IBF light-heavyweight champion Clinton Woods believes he will have to produce the performance of his life if he is to retain his title against mandatory challenger Julio Gonzalez at Sheffield's Hallam FM Arena on Friday. "People over here might think I'm the favourite but over in America I'm definitely seen as the underdog," said Woods. "I've trained for 12, hard rounds and I can see it being a battle to the end. Gonzalez won't want to take a backward step and neither will I. It's going to be the toughest fight of my career but I believe it's a fight I can win."
A sell-out crowd is expected to lend Woods some moral support, and in addition to promoters Fight Academy securing home advantage for their star, this could prove decisive on the night.
"The fans can play a massive part in all of this. They'll give me that extra strength to keep throwing punches even when I feel as though I can't," admitted Woods.
"I'm also very grateful to my promoters, Fight Academy. Dennis Hobson, Robert Waterman and my trainer Richard Poxon have worked miracles to secure me home advantage once more and I'll repay them by ensuring that the world title remains in Sheffield."
Woods' handlers have staged three of his previous four world title fights in South Yorkshire and their persistence was finally rewarded when Woods captured the vacant IBF crown by stopping undefeated American Rico Hoye in March.
But whilst home advantage could be crucial, Gonzalez is unlikely to be phased by the partisan crowd. In October 2003, the Mexican travelled to Hamburg and ended the 48-fight unbeaten record of local hero Dariusz Michalczewski to capture the WBO title.
"I know what it takes to win a world title in someone else's backyard and the Sheffield people better prepare themselves for the same thing happening again. It's going to be a great fight while it lasts," boasted a confident Gonzalez.
Tickets for Woods vs Gonzales are available in person at the Hallam FM Arena, by calling the Hallam FM Arena box office on 0114 256 5656 or online at www.hallamfmarena.co.uk
- tickets are priced at £30, £50 , £75 and VIP ringside £125.