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Cinderella Man displays tenacious Fighting Pride

Anybody who watched Matchroom’s ‘Fighting Pride’ show live on Sky Sports last night had witnessed something special; the fight fans that were present at Hull’s Ice Arena are truly the lucky ones for the event was one that will not be forgotten anytime soon.

On paper the evening looked promising with a few intriguing match-ups but nobody could possibly have been expecting the drama and excitement that ran through pretty much the whole of the four hour broadcast.

There is one fighter who featured on the bill whom I want to pay particular attention to but first I will briefly run through the evening’s action.

The first bout was a contest for the British super-bantamweight title, vacated by Kid Galahad as he seeks European honours, between Gavin McDonnell and Leigh Wood. Alongside such boxers as Kell Brook and Kid Galahad, real name Abdul Barry Awad, Wood fights out of the Ingle Gym and exhibits the slippery and awkward style that the gym is famed for.

In spite of the gym’s acclaim, Wood still shocked a lot of people last night and was branded a ‘revelation’ by ringside commentators for his show of skill. An obvious slip as he retreated from an opponent’s punch was ruled as a knock down early in the fight but he regrouped quickly and by the end of round two McDonnell was suffering from a bloodied and rapidly swollen eye. It was all Wood with stiff jabs and flashy combinations until the fifth when Gavin, twin brother of former IBF bantamweight champion Jamie, managed to drag him into a scrap. In the sixth Wood was caught flush and Gavin pounced, reigning punches until referee Marcus McDonnell (no relation) halted the action, only to seemingly check on Leigh, before allowing it to continue. But McDonnell was ruthless and piled on more heavy pressure which saw Wood’s head rocked back and forth until the referee stopped it once and for all, resulting in Gavin and Jamie being the first pair of twins to both hold the prestigious Lonsdale belt.

The main event was local favourite Tommy Coyle’s defence of his IBF international lightweight title against Argentine Daniel Brizuela. It would be easy to get carried away in writing about this fight as it was one of the wildest that anybody could see with a total of eight knock downs and three point deductions.

It was non-stop thrills from the start and at times extremely intense. I urge any reader who has not seen the fight to go and watch it. The sixth round was something very special where Coyle had to rise twice from agonising body shots; he stated today on Twitter that he may have a fractured rib. Straight after the fight on an interview Coyle, bashed and bruised, immediately expressed interest in his proposed next bout against Kevin Mitchell, highlighting the toughness of his character.

Hull’s golden boy Luke Campbell also did the business as was expected, halting tough Scott Moises for the first time in his career.

The main man I want to discuss though, who last night emerged as a modern day ‘Cinderella Man’, is Curtis Woodhouse. A massive underdog going into his challenge for Darren Hamilton’s British light-welterweight title, he upset the odds in dramatic fashion, taking a split decision in a fight that could have been scored either way.

Woodhouse has only been boxing professionally for eight years and, having had no amateur experience at all, had come straight from a professional football career which began at the age of 17 with Sheffield United; today he is the manager of Goole A.F.C. In April 2006 when he was with Grimsby Town, Woodhouse was convicted for assaulting a police officer whilst drunk and using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour. Later that year he won his first professional bout via a points win and until 2012 remained active in both boxing and football; in December 2012, after six months’ service, Woodhouse resigned as manager from Sheffield F.C. to focus on boxing. He has stated that fighting was always his first love, claiming to have had perhaps a hundred street fights and would often spar after football training to the dismay of Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock.

Curtis’ dogged drive of boxing came by way of a promise he made to his father as he lay dying in hospital, a promise to become British champion. Leading up to the Hamilton fight Woodhouse spoke of it being his ‘destiny’ to become British champion and that win, lose or draw the fight would be his last; Curtis has since confirmed this decision in a post-fight interview and stated how he could never top fulfilling his father’s promise.

Curtis has lost six professional fights through his career and his first title came in 2010, avenging a point’s loss to Jay Morris by halting him in the third to claim the vacant International Masters light-welterweight title. In the summer of 2011 Woodhouse took rising star and amateur sensation Frankie Gavin all the way, losing via a split decision. In September last year he was stopped in four by Derry Matthews in a bid to claim the Commonwealth lightweight title, but another two victories after earned him the shot against Hamilton.

The defending British champion was rightly the heavy favourite to retain his title; Hamilton has looked in tremendous form since upsetting the odds in May 2012 to win the Lonsdale belt from Ashley Theophane, now represented by Mayweather Promotions. He started the fight well and controlled most of the first round but Woodhouse come on strong in the second, slipping Hamilton’s awkward jab and attacking his body. From then on it was all subjective; the busy work rate from Curtis as he constantly worked his man over was contrasted with Hamilton’s slick and neat work. At the end of the ninth the fight was then widely regarded as a three-rounder on account of how close it had been all the way through but Curtis pulled ahead in the eleventh and completely dominated the final round, awarding him with the victory.

Post-fight Hamilton, who falls to 14-3-0, was all respect for the new champion, stating how the fight could have gone either way and that he will be back; there is a chance that he could fight for the vacated title, assuming of course Woodhouse does retire, against rising Welsh star Chris Jenkins on a Cardiff show Matchroom are planning for May.

Credit has to go to Woodhouse’s promoter Dave Coldwell, who stuck by his fighter’s side after every defeat due to the belief he held in him, and also to Adam Booth’s team who had worked with Curtis for six weeks to implement the game-plan against Hamilton; Booth is indeed a master tactician of the ring who has worked with some of Britain’s biggest names in boxing.

The story of Curtis Woodhouse deserves far more attention than what I am paying him for it is an inspiring one. And if realising a dream was not satisfying enough then the ‘rumour’ that, before even lacing up a pair of gloves, Woodhouse had put down a five grand bet at 50/1 that he would one day became British champion should make that little difference.