Clintons Boxing Text Book takes Hoye back to School

10.03.05 - By Neil Goodman: On the 4th March, before a relatively small but nonetheless vocal crowd, Clinton Woods finally grasped one of the major* light-heavyweight world title belts. The fight proved many things; firstly that good guys do not always come last. Woods opponent on the night, Rico Hoye, a convicted killer was taking part in only his 19th professional fight..

By comparison Woods is a truly seasoned campaigner, appearing in his fourth world title attempt. After falling short of the mark in his previous three world title fights, Woods could have been excused from once again trying to scale the heights of world title glory, but the Sheffield man is made of stern stuff. Clinton was undaunted on his way into the ring to face a dangerous puncher who had terminated 14 of his previous 18 opponents inside schedule, on his way to compiling an undefeated record.

Whilst Woods has always displayed a significant amount of mettle, to accompany his solid boxing skills which had seen him better such men as Crawford Ashley and Ole Klementsen; a piece of jigsaw seemed to be missing in his failed world title attempts.

You have to have some perspective, even on failure and it would unfair to be critical of Clintons defeat to Roy Jones Jnr, who at the time of their fight was riding high and looking nigh on unbeatable. However it did appear as if Clinton had found his level drawing and then losing to Glencoffe Johnson. Far from learning from his mistakes, in the return, Clinton was unable to solve out or hold off Johnson and the well looked to be running dry.

Three strikes and you are out? Not this time!

Much like Johnson, Woods dusted himself down and navigated his way through a tricky final elimination fight and then met Hoye head on, in what was surely his final world title challenge.

The first round saw both fighters battling to seize the initiative and stamp their authority on the fight. The tactics Woods employed, considering the loss to Johnson, seemed misplaced as he was prepared to stand his ground and trade. But at 32 years of age the old dog had learnt a few new tricks! Clinton was adept at slipping and blocking the punches coming his way, he managed to keep Hoye unbalanced with stiff jabs and little subtleties like using a shoulder or elbow to remove the weight off Hoyes front foot. Round one had been close, but from an objective point of view the cleaner shots and defensive work of Woods took the mandatory 10 points.

Round two followed the pattern of the first, Clinton controlled the fight on the outside by boxing off the back foot, then when he saw fitting, stood his ground and fought on the inside when the initial sting had been drawn from his opponents punches. Woods has always essentially been a ‘boxer’, statement of the obvious I know, but his best work has always been boxing and moving. Friday night saw the dawn of Clinton the infighter!

Now into round three and Clinton had something for everyone (especially Hoye); if you like defensive skills, counter punching or just great work on the inside then this was a fine example of ringcraft. It was all working for Woods, but Hoye was still right in the fight and showing great resilience. Above all else Woods punching technique impressed me and made such a rapid inroad into his opponents resolve. Clinton turned his punches right over and time again sent spray from the head of Hoye as the knuckle part of the glove landed crisply and cleanly.

The new IBF title holder was judging his punching ranging perfectly in that each shot, delivered from near and far, snapped into the face and body of Hoye. This was all a far cry from the anorexic super middleweight who was incapable of getting to grips with the slippery David Starie many years ago.

In boxing though you can never take anything for granted and while the points were going in the bank Hoye was not about to give up without fight. Hoye’s own work rate and as previously mentioned resilience were excellent. Woods also had to take his lumps, but each power punch taken was absorbed more easily due to the fact he kept his chin tucked in and the impacts were dissipated across the chest area.

When the Hoye camp looked back at the fight tape the reason for their charge coming up short will be all to easy and painful to see. But who is to say that this fight can not go into the book as a fantastic learning experience. Whilst Woods delivered at will moves from the boxing text book, Hoye at times was made to look like a pupil being delivered a painful lesson.

The fourth round was a quieter round for Woods, like he was saving himself, safe in the knowledge that everything he was doing was paying dividends. Hoye continued in his aggressive vein, searching in increasing desperation to find that breakthrough punch which may have turned the fight.

During the minute respite between rounds the Woods corner knew they were on the verge, but refused to get overly excited having been so close previously, only to end up disappointed on each occasion. The messages delivered to Clinton were clear, concise and told their man only what he needed to hear.

Hoye started the fifth like a run away train, loading up and going for broke. Woods, judging the situation perfectly, chose not to fight fire with fire and gave Hoye the opportunity to make his final stand. The storm of punches predictably blew itself out; Woods planted his feet and sought to bring the lesson to an early conclusion. Hoye for the first time was pushed backwards and he started to hold his chin far too high.

Woods read the signs, just like he had been doing all night and increased his own output of punches and more importantly power punches. The last ten or fifteen seconds were quite painful to watch, Hoyes bravery being the only thing left keeping him on his feet. The referee sensibly intervened midway through the fifth round, though Hoye was still on his feet, his eyes were in orbit and he certainly gave impression of falling around the ring as opposed to moving of his own freewill. The punches from Clinton were accurately and sufficiently forceful that there could not be many arguments about the timing of the stoppage. Hoye, himself, did not protest the decision. Gauging a fighters own reaction is often a good barometer of assessing if referees intervention is too early.

There we have it; Britain has a major titleholder and however unsung he maybe, the achievement of the Woods Team went above and beyond the expectation. Winning would have been one thing, but the manner of the victory was on another level. Indeed credit must go to manager, promoter, trainers and even Clinton’s wife, who is obviously a source of great support.

What now for the new IBF Light-Heavyweight Champion?

To be honest Clintons options are very open, but 4 fights in particularly standout. Woods could lock horns once more with Johnson, although it would probably need to be in the states next time round. Clinton can offer Tarver a route back to the top, this maybe the least preferable route to go, but nonetheless a definite possibility. The most obvious choice of opponent is of course Joe Calzaghe, who wasted no time in trying to engage the new champion in talks of a possible match-up. Calzaghe jumped straight on the phone, going as far as to try and speak to the new champion as he gave his ringside interview. The prospect of Woods Vs Calzaghe is quite intriguing and Woods in his current form would present Joe with a baptism of fire in the higher weight division.

I did say there were 4 possible fights out there? And yet I’ve only listed 3? Who could the other prospective opponent be? Ah, yes, anyone remember a fighter going by the name of Roy Jones Jnr?


Article posted on 10.03.2005

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