Woods vs Johnson: Interview With Clinton Woods

20.01.04 - By Elliot Worsell: IBF world light heavyweight title challenger Clinton Woods represents the ideal template of a British boxer. The 31-year-old Sheffield fighter has progressed down the traditional route, through British, commonwealth and European roads, neglecting the throw away titles flashed before his eyes in ĎHappy Mealsí and gaining respect and recognition by pursuing genuine world titles. The Marquess of Queensbury would fill up with pride on viewing the stand up box-puncherís ring credentials, and others would be well advised to follow suit.

His endeavour and determination that has seen him go 35-2-1 (21 KOís) as a pro, has been rewarded by loyal promoter Dennis Hobson, and on February 6 in Sheffield, the amicable Woods will compete in his 3rd world title stab against rugged Jamaican Glencoffe Johnson. A man he knows only too well having traded blood and guts with the Miami based veteran last November in an intense battle for the same IBF crown.

The first fight was fought at an frenetic pace, with both combatants having their moments, but neither doing enough, according to the three ringside judges, too eek out a victory. The fight ended all level, and a rematch was a natural.

Clinton realises heís drinking at the last chance saloon against Johnson in the rematch. Most fighters are lucky to get one world title shot in their career; Clinton has had numerous, much to the credit of his class and skills and the negotiating of his management team. He knows fully well that should it be 3rd time unlucky, the Sheffield slugger will be looking at an empty bottle, and further chances will be all the more difficult to muster.

Having shared ring duty with the exceptional Roy Jones Jr. for his collection of world titles in September 2002, Clinton Woods is a man who fears little however, and he hopes, now that his problematic left hand has healed, he can cap off a terrific paid career with a coveted world title win over Johnson.

I caught up with Clinton in the weeks leading up to this decisive fight with Johnson, to collate his views.

EW. Clinton, can you tell us how your training has gone?

CW. Trainingís gone fantastic this time. Iíve gone back with my old trainer Neil Port, and weíve been working brilliantly in the gym. Tim (Witherspoon) is still in and around the team but heís not in the position he was before. Heís not pulling the strings anymore. I feel hungry again, like I used to be. Tim never shouted at me, he never pushed me, and he was just a very, very relaxed trainer. I just feel now that Iíve got back to what I used to do and how I used to train, Iím getting shouted at and growled at again by Neil, and that spurs me on and makes me train harder.

Neilís been with me from the beginning but heís always away from the spotlight. He brings a lot of aggression and passion to the camp, and trains me hard. He knows how I like to fight, how I like to move, fight inside, then move again, he knows exactly how I prefer fighting. Tim was just trying to get me fighting like a heavyweight, just getting me there to stand and slug it out. Neilís pulling all the shots now, heís the gaffer.

EW. Youíve been doing a lot of sparring with Valery Odin. How important has he been given the similarities in style with Glencoffe Johnson?

CW. Heís a right character, a great kid. Itís the first time Iíve ever met him, heís strong, and comes at me like a crazy man in the gym throwing lots and lots of shots. Heís maybe not as classy as Glencoffe, but in terms of style heís very similar. Sparring Valery has definitely got my fitness up and heís got me working hard inside the ring. Iíve done 3 or 4 days with him, and Iíll be working with him next week as well.

At the moment Iím sparring with Steve Spartacus, and heís another busy fighter, although a bit more technical than Valery. He doesnít come flying in as much as him. But itís a great mixture to have, sparring Valery does wonders to my fitness and the more technical side of it comes when I spar Steve.

EW. What was the problem with the US sparring you did in preparation for the first Johnson fight?

CW. In America they were good kids, but they just didnít seem to want to fight me. They all just seemed to want to pose about there. Donít get me wrong they were very good fighters, but the sparring wasnít up to much because they didnít want to do anything. There was no real hard sparring sessions.

EW. How important has your long time promoter Dennis Hobson been in your career?

CW. Well Iíve been a pro now for about 9 years and Iíve been with Dennis from the beginning, and weíve slowly climbed the ladder. Weíve won all the domestic titles British, commonwealth and European, and then he got me the big one with Roy Jones, and I donít care what anyone says, your Frank Warrenís and your Frank Maloneyís and all the so called big promoters in Britain, they couldnít deliver Roy Jones. They kept saying they would get him for Calzaghe, but they couldnít deliver it. Dennis is supposed to be a so-called small promoter but he was able to go out and deliver the biggest fight Britain has had for a long time. And also, heís got me another world title shot against Glencoffe, which is fantastic.

EW. Did you ever think you would get another world title crack after losing to Jones?

CW. Usually when you fight for a world title, and you lose it, people suddenly want to fight you again, and you get other opportunities. Itís a strange thing because you donít get a world title shot for years and then you get one, you lose, and you get another shot shortly after.

EW. Have you watched the Glencoffe Johnson fight back on tape?

CW. Yeah Iíve watched it a few times now.

EW. And do you still feel you deserved the result that you got?

CW. Iíve watched it a lot of times now. Usually my face bruises and swells up in fights. In that fight with Glencoffe my face didnít bruise or swell up at all. Even though he was throwing a lot of shots, the biggest percentage of his shots werenít hitting me; they were hitting my gloves or the back of my head. I definitely didnít deserve to win the fight, but I seriously think a draw was a fair outcome for both of us. People who say he won by 3 or 4 rounds, I just canít see how they can think that. It was a close fight; a draw was the fairest result.

EW. Is your left hand completely healed now?

CW. Oh yeah itís completely healed now. Iíve been throwing big shots with it in the gym, Iíve hit elbows with it, top of heads, and itís held up nicely. Feels as if nothing ever happened to it.

EW. Do you feel that establishing the jab, and giving Glencoffe something to think about as he roams forward, is an important factor in the rematch?

CW. Yeah definitely, my left hand is going to be a major factor in the rematch. It will have much more snap behind it, and will be the key to me winning this fight.

When you watch Johnson fight, itís actually quite hard to get a jab off, because what he does is slips and weaves very well. Last time my jab, cosí it was hurting me, it wasnít landing with any speed, I was just pawing with it, and thatís why he kept coming forward and countering me.

EW. Was there any danger of the fight going to the USA? There were rumours it could be Feb 7 on the Toney/McCline bill Ö

CW. Yeah they were trying to get it on in the USA, but Glencoffe, although heís a name in America, he doesnít sell thousands of tickets out there. So obviously American TV donít want to pay a lot of money to have the show over there. On the whole itís better for them to come over here again.

EW. What do you believe you have to do differently in the rematch?

CW. Throw more shots, and not sit and wait on the ropes. As soon as my back touches the ropes maybe throw combinations to get Glencoffe going back. Sometimes I actually like fighting on the ropes, but in the last fight I wasnít throwing punches on the ropes I was just sitting there and letting him get his shots off. Next time I just need to roll with him and throw punches with him.

EW. Do you think you can push a strong, aggressive fighter like Johnson backwards?

CW. Well thatís the plan, to box him a bit, and eventually get him going backwards. I believe that if I push him back in the fight I will catch him and take over. I need to be busier early in the fight, try and tire him a little earlier, and if I can do that, I definitely feel I can stop him. This is my last chance at a major title, and Iím going to make sure I put everything I have into his fight.

EW. Do you believe you have seen everything Johnson has to offer from the first fight?

CW. I canít see him wanting to fight any different, thatís the only way heís going to fight against me. He definitely wonít try and box me because that will make the fight easier for me to win. I think heíll just fight pretty much the same as he did in the first fight, perhaps putting a bit more into it in the early rounds, which will work for me late on.

EW. Do you think Johnson will tire down the stretch?

CW. Yeah definitely, because Iím going to be throwing more shots at him than I did in the first fight, and Iíll just be in there wearing him down and look towards the late rounds to get on top of him.

EW. How important will the Sheffield fans be this time around?

CW. Well the fightís been moved to a slightly bigger venue, and obviously itís great fighting in Sheffield, in my hometown. The fans always get behind me and it would be great to win a world title in Sheffield.

EW. What would it mean to you to be crowned IBF world light heavyweight champion?

Itís what Iíve always dreamed of. Iíve won all the major domestic belts, and thereís only really that left, and should I win that one, no one can take it away from me. After the Jones fight I kept hearing daft things in the papers that Jones took the piss out of me, and it was mostly just jealous promoters because they couldnít get the Jones fight for their fighters. If I win this world title, it will be them looking daft and not me.

To tell you the truth, everyone asks me the same thing, ĎI bet you were shitting yourself against himí, but I wasnít at all. The best thing about the fight with Jones was that I wasnít nervous, I enjoyed it. It was one of the first timeís Iíve walked out to a fight and really enjoyed it. Even though I got beat I still enjoyed every minute. He didnít hurt me much, not to the head anyway. One body shot hurt me, but the head shots werenít hurting me, and my face werenít banged up. You just have to accept the fact that heís a brilliant fighter, who won a world heavyweight title after fighting me!

EW. Did you see Royís fight with Antonio Tarver?

CW. No I didnít see the fight, I was away for it. People kept telling me he got hammered and was lucky to win, but all the top writers in America all thought Jones won so I donít know what people are talking about. I think because Jones werenít at his best people just leant towards Tarver and said Jones wasnít very good. But to come down from heavyweight, where he had no fat on him, it was all muscle; to come down back to light heavy and win the titles again is fantastic.

EW. If you were to win the world title, where would you go from there?

CW. Theyíve been talking about the winner defending against Montell Griffin or Eric Harding, but I thought that it was written in the contract for Tarver to be the first defence. Either way, I have to get past Glencoffe first, and then we can look to move on from there. Do you know who won the Gonzalez fight on Saturday?

EW. Erdei won it on points.

CW. Thatís a bit of a shocker. Theyíll keep the title out in Germany now I bet. Dariusz Michalczewski will get a chance to win it back now.

EW. Joe Calzaghe has stated that heíll move up to light heavyweight after his mandatory obligation in February. Would you see a fight with him down the line materialising?

CW. It would be a fantastic fight, and Iíd be ready for him anytime, but to be honest, I donít know whatís heís planning to do. I donít think heís even sure whether heís moving up or staying at super middle. But if he does move up to light heavyweight, I think to get a crack at my title he needs to beat a top contender first and earn his opportunity. He canít just come up a division and get a world title shot without doing anything. Iíd like to see him earn his chance and beat some good light heavyweight contenders.

At the end of the day the IBF title is more recognised than his WBO title. All these arguments between Boxing News and Frank Warren recently, about what belts mean more, they can argue as much as they want; the IBF, the WBC and the WBA are still the top belts in world boxing. The WBO is still a world title, and itís a good title to have but itís still ignored slightly in America, which is where it all counts. It getís even funnier when they start bringing the WBU belt into the argument! Ricky Hattonís a great fighter though, and heís better than the WBU, heíll get one of the main three belts.

I would like to thank Clinton for his time and agreeing to the interview, and wish him continued success on February 6 and beyond.

Article posted on 20.01.2004

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