File Photo: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
As far as fighter comebacks go, Lavar Johnson’s story is rougher than most.
But to his credit, the 6-foot-2 heavyweight survived three gunshot wounds sustained during a walk-by shooting at a family reunion last July and did something many thought impossible -- he returned to the cage on Friday.
The 32-year-old Johnson earned a second-round technical knockout against Lolohea Mahe at Strikeforce Challengers 7 in Fresno, Calif. Eight months earlier, Johnson had been in the hospital for 30 days and lost 50 pounds. He left with an open hole in his stomach and limited mobility. Still, against the odds, Johnson was medically cleared four months later and was back in the gym.
Taking all that into consideration, Johnson was pleased with his performance on Friday.
“I felt great,” said Johnson. “I’m still underweight and still need to gain a few more pounds, but I feel good.”
Prior to the shooting, Johnson, fresh off a 18-second knockout against Carl Seumanutafa at Strikeforce Challengers 1 in May 2009, had been earmarked for his next bout against British heavyweight James Thompson that August.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker told Sherdog.com on Monday that Johnson would be offered another bout with the promotion.
“I definitely think he did what he needed to do,” said Coker. “We’re going to put him back in the Challengers series a couple of more times, hopefully things will work out for him and he can take the next step up.”
Johnson wears the badge of his life-or-death ordeal in the form of a thick, jagged scar which runs from his sternum down past his navel.
“It was rough. Just the whole comeback thing was rough, but I took baby steps and came along,” said Johnson.
What was the hardest part about one of the tougher comebacks ever mounted?
“Just putting on the weight, being able to move and run around, period. My stomach was jacked up for a long time -- they cut me all the way open,” said Johnson. “They had to splice my intestines in six different spots, take out my appendix. My colon had been damaged and my stomach had been damaged, so (it) did a lot.”