Not very Amy-able

MURRAY GREIG -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Edmonton's Amy Johnson never figured Dangerous Ground would be an apt description for the friendly confines of the Cougar Boxing Club.

On Tuesday evening, while training for her comeback fight on the Sept. 28 Dangerous Ground card at the Shaw Conference Centre, Johnson walked into a perfect right hook thrown by Jelena Mrdjenovich during a spirited sparring session.

The punch shattered the orbital bone in Johnson's left eye socket, temporarily derailing the 24-year-old nursing student's dream of resuming her career in the ring.

"It's very frustrating," said Johnson, who was scheduled for surgery yesterday.

"The left side of my face is pretty much numb from my eyebrow to my lip, and my peripheral vision is all screwed up. Within seconds, I couldn't feel anything at all.

"I know Jelena feels bad, but that girl is a freakin' puncher. I was wearing head gear and we both landed right hands at exactly the same time, but hers obviously had a little more behind it. It was a painful lesson on how not to block a punch."

Johnson, 5-2-1, hasn't fought since dropping a unanimous decision to Keri Scarr 17 months ago. Still, the stylish welterweight holds the distinction of winning the most high profile bout in recent Alberta history when she got off the canvas to KO obnoxious figure skater-turned-fighter Tonya Harding here in 2004.

"Next week was going to be my chance to get back to what I love doing the most, which is fighting," said Johnson, who was scheduled to meet Hamilton's Linda Ludwig in a four-rounder.

"This last year and a half was kind of tough. After my trainer (Cougar's Larry Fleming) passed away, it was like a piece of my heart was missing. I couldn't bring myself to get back in the gym.

"Larry was with me from the start, when I was 15. He was in the corner for my 20 amateur fights and all nine as a pro, so it was real hard to deal with. No matter how bratty I was, Larry's support and encouragement was always unconditional.

"Getting back in the gym, training for this fight, made me realize how much I missed it ... and how much I miss Larry. So in a way, I'm still fighting for him. I hear his voice when I'm training and every day before my workout I say a little prayer for him.

"This (injury) is a sad thing to happen, but it's just a temporary setback. I'm going to heal up, get back to the gym and get ready for a fight in December.

"I've invested 10 years of my life in doing this, and I love it. One little injury isn't going to change my mind."

Meanwhile, it's business as usual for Mrdjenovich (20-2, 11 KOs), who's headlining Dangerous Ground with a 10-round defence of her Women's International Boxing Federation lightweight title against Ohio's Kelli Cofer (13-5-4, 3 KOs). The champ has looked extremely focused in training and is anxious to mix it up with the taller (five-foot-nine) challenger.

"I don't think I'll have to go looking for her," said Mrdjenovich. "She's tall and lanky and she'll want to use her jab to keep me on the outside, so that's what I'm preparing for. I've had good success against taller opponents in the past, and I don't think she'll be any different.

"The key for me is to cut down the distance and get good leverage behind my punches. That's what we've been working on."

Johnson can attest to that.

QUICK JABS: The undercard for Dangerous Ground has been finalized. Edmonton's Kris Andrews (10-7-2) will meet Winnipeg's Codey Hannah (6-1) in a 10-rounder for the interim Canadian junior middleweight crown; undefeated Edmonton super middleweight Jason De LaRonde (5-0) will square off with Juan Sanchez of Halifax (1-0) in a four-rounder; Canadian cruiserweight champ Ryan Henney (8-2) will be featured in a six-round non-title bout against Detroit's Philip Jewel (3-2); former national amateur flyweight champ Michelle Nelson of Saskatoon will make her pro debut against Vancouver's Brea Lowe (1-0); and Winnipeg's Ayana Pelletier debuts against Hamilton's Linda Ludwig (2-1).


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