No matter which name you remember on the back of his jersey, Chad Johnson proved to be a colorful character during his time on the gridiron. While his football career is a thing of the past, the former NFL player will be returning to a professional stadium to compete this summer.
Yes, you read that correctly. In June, Johnson will be heading to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium and stepping into the ring. Rather than catching passes, he’ll be throwing left hooks in his professional boxing debut.
Chad Johnson actually had an impressive NFL career
In hindsight, Johnson’s antics have become his NFL legacy; you’re more likely to remember his touchdown celebrations or social media exploits than anything else. During his time on the gridiron, though, the receiver proved more than capable of making an on-field impact.
Johnson’s road to the NFL, unsurprisingly, was a bit unconventional. He started his career at Santa Monica College and earned a transfer to Oregon State. After spending a single season with the Beavers, he entered the 2001 NFL draft.
The receiver joined the Cincinnati Bengals as a second-round pick and failed to make much of an impact as a rookie. Ahead of his sophomore season, however, something clicked. Johnson posted 1,166 receiving yards that season, beginning a streak of six straight campaigns breaking the 1,000-yard plateau.
In total, Johnson pulled in 766 catches for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns during his 11 years in the NFL. While those numbers weren’t enough to earn him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, they do prove he was more than a court jester with some fancy footwork.
Returning to an NFL stadium, albeit as a boxer
While Johnson’s final NFL game came as a member of the New England Patriots, he briefly joined the Miami Dolphins before he was cut during the filming of Hard Knocks. In June 2021, the former receiver will get his chance to compete in Hard Rock Stadium, although he won’t be playing football.
On June 6, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will fight Jake Paul in the Miami Gardens stadium. As reported by ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe, Johnson will be fighting on the undercard. While it’s not clear who his opponent will be, it’s expected that the former receiver will “face another celebrity or athlete rather than a pro boxer” in a four- or six-round exhibition.
“Johnson, a Miami native, jumped at the opportunity when approached by Mayweather’s manager Leonard Ellerbe about being a part of this card,” Wolfe explained. “Johnson trained for years at Mayweather’s boxing club in the offseason when he was an NFL player and has long been a combat sports fan, but this will be his first big stage exhibition fight.”
Chad Johnson is no stranger to trying his hand at other sports
Even if he’s trained for years, fighting on the undercard will be an entirely new experience for Johnson. Thankfully for the receiver, he has plenty of experience pushing his athletic boundaries.
Purely from a football perspective, Johnson wasn’t content with simply playing in the NFL; he also joined the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes and played a single game in Mexico. He also tried to mount an XFL comeback, albeit as a kicker rather than a receiver.
Away from the gridiron, Johnson has tried his hand at professional soccer—he tried out for an MLS team, then joined a lower-tier team on two separate occasions—and climbed aboard a bull at a Professional Bull Riding event. The former receiver also did decently well on Dancing with the Stars during a 2010 run on the show.
During his boxing career, Mike Tyson famously quipped that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. In June, we’ll see what Johnson’s plan really is.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference