Callum Johnson is quick to point out that when he walked away from boxing last November, he was not so much retiring as quitting.

His announcement was a bolt from the blue for a fighter who had unquestionable talent but, in everyone’s estimation, including his own, failed to fulfil the considerable potential he showed in his early 20s.

Johnson initially burst into the public’s consciousness by winning light heavyweight gold for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

After turning professional, his manager, Prince Naseem Hamed, proclaimed that he was going to inject a breath of fresh air into the division and become world champion within three years and although Johnson went on to win British and Commonwealth titles, as well as fighting for a world title in 2018 against Artur Beterbiev, he never quite scaled the heights so many expected of him.

After a career blighted by significant periods of inactivity – he fought only 21 times in his 12-year professional career - Johnson hung up his gloves ten months ago citing mental health issues and disillusionment with the sport. He was walking away less through choice and more because he could see no way forward as a boxer.

“I really felt like that was it for me,” the 38-year-old says recalling his shock retirement last year. 

“Not because I wanted it to be over but because I saw no other way.

“I was very disappointed in myself – I hadn’t achieved anything like I’d wanted to achieve or thought I would achieve in boxing, or what anyone else thought I would achieve. I felt like I’d let myself down. 

“I had some bad luck – some of it my own fault but a lot of it wasn’t my fault so it was tough.”

And so Johnson eased himself into “normal” life with his wife and two sons. But, as is so often the case with athletes who retire before they feel they’re ready, after only a few months away from boxing, he began to feel the spark reignite and thoughts of a comeback crept into his mind. He got back into the gym and immediately, felt like he’d never been away. And soon, he felt as good as he’d ever felt.

“Once you’re a fighter, you’re always a fighter. It never leaves you. I got back in the gym sparring and it felt like wow, I’m back here again. Last November, it felt like it was over and I’d never be back doing this again so it’s just really exciting,” he says.

“There’s the wear and tear from the gym but in terms of fighting, I’ve not had loads of tough sparring so it’s not like I’m 38 and I’ve been battered for years. So in that sense, there’s very few miles on the clock.

“I feel great, I feel refreshed and mentally, I feel the best I have for a very long time and that’s a massive thing. I don’t think I’ve felt this mentally stable for seven or eight years and I think that’s very important.”

Johnson’s competitive comeback is now only weeks away. He hopes to climb into the ring in anger as early as mid-October but this time, it’s the heavier division of cruiserweight.

And having lived life, for a few months anyway, without boxing, the shift in mindset that’s induced has been significant and this time around, Johnson will step into the ring with a very different attitude in comparison to his first career.

“There was so much pressure on me before to fulfil my potential. Then it got to the point I just couldn’t make the weight anymore, it was killing me. And add to that, getting ill, missing out on opportunities, missing out on a world title fight through illness, my head was just a mess,” he says.

“After I stopped – and I know it sounds like a contradiction considering I’ve come back to boxing - I learnt to be content without boxing. The first month or two after quitting, I was miserable and I felt like my life was over but then I learnt to be happy without boxing. But that’s what brought me back – being content and happy means I now feel like there’s no pressure.

“It was when I started enjoying life I thought I’m going to have one more go at this at cruiserweight and the worst thing that happens is I get beaten. Even if that happens, I’m no worse off than I was before.

Johnson has lived his life south of the border, with the Lincolnshire native qualifying to represent Scotland through his grandmother.

But despite his home being in England, Johnson admits he retains a closeness with Scotland that will never dissipate.

His comeback fight will likely be down south but there will almost certainly be considerable Scottish interest in a fighter who had shown glimpses of becoming one of this country’s greats.

For Johnson, his ambitions for his comeback may not be quite as concrete as they were in the early days of his professional career. But more than anything, he wants to walk away next time, whenever that may be, with a sense of contentment that he no longer is harbouring any regrets over what could have been.

“Thinking back to that Commonwealth gold for Scotland, in some ways, I still feel like I’m the same kid. But on the other hand, I’ve also been through a lot of life experiences now and I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’m a far more experienced character now.

“I know I live in England but my heart with boxing, especially amateur boxing, is in Scotland and always will be,” he says.

“It’s not long now till I’m back in the ring and I’m feeling good. If I think back to last November and feeling like everything I’d ever known was gone to now, knowing that in a few weeks, I’ll be back in there and it isn’t over – it’s crazy. So I’m just champing at the bit to lace the gloves up for real now.

“I’d love to challenge for a world title again, of course. But my main goal is just to get back in there with no bigger picture. 

“I’m doing this for myself to put a few things right in my own mind. And what’ll be will be – I’ll be ready for whatever comes. I’ve got nothing to lose so everything’s a bonus for me.”