By Matt Winsper



Clinton Woods, England's IBF Light-heavyweight Champion, finally got revenge over old rival Glencoffe Johnson of Miami via Jamaica with a thrilling split decision victory at the Bolton Arena in the north of England. Johnson had drawn and then beaten Woods two years ago for this same title, but after knocking out Roy Jones in his first defence, the Jamaican Road Warrior gave up his belt to face division number one Antonio Tarver.
Woods claimed the vacant belt, and made two defences before getting a third crack at Johnson...and this time he did not disappoint. The two staged a toe-to-toe thriller, with rounds going this way and that until Johnson finally staged a huge rally in the ninth round which ironically lost him the fight.
A right nailed Woods in that pivotal session, who suddenly looked unsteady on his legs, stumbling around the ring and looking ready to go. Johnson came thundering after him, unleashing every punch in his arsenal, but brave Woods refused to crumble. As the round closed, Johnson had punched himself out and trudged wearily to his stool.
With the fight in the balance, Johnson's effort had drained him of energy, and the courageous Clinton Woods, roared on by the thousands in attendance not far from his hometown of Sheffield, chugged away over the final three rounds to clinch a 115-112, 113-115, 116-112 decision, raising his profile to 40-3-1 (24).
A disconsolate Johnson raised his arms at the final bell, and complained at the decision afterwards to ITV interviewer Jim Rosenthal. "I thought I won the fight," he explained in his Caribbean accent, "I mean, Clinton won a couple of rounds, but a lot of them were close and it don't mean he won them all."
At 37 years of age, it had been a wonderful performance from the former champion, and the decision really could have gone either way, but Woods had the look of a champion by claiming the all important championship rounds. Johnson looked utterly exhausted in the final session, clinging on to Woods for dear life as the Englishman gallantly tried to put him away.
But it had all looked so different in some of the rounds. Woods had started slowly, allowing the shorter, stronger challenger to push him back and connect with solid right hands. There were shades of their second fight, when Woods just could not get going and was outworked throughout. In the third, however, he responded to the challenge in front of him and arguably claimed the round after some thrilling exchanges. From here on the rounds see-sawed, with Johnson winning some on sheer strength and work rate, Woods winning some with neater boxing and clever movement. By the ninth, the fight was too close to call...and then Johnson exploded early on in the session with a right hand that buckled Woods' knees.
The Englishman faltered for a second, and Johnson went up several gears, bombing away with right hands and clubbing left hooks. For roughly a minute and a half, Johnson pounded away with malicious intentions behind every punch. And all of a sudden, the challenger looked tired, and Woods mounted a breath taking comeback. By the end of the round, Johnson looked spent, and Woods just kept churning his arms away to win the championship rounds...and the fight.
"It were my best fight," he beamed afterwards in his amiable Yorkshire twang. "I think that makes me the best light-heavyweight in the world, now!"
And he could be right, bearing in mind that Johnson had gone 1-1 with Antonio Tarver, who had then been drubbed by the now-retired Bernard Hopkins. Certainly Woods is without a doubt one of the top three in the world, and a big fight with Tarver, Jones or IBF Super-middleweight champ Joe Calzaghe could crown an already glowing career. Not bad for a former small-hall boxer with only a passing interest in boxing as a means to keep fit!


Send questions and comments to: mattwinsper@yahoo.co.uk