The Return of Predictamundo: A Preview of Woods-Johnson

24.08.06 - By John Way: Next month, old nemesis’ Glencoffe Johnson and Clinton Woods do battle for the third, and likely final time for the IBF light heavyweight title. In a rivalry that began late in 2003 with a controversial draw in Woods’ hometown of Sheffield England, the race is too close to call going into its final lap. Johnson’s supporters point to his previous mastery of his British opponent, and subsequent wins over Roy Jones and Antonio Tarver as proof of his superiority. Team Woods is unimpressed, claiming that the Miami-based Jamaican has shot his bolt..

By some unfathomable twist of logic, Woods is recognized as the champion of the world by the International Boxing Federation, despite dropping his February 2004 rematch with Johnson. With the first fight ended in a draw thanks to some wonky scoring, Johnson, convinced he needed a knockout to win, meted out a methodical thrashing in the sequel, leaving no doubt as to his superiority (for the time being). The Jamaican further added to his legacy by easily stopping Roy Jones in nine rounds seven months later. Showing the same willingness to "face the best" that has typified his entire career, Johnson signed up for the fight that made the most sense at the time by far, both financially and competitively: a battle with the division’s "true champion," Antonio Tarver.

Unfortunately for boxing, the IBF only operates out of some bizarre 4th dimension where clearly inferior fighters like Rogers Mtagwa and DaVarryl Williamson are rated above elite boxers like Jorge Barrios and Sergei Lyiakhovich respectively. And so, the only rational move for the governing body was to declare Johnson’s title vacant and stage a title elimination bout between Woods and well regarded prospect Rico Hoye. Johnson took home a split decision against Tarver, only to lose the rematch a few months later. Since then, he has fought twice, looking sharp against George Khalid Jones and Richard Hall.

When Woods stopped Hoye in 2005, it was the beginning of a fascinating series of events. He not only beat Hoye, he massacred him. Prior to the fight, Detroit native Hoye was highly touted by most analysts, and, like all fighters from Michigan who stand over six feet tall, was touted as the "new Thomas Hearns". Clearly a brilliant professor of the sweet science, Hoye’s enthralling blitz of Segundo Mercado was the equivalent of a graduate thesis in paid punching. Wins over Hall and Montell Griffin didn’t hurt either. Even if he wasn’t the new Tommy Hearns, he had to be at least the next Milton McCory or Hilmer Kenty. Not this time. In the aftermath of Woods’ butchery of the Motor Cities’ newest Cobra, a proposed fight with super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe was set, scrapped, set, and scrapped at least a dozen times in a sort of pugilistic merry-go-round as the "Welsh Dragon" hemed and hawed over whether to challenge Woods, Jeff Lacy, Mikkel Kessler, or Tarver.

Evidently deciding against all four opponents, Calzaghe treated the boxing world to yet another hop-skip-and-jump-fest against grossly overmatched Evans Ashira. Tune in to watch Calzaghe-Ashira II in the form of Joe’s title defense against someone named Sakio Bika this October. In his first title defense, Woods squared off against rock solid Julio Gonzalez, the former linear world champion. Having dropped a unanimous nod to Zsolt Erdei to lose his laurels, Gonzalez was meant to serve as medium of comparison between Erdei and Wood. Unfortunately for Mexico, hopes of light heavyweight domination were effectively stifled as both Europeans seemed equally proficient at beating up Gonzalez.

While Erdei’s win was more consistently brilliant, Woods seemed to inflict more damage. Interestingly, Gonzalez holds a majority decision win over Johnson, though it’s worth noting that the "Road Warrior" was clearly robbed of a win in their fight. It was neither the first nor last time Johnson was forced to put up with inept judging. When he set off to fight for Sven Ottke’s super middleweight title in the champion’s backyard, Johnson surely knew that he’d have to knock out the three judges as well as Ottke. Nicknamed "Der Phatom" (likely a German phrase for gastrointestinal distress), "Beans and Cabbage" Sven can dip and dot with the most irritating contenders, and on November 27 1999, he danced and pranced his way to a laughable points victory.

After a legitimate loss to Syd Vanderpool, Johnson traveled to Italy to fight native son, Silvio Branco. After twelve rounds, Branco’s record was only spared a loss when the Italian judges cranked out a hometown decision so nefarious, that even Michael Corleone of the Godfather would have blanched at such obvious corruption. Additionally, men like Omar Sheika, Daniel Judah, and Derrick Harmon all seemed lucky to escape without a loss in their fights with Johnson.

Clinton Woods, 39-3-1 (24), Best Performances: TKO 5 Rico Hoye, TKO 7 Demetrius Jenkins, W12 Julio Gonzalez, TKO 12 and TKO6 Jason DeLisle.

Worst Performances: TKO by 6 Roy Jones Jr., D12 and L12 Glen Johnson, L10 David Starie.

Optimal Strategy: Should make a point of staying off the ropes, using just enough movement to set up punching angles and keep Johnson off balance, while being sure to circle to his right. Using the jab to set up the straight right hand to the body is his best bet for blunting Johnson’s late round charges.

Glencoffe Johnson, 44-10-2 (29), Best Performances: TKO by 11 Bernard Hopkins, TKO 9 Sam Garr, L12 Sven Ottke, L12 Silvio Branco, KO 6 Thomas Ulrich, L12 Julio Gonzalez, W12 Eric Harding, KO 9 Roy Jones Jr., W12 Antonio Tarver, W12 Richard Hall, TKO 8 George Khalid Jones, W12 and D12 Clinton Woods.

Worst Performances: L12 Joseph Kiwanuka, L12 Merqui Sosa, L12 Syd Vanderpool, L 12 Antonio Tarver.

Optimal Fighting Strategy: Should make a point of starting faster than usual. Pumping the jab in the first third of the fight will set up overhand rights and double hooks to the body. Should mix up his punching repertoire between leading and countering like he did in the Khalid Jones fight.

As much as I admire Clinton Woods for stepping up his game since his loss to Johnson, I just don’t think he has the right tools to beat a man has also improved since winning his first world title. I see Woods getting off the deck once or twice to drop a reasonably close decision, 116-110 perhaps. Comments and questions are welcome below.

Article posted on 24.08.2006

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