Clinton Woods Vs Julio Gonzalez: Last Man Standing

08.09.05 - By Neil Goodman: Prior to his comeback in October, two former Roy Jones Jnr victims square off against one another on Friday night for the IBF light-heavyweight title. In one corner will be Julio Gonzalez, a loser on points to Jones, but still fiercely competitive and worthy challenger. Defending the title will be Clinton Woods; whilst he was a loser inside six rounds to Jones, Clinton is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance late on his career.

Both fighters justifiably hold positions in the upper echelons of the light-heavyweight division and the boxing world can expect a high class contest. Gonzalez and Woods each bring to the table their own very distinct attributes; to pick a winner is a tough task to be sure! Essentially for the hardcore boxing fraternity this fight stands out as one not requiring the usual phoney hype or trash talking.

Gonzalez is a pressure fighter, whilst his skills are not dazzling he is indeed a hard man to beat and perhaps even harder man to discourage. Gonzalez has a justly earned reputation for toughness; in two fights alone he got off the canvas 6 times. Three of knockdowns occurred in thriller against Julian Letterlough; then he scraped himself off the canvas on a hat trick of occasions against Roy Jones Jnr. Of course, as previously mentioned, Gonzalez in his highest profile fight to date was beaten by Jones. During the course of the bout each of the knockdown punches looked like a fight ending blow, but amazingly Gonzalez kept getting up and kept taking the fight to Jones!

Whilst it is all very well having the ability to take a shot, go down, but then get back up again, every fighter must also demonstrate the ability to win fights. Gonzalez put a definitive tick in this box beating Darius Michalczewski, boxing away from home in Germany. In summary very few, if any, fighters get an easy night when Gonzalez is around. He can box a bit, punch with sufficient authority and can ably deal with adversity.

Onto then to the reigning champion and the career of Clinton Woods has been a slow burner. Woods initially campaigned as a super-middleweight, but in hindsight how he ever made the weight in this division remains a mystery. Clinton lost his first major title fight on points to David Starie; but since this loss has made steady progress.

Once Clinton stepped up into the light-heavyweight division he established himself at British and European level, beating along the way boxers such as Crawford Ashley and Ole Klementsen. Woods continued to ply his trade at international level whilst finding time to accommodate three world title challenges. First up was the beating at the hands of Roy Jones Jnr, this was when Jones was at his expressive best. Clinton did what he could, but as many had found out to their cost when Jones was on point you just could not hang with him.

The loss to Jones was not to be a death knell for Woods, in fact quite the opposite! It seemed as though all of a sudden the penny dropped, Clinton had found his weight division he had been in with the best and now it was time to really go to work. Clinton made a quick return to the ring and put together a three fight win streak, against a decent level of opposition. Clinton then stepped up again to the world title plate, this time facing Glen Johnson, another late bloomer, in his second world title attempt.

Johnson and Woods locked horns for 12 rounds in 2003, at the end of twelve rounds the judges could not split them. The fight, whilst not a classic; had been very evenly contested and there had to be a rematch. The return match took place three months later, but Woods after a good start fell away and Johnson using his vast experience started to ‘old man’ Woods down the stretch. When the scorecards had been collated, they told the story which everyone expected and Johnson was crowned the new light-heavyweight champion.

As it transpires going the distance, twice, with Johnson transpired to be pretty good form and once again Team Woods went back to the drawing board to refine the skills and output of their man.

To cut a short story even shorter, at the fourth time of asking Woods seized his opportunity and picked apart the heavy punching and heavily favoured Rico Hoye in five rounds to capture the vacant IBF title belt in March 2005. Woods had finally come of age and put together a very complete performance to finally lay his hands on a world title belt.

Fast forward to the present day and the fight against arguably one of his toughest opponents to date is less than a few days away. To be honest; after four attempts to win the title, would Woods really have wanted an easy first defence? Well, your damn right he would have; but as is ever the case, life is never easy for Clinton.

As the moment of truth nears Gonzalez is a narrow favourite with the bookmakers to take the title on Friday night; and as he will be in Clintons back yard that goes someway to demonstrating the scale of the challenge the Mexican presents. I am having trouble reconciling my head over my heart to pick a winner, but I foresee Clinton riding out the storm to prevail in another tough distance fight. It is all on the line for Clinton and if his preparation has gone according to plan he may just be too rounded for Gonzalez. With a partisan crowd behind him and Joe Calzaghe waiting in the wings, Woods should secure a successful first defence of his title.

What next for Clinton? Well, lets get Friday night and a rather fierce Mexican out of the way first shall we?!

Article posted on 08.09.2005

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