Marvin Johnson

  • Boxing
  • 20140805_152024An entire generation of Indy residents know him as the guy who was part of corny car dealer commercials. Mostly, though, he was a boxing champion.

    The Indy native got started by beating up a bully from school, which gave him the confidence to pursue the sport. With help from his older brother Hank, who later became the 1988 U.S. Olympic boxing coach, he learned how to beat up real fighters, too. I covered one of his fights, at Market Square Arena. The part I remember most is that afterward he got dressed and went home without taking a shower. He and I had an interesting conversation about that after the mics were turned off.

    Johnson experienced the typical highs and lows of boxing, from winning championships to getting cheated by promoters. He didn’t make as much money as he should have, but got by OK. After retirement he went to work for the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, spending most of his time in the jail. Most inmates knew better than to challenge him.

    He’s a really good guy, as you can tell from this conversation, with a sweet and sour story that is too common among boxers. But his life has worked out well, and he’s been a great contributor to Indianapolis. Even when he wasn’t selling cars.

    First aired 2014

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