The setting is new. The feeling just isn’t.
Chad Johnson, the 43-year-old former NFL receiver — whose 11-year profession included six Pro-Bowl appearances and flamboyant finish zone celebrations — will face Brian Maxwell in his first boxing match Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
Johnson’s debut fight is the opener on the Showtime pay-per-view card for the Floyd Mayweather-Logan Paul main event — an evening Johnson informed The Post he’s “excited” about, however admittedly “scared” and “nervous.”
“[The feeling is] similar to that of a football game,” mentioned Johnson, who spent most of his NFL profession with the Bengals (2001-2010), the workforce that chosen him with the No. 36-overall decide within the 2001 NFL Draft. He nonetheless holds many of the franchise’s receiving data.
“Yes, I’m scared. I [was] scared before every football game. Any competitive event before you go into it, there’s a sense of nervousness and fear, it’s supposed to be,” he mentioned, noting that his concern doesn’t outweigh his need to step into the ring with Maxwell.
“[I’m] not actually scared to the purpose the place, ‘I don’t wish to do that,’ however sure, scared, after all. There’s simply nervousness, butterflies — it simply comes with something that you simply do competitive-wise.
“I’m outside of my element. It’s something new for me, something I’ve never done before to this magnitude. Obviously I’ve been in the ring [before], I’ve sparred for years, but now, it’s the real deal. People are watching.”
While Johnson mentioned he “likes” his opponent, that may carry no weight whereas they’re within the ring. Maxwell, 33, has expertise in boxing (0-1), MMA (2-3) and bareknuckle combating (0-3).
“I have to protect myself because he has one thing in mind — to come in and win and knock my head off, period,” he mentioned.
Leading as much as the occasion, Johnson spent three weeks training in Houston with boxing champions Jermall and Jermell Charlo. He completed sparring with the pair on Wednesday and is now dwelling in Miami following the brothers’ coaching program.
“It’s hard. [A typical day] is different because I was doing two-a-days with each,” Johnson mentioned, including that he’s been “a sponge,” absorbing data from the duo.
“I would go with Jermall in the morning and Jermell in the evening and it was extremely hard. They are actually in camp and preparing for fights and I integrated into their camp, so I’m working the same way they work.”
Johnson’s can-do perspective, fearless nature and animated persona all contribute to his admirable confidence — a weapon he plans to make use of whereas entertaining viewers.
“You have to be confident in everything that you do,” he mentioned. “If you’re unsure about it, you go back to the drawing board until you are. It all comes from within. It’s the way I’ve always been. Working on my craft beforehand, that’s where the confidence comes from.”
Johnson maintained an leisure profession, together with performing roles and extra, all through his NFL profession and right into a retirement that started when the Dolphins launched him in 2012.
After an illustrious profession, each on and off the sector, some would query why Johnson would tackle the four-round exhibition bout.
“That competitive drive and hunger is still there. I just could never get it through football because football had ended, so that competitive drive and wanting to be great at something no matter what it is, it’s still in me. That s–t burns in me still,” mentioned Johnson, who modified his identify to Chad Ochocinco throughout his time within the NFL.
“To have something to lock in on mentally, to see how great I can be at it in a short amount of time, that’s exciting to me. How great can I get at something in a small amount of time and do well at it?”
One secret to Johnsons’s relentlessness is his capability to embrace the unknown.
“You gotta just have some type of fight in you and that courage and willingness to step out of your comfort zone,” Johnson mentioned. “That’s something I’m doing on a much larger scale but I think it’s advice that people can take.”
Johnson is urging anybody feeling concern to “take some damn chances in life.” Although he’s dwelling within the current, it’s probably his future isn’t within the ring.
“I don’t know about the future, because it would be disrespectful to those who’ve been doing this their entire life. I think this will be fun. I’m going to focus on the assignment at hand right now, and make sure I get out of this one unscathed and healthy,” Johnson mentioned.
No matter the end result Sunday, Johnson, is a bonafide entertainer in any setting.
Mayweather and Paul’s particular exhibition fight, that includes the Johnson-Maxwell undercard, will probably be distributed by Showtime and Fanmio.