Michael Johnson

Johnson, pictured here in 2015, won 13 Olympic and world gold medals during his career.

Michael Johnson makes his living by telling people where they went wrong.

Whether it be as one of the most respected pundits at BBC Sport or at his Michael Johnson Performance centres, analysing the minute details of an athlete's performance pays the American's bills.

It is particularly cruel, therefore, that he faces the future with no such clarity about his health.

Four months ago Olympic sprinting great Johnson had a stroke.

It was a mini stroke from which the 51-year-old has made a miraculous recovery - he is already spending his days paddle-boarding, rowing, cycling and running.

But despite multiple tests and analysis from doctors, he admits he is living in fear because of one nagging question - why?

"We've sort of concluded that we'll probably never find that cause," Johnson tells BBC Sport.

"It's something I've had to come to terms with. If I knew what the cause was, I could potentially do something about it and feel much better knowing that this is what caused it and now I have eliminated that potential issue.
Unfortunately, I don't have that luxury.

"Obviously that could create a little bit of fear, that I was doing all the right things before the stroke and now am doing all the right things again, even more. Yet it could happen again."

Fear of the unknown is not the only scary concept Johnson has had to face in recent months. He has also had to embrace a completely alien emotion - vulnerability.

Over a glittering career during which he won four Olympic golds, and set world records in the 200m and 400m, Johnson was happy to talk the talk and walk the walk.

One of his most famous soundbites was: "They don't give you gold medals for beating somebody. They give you gold medals for beating everybody."

And at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta he raced to double glory in golden spikes.

Neither the words, nor actions, of a man keen to show weakness.

"I can't say 100% I am in a situation now where I'm totally comfortable being vulnerable," says the sprinter who was known as 'Superman' during his career - and at the 1997 World Championships wore a shirt bearing the comic book character's 'S' on a victory lap.

"It's highlighted that it's an issue that I have, this need to be superman, so to speak. This need to feel that people perceive me as being very fit, strong and able to do all these different things is a personal issue that I have got to still work through.

"My persona, personally and publicly, has been that I have got everything under control and I don't need anyone else's help, don't need anyone's sympathy. I don't like sympathy or empathy.

"I think one of the real lessons for me in this situation was being faced with the vulnerable position of not being able to walk. Needing help to do that and some of the regular normal daily activities of life was tough for me.

"But I realised that in order to get back to where I needed to be, people's help was something I was going to need, it was something I needed to open up to."

As Johnson is quick to point out, the unwillingness to show vulnerability is not all bad. Such steeliness helped deliver those four Olympic gold medals after all, and he believes it has helped him complete a remarkable recovery.

It was early September when Johnson suffered a transient ischaemic attack (TIA). It is a mini stroke caused by a temporary disruption in the blood supply to part of the brain and results in a lack of oxygen to the brain.

He lost mobility and co-ordination in his left side and in the days afterwards it took him 15 minutes to walk 200m - the same distance he ran in 19.32 seconds to win Olympic gold at the Atlanta Games of 1996.

Four months on, he has already returned to his previous fitness regime. But for a move from San Francisco to Malibu, he would have already enjoyed one of his favourite winter pastimes - skiing.

An important emotion during that rapid recovery was anger. It was briefly aimed at the predicament he found himself in, having adhered to all of the guidelines for avoiding strokes (eating healthily, drinking alcohol moderately, exercising regularly and watching your weight).

Within 24 hours that frustration was channelled elsewhere.

"Having been doing all the right things like training every day and keeping myself in good shape while other people aren't, and they are fine and I am laying in a hospital bed having suffered a stroke, obviously you are going to be angry about that," he says. "And I was a little bit, for about a day.

"I am able to recognise and know for myself that that is not going to do me any good and is going to make me feel worse.

"Telling yourself not to be angry is only going to make yourself more angry; you have to replace that with something and I was pushing my doctors to let me get into physical therapy as soon as possible."

As soon as possible meant - remarkably - twice-daily workouts within a week of the stroke. It's an approach he is also using to spread the word about the cause, working with the American Heart Association on an awareness campaign.

"My story can help people to be more aware," he says. "One of the most important things with strokes is recognising the symptoms and getting to the hospital as soon as possible.

"Having gone through the experience I could very well see that an individual might choose not to go to the hospital. I didn't experience any sort of jolting moment of 'oh my god something just happened to me'.

"I just didn't feel quite right so I just chose to go to the hospital as opposed to waiting it out or sleeping it off to see if it would go away. That could have been catastrophic."

Understandably, Johnson says he and his wife were glad to see the back of a life-changing 2018 which, in the midst of his stroke, also saw them evacuate their home for five days because of the deadly California wildfires.

But while Johnson is trying to live more in the moment, and to be thankful every day, much of his life will be unchanged. He'll still try to abstain from the junk food in the BBC Sport studio. And he certainly won't be taking on any wild challenges like the London Marathon.

"I passed on most of the snacks in the studio to begin with," he says. "I usually brought my own instead so I will just continue to do that. Colin [Jackson] is the worst so without him in the studio any more, things got much better.

"I had no interest in running marathons before the stroke and that hasn't changed. The stroke didn't affect me to a point to where I am now crazy enough to go actually run a marathon.

"The best thing for me is to keep the risk factors at bay by continuing to eat right and continue to keep myself in great shape. To watch the different factors like heart rate, blood pressure and diet, take the medication I've been instructed to, and then just move on with life.

"I have approached my recovery with the same drive as my athletics career. But it obviously takes on more importance because you are talking about your livelihood and your quality of life. It's not an accolade. It's serious business."

information taken from the BBC site

Josh Taylor

There is no date or venue for Josh Taylor's World Boxing Super Series semi-final yet.

Josh Taylor could be British boxing's "big breakout star for 2019", according to BBC commentator Mike Costello.

The Scottish super-lightweight, 27, is unbeaten in 14 fights since turning professional in 2015.

He stopped Ryan Martin in a one-sided fight in November to set up a World Boxing Super Series semi-final against IBF champion Ivan Baranchyk.

"I think he will go all the way in the super series," Costello said on BBC 5 live's boxing podcast.

Regis Prograis of the USA and Kiryl Relikh, the WBA champion from Belarus, meet in the other semi-final.

Taylor, a two-time Commonwealth Games medallist, could also be a potential opponent for WBC champion Jose Ramirez, who is expected to return to the ring in California in February.

"If you were to ask, potentially, who could be the big breakout star for 2019, I think Josh Taylor could really announce himself to the sporting world this year," said Costello.

information taken from the BBC site

Josh Warrington

Josh Warrington hopes to take his IBF world featherweight title to the USA and unify the division in 2019 after an enthralling win over Carl Frampton.

Warrington beat Northern Ireland's Frampton on points in Manchester in a fight promoter Frank Warren called "the best I've ever seen in a British ring".

Asked if he wants to chase the WBC, WBO or WBA belts, the 28-year-old Englishman said: "100%. I don't want steady pay days.

"I want to test myself and keep going."

The Leeds fighter added: "It's the big nights that get me up for it.

"I like it busy. It keeps me going and next year we will go State-side and the journey continues.

"I'd like an away trip. I went there in 2017 to watch Frampton v Leo Santa Cruz and took a little moment to see Carl's fans there on the Las Vegas strip. I was thinking I could see the Leeds fans there so that's what I'd like next."

Josh's journey against the odds.

Josh Warrington

Warrington was praised by the likes of Anthony Crolla and Nicola Adams after his win.

Warrington will rank high on the list for British fighter of the year having upset the odds to win the world title from Welshman Lee Selby at Leeds' Elland Road in May before again defying bookmakers to beat 31-year-old Frampton - a former two-weight world champion.

Globally, he sits alongside Mexicans Santa Cruz and Oscar Valdez, who hold the WBA and WBO titles respectively, and American Gary Russell Jr, who has the WBC belt.

"He proved today he was top echelon," said promoter Warren. "I think he is the best featherweight in the world.
He's young, hungry and he has an engine which is unbelievable. Who can keep up with that?"

Warrington, who is trained by his father, said he may have fractured his hand late in Saturday's contest, which took place in a frenetic atmosphere at Manchester Arena.

He began at a relentless pace and felt he could have possibly stopped his rival in the second round - but he later praised Frampton for being "a tough, tough man".

"My family are on a journey," added Warrington. "I'm pleased for my dad. We are a small team. We don't have a massive reputation but we keep going against the odds and proving people wrong.

"It's for my fans and followers too. They have stuck with me through thick and thin.

"I'm not the fastest, strongest or most intelligent boxer but I go in there and always wear my heart on my sleeve.

"There were times today when I went through an emotional rollercoaster thinking: 'How have I got to this level?'

"When I stepped in this arena there was no way I was getting beaten. It would have taken a lot to stop me tonight."

Analysis.

BBC boxing correspondent Mike Costello.

This has been a highlight of the British boxing year, and what a year we've had - a special night.

Those spectators that booed Warrington into the arena will be cheering him out after a phenomenal performance for a first defence of his title.

Underdog and fighter of 2018 - reaction.

Two-time Olympic champion Nicola Adams: "What a fight Warrington and Frampton put on tonight. Josh deserved the win. He didn't stop throwing punches from round one."

Former world champion Anthony Crolla: "Josh Warrington, British fighter of the year 2018. A great fight - congrats to both lads."

British boxing trainer Dave Coldwell: "Massive congratulations to Josh Warrington and his dad for what they've achieved. Beating Selby and Frampton as underdog for both makes him my 2018 fighter of the year."

information taken from the BBC site

James DeGale v Chris Eubank Jr

DeGale (left) has two defeats from 28 bouts, while Eubank Jr has two losses in 29 outings.

James DeGale says his super-middleweight fight with Chris Eubank Jr is a "retirement fight" because it will be "game over" for the loser.

DeGale, 32, faces his British rival in a non-title contest at London's O2 Arena on 23 February.

Eubank Jr, 29, won in September after being beaten by George Groves in February, while DeGale vacated the IBF world super-middleweight title in July.

"After he has lost to me I am not sure where he is going to go," said DeGale.

"Call this a retirement fight. Whoever loses can knock it on the head. Whoever loses, game over.

"A lot of people think I am in decline but they are in for a shock."

At a London news conference, DeGale referred to his rival as "limited" and said Eubank Jr was "well down" the list when ranking the calibre of opponents he has faced.

"James talks retirement but it has never even come into my mind," said Eubank Jr. "In February it will be a painful lesson. I have been training to fight you for years. I know everything about you."

The contest will be a pay-per-view broadcast on ITV Box Office and is the first of a new deal involving US promoters Premier Boxing Champions after the organisation struck a deal with the broadcaster.

Olympic gold medallist DeGale lost his world title in December 2017 but won it back in an April rematch with Caleb Truax, only to give up the belt as he wished to focus on chasing "massive fights".

He insists Eubank Jr is "too arrogant" to listen to his new coach following a 2018 in which he lost to Groves and scored a routine win over JJ McDonagh in September.

"I have a new team around me," said Eubank Jr. "I haven't really had an official trainer.

"Ronnie Davies has been by my side but hasn't trained me, he's been more overseeing things. I have trained myself.

"For this it will be different. I have been working with a guy called Nate Vasquez from Las Vegas. He has been living with me. It is good to have a solid guy there who is with me 24-7, working with me on specifics rather than me going through the motions."

information taken from the BBC site

Dillian Whyte - Dereck Chisora

Whyte (left) says he has improved in the two years since he first faced Chisora.

Dillian Whyte has warned Dereck Chisora he will face a "different animal" on Saturday when they meet in a rematch two years on from a brutal encounter.

Whyte, 30, landed a narrow points win over his British rival in 2016 but says he has drastically improved since.

"I have been involved in battles," said Whyte. "It's a different man, my base is stronger, you will see."

Chisora, 34, said the winner could face world champion Anthony Joshua next and claimed he would "pound" Whyte.

"Eddie Hearn is dangling a carrot in front of me and Dillian - that's AJ," added Chisora. "Whatever plan Dillian's team have, ours is to bite the gum shield, seek and destroy."

Whyte's trainer Mark Tibbs responded: "We will meet him, greet him and beat him to the punch. This man is ready for all of them but we will not overlook Chisora."

Haye boost before crazy contest.

In the final news conference before Saturday's O2 Arena contest, the heavyweight fighters exchanged insults but there was no repeat of the chaos of 2016, when Chisora was fined for throwing a table at his rival.

The fight that followed proved one of the most punishing in recent memory, prompting promoter Hearn to state:
"They are both crazy. If they weren't, why on earth would you want to do it again?"

Whyte added: "There's a different animal standing in front of him on Saturday, not an immature boy. I keep levelling up with every fight and there are levels to this thing."

Whyte has four wins since their initial meeting, including a notable points success over former world champion Joseph Parker in July.

His opponent's run of form prompted Chisora to tell Hearn he had not fought Whyte's corner adequately in securing him a world title shot.

Chisora has sought a new lifestyle since an uninspiring defeat by Germany's Agit Kabayel 13 months ago, with a focus on religion and a shift to work under David Haye, who knocked him out when the pair met in 2012.

"I think Dereck has always had in him what he needs to be one of the best on the planet," said former world heavyweight champion Haye.

"He has had opportunities in the past and I don't think he has capitalised. Experience has told him he needs to make the sacrifices required.

"I am confident. I have felt his presence and power in the ring. The intensity he has shown in training for me shows he is coming for war. He didn't have 12 rounds of war in him last time; he does for Saturday.

"I am confident the heat being brought to Dillian will make him very uncomfortable."

information taken from the BBC site

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