Alexander “The Great” Johnson: Training Days (by Dallas Lillich)

Photo by Dallas Lillich
Alexander “The Great” Johnson attacks the speed bag at Sugar Ray Leonard Gym in Palmer Park, MD.

Dallas Lillich is a freelance photographer based in Washington, DC.

Al Johnson is a professional boxer who grew up in Washington, DC. Known as “Alexander the Great,” he fights in the light heavyweight division. His record after two years in the pros stands at 7-0 with 3 knockouts. He trains at Sugar Ray Leonard Gym in Palmer Park, Maryland.

His last fight took place on September 26th at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia. He is pictured here in the weeks leading up to the event, during which he trained five hours a day, five to six times a week. Staying in shape for the ring presents a number of challenges.

“Boxing is a full-time job,” he explains. “Between rope work, eating right and getting enough rest, you have to be tough on yourself. You’ve got to have discipline about it.”

Photo by Dallas Lillich
Al enters the ring for training. His trainer Zeke (red shirt) stands by as a portrait of Sugar Ray Leonard hovers in the background.

He attributes a share of his perseverance to his team, which includes his manager, Diana Hall, and his trainer who goes by Zeke. With his operatic harangues and constant critiques, Zeke plays the role of taskmaster, which sometimes leads to tension between the two men. Asked about their relationship, Al concedes, “I’ve got a great trainer. We have our ups and downs, but it’s mostly because I get to the point where I’m so anxious to fight that I’m barking at anything.”

Photo by Dallas Lillich
Al lands an uppercut against his opponent in the ring.

Al can regularly be seen working the door at The Wonderland Ballroom and Looking Glass Lounge where he supplements his income to support his family—another challenge he faces with his characteristic aplomb.

Photo by Dallas Lillich
Al Johnson celebrates after a good round.

His next fight is on Saturday, October 24th at the Washington Convention Center.

More photos after the jump

Photo by Dallas Lillich
Al argues with his trainer Zeke over boxing strategy.

Photo by Dallas Lillich
Al finishes his training regimen with jump roping.

Photo by Dallas Lillich
Al Johnson jokes with his trainer Zeke before heading home around 3pm.

19 Comment

  • Up next, lions versus Christians!


  • Great work indeed…as a Latino, boxing runs in my veins….

  • Nice meeting you last night!

  • Wow– really cool. The photography is amazing.

  • Thanks for this story. DC has a great boxing tradition, believe it or not. Best of luck to Al.

  • Great article and amazing pictures!

  • Wow- I admire the discipline! Awesome photos.

  • I know Al and Dallas. Both great guys. A long time ago, when the Mongols ruled China, Al saved me from being mauled by ferocious, hungry tiger. As he wrestled the tiger to the ground, he pierced the skin of his own chest, dug through the muscle and broke off one of his ribs, pulled it out of his heaving body and used it as a knife, driving it into neck of the great beast, puncturing its jugular vein then holding it steady as the soul of the tiger escaped from its body just like the terror it had inflicted upon me and my kinsmen.

    Don’t believe me? Well, Dallas also happened to be living in the time when the Mongols ruled China and was then the mondern day Matthew Brady, taking photographs of significant events that would change the way people viewed history.

    When the entire episode concluded, Dallas and I skinned the tiger and prepared a meal for we three to celebrate Al’s heroism, Dallas’ recording that recent history and my ability to continue to breath, walk and scour all the possibilities that life can provide. After the skin of the tiger was dry and prepared, Dallas and I presented it to Al as personal thanks for his act of bravery. It was at that time, long ago when the Mongols ruled China, that two humble men bestowed upon Alexander a regal garment made from the skin of the beast he had tamed as well as countenance that he may proceed along his own destiny as Alexander The Great.

    Here endeth the story.

  • Al and Dal, make a great team on Monday, Monday, Monday NIGHT!!!! You can see them both in action at Wonderland Ballroom. Al and Dal, have always had my back against the cretins of Columbia Heights…..and believe you me, if theres something CH has got a lot of…..its cretin goons.

  • I know Matt, Al and Dallas and I can confirm that everything Matt said is absolutely true, as I am often a practioner of astral projection. We are currently looking into getting Al a “Great” cape. Any pro-bono cape makers out there? And yes, I especially love the pics Dallas did with the mirrors.

  • Fantastic series of photos!

  • Love this article and the photos. As a rabid boxing fan I’m happy to have someone to support locally. So glad POP has a place for this, sadly boxing coverage is non-existent in the post.

  • Great photography and amazing local story. Here’s a pat on the back for all involved…

  • Truly inspirational story. So different than most other posts/stories where people are whining about how they lived in the hood longer than anyone else and complaining about new and different neighbors,businesses, hipsters etc. Al is the real deal and a good example of a modern day renaissance guy trying to live his passion, love his family and take care of business all at once. Great Story!!!

  • Really good pics of my guy Dallas. Al and I love u like a brother, and im glad he has u as a true friend as they r hard to come by. Al we, your family is so proud and we love u!

  • Dallas, you are absolutely amazing. Those pics kick ass, pardon the pun…

  • Masterful shots… dig the colour saturation. Who would have thought Dallas has only recently acquired such skill.

  • to whom it may concern, the palmer park gymnasium is legendary for its work ethics and championship attitude.. sugar ray leonard was and still is a bonafide champion, he set the bar high.. for the future champions to come !

  • yeah A.L. N.E. all they Lj ENT

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