Clinton Woods - The Best Of The Four Alphabet Champions At Light-Heavyweight?

04.10.07 - by James Slater: Okay, so Bernard Hopkins is the REAL world champion at light-heavyweight. "The Executioner" holds Ring magazine's prestigious belt and is recognised, rightly, as the world's number one at 175 pounds. However, in alphabet terms - the main four that is - there are a couple of guys in with a shout at being hailed as the best 175 pounder below B-Hop. One of them, Britain's Clinton Woods, the IBF champion, just might be that guy..

Not only has Clinton defeated the tough-as-nails Glen Johnson, but he has also twice beaten the man who is probably the other toughest man in the entire division, in Mexican warrior Julio Cesar Gonzalez. The second win over Gonzalez, this past Saturday, marked the fourth successful defence for Clinton. With this win Woods, now aged thirty-five, improved his record to 41-3-1(24). Is this enough to make him the best of the reigning alphabet champions at light-heavy?

Hungary's Zsolt Erdei, the unbeaten WBO champ with a 27-0(17) record, seems to be Woods' most obvious rival. With eight defences under his belt, and a points win over Gonzalez as well, the thirty-three year old would be favoured by more than a few to beat Woods should they fight. I'd say that clash, should it get made, would be a pick 'em affair. With regards to the two other champs - WBC boss Chad Dawson and WBA king Stipe Drews - Woods would be my favourite in a bout with either man.

Twenty-five year old Dawson, also unbeaten and with a good record of 25-0(17) is a skilful southpaw and has a very good win over Tomasz Adamek to his name. Connecticut's Dawson may have a weakness in the chin department though. He has been put down in two out of his last four fights, and not against notoriously hard punchers at that . As such, I believe Woods would have a good chance at putting some hurt on the still relatively new champion.

As for Drews, the thirty-four year old WBA champ from Croatia, I feel he is the weakest of Clinton's rivals. Like Dawson a southpaw, Drews does have a height and reach advantage over Woods, standing as he does at six foot five. That aside, however, Drews is not a big puncher, as his 32-1(13) record shows. Drews has only been beaten once though, to Australia's Paul Briggs - a formidable fighter - so the WBA champ is clearly no mug. His title win came via a points win over Italy's Silvio Branco, a guy who had eight losses on his record going in, therefore it's not too easy to get carried away with the WBA belt holder.

That sums up Woods' competition - rival alphabet title holders-wise - and on the whole the Sheffield man doesn't have too much to fear in my opinion. Sure, there's a chance Dawson and Erdei could maybe out-box him and also a chance that Drews could fight the fight of his career and upset him. That said, however, I'd have to give Woods no worse than 50/50 odds at being able to beat all three. I know some - maybe even many - will disagree and point to Woods' loss to Roy Jones as their reason why. But it must be remembered that the loss to Jones was over five years ago and that Clinton has vastly improved since. The win over Johnson proved that much. Throw in the IBF champ's newfound toughness and conditioning - the main assets that allowed him to gut out the win over Gonzalez on Saturday - and it's clearly unfair to rate him from the sixth round TKO loss to R.J alone.

Again, Hopkins (a man Woods would absolutely love to fight, by the way) is the main man at light-heavyweight, but the king of the alphabet belt holders just might be the fighter who was cast in the steel city in the north of England. Bring on a unification series, I say. And then we can all find out for sure.

Article posted on 04.10.2007

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