of Jake Paul was staged. He took on Nate Diaz (better known for his MMA exploits), winning a 10 round decision.

I'll come clean: I didn't watch a second of it.

It's not that I have anything against it, I just don't care. If there is a market for this and an audience that will support Paul, more power to him. I just choose not to be a consumer of this particular product.

On Saturday night, I actually watched the replay of the contest that took place the previous weekend between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence, in which 'Bud' became the undisputed welterweight champion of the world. The replay was aired by Showtime, followed by their 'All-Access', which was very well done.

In the lead-up to this rebroadcast, I started thinking of the best fighters I have been able to cover and see in-person since 1996. This came to mind because after what has taken place, and with his overall achievements, Crawford, is now in that category.

Picture for 'Too Sharp', Too Good

Which then got me to thinking about one Marcellus Joseph Johnson, known to many as Mark 'Too Sharp' Johnson. 

He wasn't just one my favorite boxers, to these eyes he was one of the most gifted you'll ever see. I was lucky to get on the boxing beat covering the monthly cards at the Forum while they were promoting the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel and Rafael Marquez. 'Too Sharp, who hailed from Washington DC, stood out, because he was a black boxer, with a company on the west coast that mainly had Mexican clientele.

Mark Johnson - Too Sharp (Highlight Reel)


The reason why he was forced to our side of the country was because of his size. He was a flyweight, which meant the opponents and opportunities were over here. Many of his early fights were televised by Prime Ticket/Fox Sports, which meant very late night viewing for anyone living in the eastern time zone. 

What Joe Frazier once said to Marvin Hagler about having three curses (that he was black, left-handed, and too good for his own good) also applied to Johnson. The game was never going to give him any breaks. This would have to be done the hard way. 

Over time he earned a grudging admiration from the Forum fans, and he became a flyweight world champion, winning the IBF belt in 1996 versus Francisco Tejedor, and then defending it seven times. Before winning a title at 115 on two separate occasions. 

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But it's not the belts that I remember, but it's the performances. His coming out party at the Forum which was his 12 round war with Alberto 'Raton' Jimenez. The blowouts of Tejedor and Arthur 'Flash' Johnson (who had given the likes of Danny Romero and Johnny Tapia fits in previous outings). Round 12 versus Alejandro Montiel, where he put his hands down by his side and dared him to hit him with a clean punch. Getting robbed against Rafael Marquez in their first fight after some dubious point deductions. And then using his veteran guile to upset the unbeaten Felix Montiel for the WBO junior bantamweight belt, that probably sealed his entry into Canastota.

Johnson was a complete fighter. He could box, he could punch, he could be evasive, and then be aggressive. All the while being entertaining.  He was slick and savage. At his peak, he wasn't just a boxer, he was a showman. 

Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson - Incredible Reflexes (Defense Highlight)


Johnson was cursed with being a flyweight that wasn't Mexican or from an Asian country. They say life isn't fair. The boxing business is even more unfair, at times.  If he was 35 pounds heavier, Johnson could've competed with the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Ike Quartey. Instead, he was avoided by the likes of Tapia, Romero, Michael Carbajal and Ricardo Lopez. For these guys, he was bad business. The very essence of high risk/low reward. 

Unfortunately for him, there was no 'SuperFly' series in which to showcase his talents, or a major promotional push. But as he went to Cedric Kushner and then Lou DiBella (who told me over the weekend, ''He's one of the all-time greats.") Johnson was able to get some television exposure, but to many casual fans he is a largely unknown figure. 

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It's too bad he never got his Spence, they way Crawford did as a mark of validation to the general public. But Johnson did get his well-earned spot in Canastota in 2012. Those who watched, understood what they saw with him. 

Some may have forgotten 'Too Sharp', I certainly never will. 





About Author
'Too Sharp', Too Good
  • Hosted 'the Main Event' on KIEV 870, and then later XTRA AM1150 ( a three hour show devoted to boxing) from 1996 to 1999.
  • Joined one of the first boxing websites, 'House of Boxing' in 1999, and then later became one of the founders of Maxboxing, that started in 2001, till his departure in 2014.
  • From 2014 to 2018, he was the lead columnist for
  • Was a boxing reporter for from 2018 to 2020.
  • He has written for Ring Magazine, International Boxing Digest and Boxing News.
  • Is the co-host of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez, which has become of the most popular boxing podcasts the past several years.
  • Steve has also served as an announcer and analyst for RingTV, Thompson Boxing, 360 Promotions and CBS Sports Network.