British Beat- Woods-Johnson, and a brief roundup

02.09.06 - By Andy Olsen: Tonight Clinton Woods puts his IBF Light-Heavyweight title on the line, when he takes on Glen Johnson at the Bolton Arena. The bill also includes a light welterweight contest between Souleymayne M’baye and Raul Harocio Balbi for M’bays’s WBA title, and Amir Kahn faces arguably his toughest test to date..

Johnson earned his “Road Warrior” nickname, giving up home advantage in order to secure the paydays his talents warrant. Indeed, Johnson’s promoter Frank Warren outbid Wood’s representative Dennis Hobson to stage the contest (hence the cheeky “for a few dollars more” promotional banner!), and has given his opponent relative home advantage. He already has one victory over Woods, and can class himself very unlucky that he doesn’t hold two. Most observers believed he had won convincingly in their first contest, which the judges somehow giving a draw. Johnson also has wins over Antonio Tarver, and Roy Jones Junior, knocking the latter out in the 11th round.

Woods, who only started boxing to try and lose weight, is making the third defence of the title he won back in 2005. He won the belt with a superb eighth round victory over the previously undefeated and highly rated Rico Hoye. He is a prime example of how boxers seem to become better upon winning the title, with a new level of maturity in his performances. His unanimous points victory over Julio Gonzales can be offered as evidence in this regard. Some fancied Gonzales (who, incidentally, holds a win over Johnson), mainly due to his split decision victory over Dariousz Michalczewski in Hamburg a couple of years previous. Yet Woods put on a master class, enhancing his standing as a genuine world titlist (the clash versus Hoye was for the title Johnson gave up, in order to go after Tarver).

It is apparent that Clinton has learnt from his previous losses. He went to Portland, OR to challenge a prime Roy Jones. Despite being outclassed over six rounds, and rescued by his corner, he earned the respect of his conqueror, who praised his will and granite chin. It has been rumoured that Jones may wish to take on Woods again, in order to regain one of the titles he held during his long reign as the undisputed best. I am sure Woods would welcome the payday, and we certainly would welcome the chance to firsthand witness the talents of Roy Jones Junior, despite the fact his skills have somewhat diminished.

In addition to a potential clash for Woods versus Jones, both have the motivation of a potential meeting with Joe Calzaghe, hopefully around February next year, should they emerge victorious tonight. Woods maintains he would beat the Welshman, angry at some of Joe’s apparent disrespectful remarks towards him. Johnson had almost agreed to fight Joe at the lighter 168lb mark in July; however Calzaghe pulled out of the date with a hand injury. At the weigh in for tonight’s bout, Johnson has come in at 172 (with Woods bang on the 175 limit), suggesting he could have made the super middle limit had he and Joe clashed at 168 as planned. Calzaghe versus either would be a huge fight on this side of the Atlantic, with intrigue as to how he would fair at the higher division.

Neither outcome would surprise me tonight. Johnson may well have Clinton’s number, and unquestionably has the advantage in experience. It is also evident that giving up home advantage will not be an issue here. However pushed for a prediction, I think I will go for Clinton. The 37 year old Johnson’s battles may well catch up with him, and Clinton may just have that little bit more in the home stretch.

I would like to have provided a more in depth analysis of the WBA light welter clash between M’baye and Balbi, yet information on both has been very hard to obtain. Balbi has a respectable 54-7 record, with all bar two of these contests occurring in his native Argentina. M’baye’s name may be more recognisable to some, owing to promotional ties with Frank Warren, and his loss to former WBA light Welter champ Vivian Harris in his previous title shot. The guess here is that M’baye will win. The certainty is that few in the crowd will care.

Amir Kahn has certainly looked impressive since going pro. However the knock against him is the poor quality of opposition he has been in there with. Tonight however, he is against a fighter who clearly believes he could pull off the upset. Ryan Barrett has a superb amateur pedigree, having represented England in world championships.

Barrett claims that the only difference between the pair of them is the fact that Khan won silver at the Athens Olympics in 2004. He does however forget to mention the two losses he has suffered since turning pro himself, against certainly lesser opposition than the test he faces tonight. I am not convinced enough to predict what would constitute a massive shock. However I believe we may see Amir face some difficult moments in there, and they would be the first in his fledgling career.

This may now be old news, but I would very much appreciate you putting to the back of your mind my article on Danny Williams, when you consider the credibility of any future article I write. Not only will a third fight with Skelton probably not occur, but Danny has pulled out of the “redeeming fight” I alluded to, which I pointed out would be his last chance.

On the face of it, stating that he couldn’t fight during his observance of Ramadan (where those who follow the Islam faith do not eat during the hours of daylight), is fair enough. Surely however, this should have been considered before he signed the contract? The promoter of would be opponent, British title holder Scott Gammer, stands to lose a fortune from this, as British TV appears unlikely to cover the clash between Gammer and the replacement, Michael Steeds. Whereas I still hope Danny can rescue his career, it seems so much more unlikely now.

To finish off, Ricky Hatton yesterday officially relinquished the WBA welterweight crown he defeated Luis Collazo for, in a far tougher assignment then we expected last May. Hatton did in no way look as imposing as he did at 140, and most agree it is for the best. The thought of him taking on Oktay Urkal in December hardly captured the imagination of the American boxing public, going by the reaction on the various boxing forums the potential fight received.

Sadly, these events almost certainly put to an end the chance of him taking on Floyd Mayweather, who is looking to either remain at Welter or move up even higher in the search of big names. On a brighter note, a win over Juan Urango, (who won the IBF belt which Hatton vacated) in the clash potentially scheduled for December in Atlanta, would pave the way for a showdown against Jose Louis Castillo, in a fight which will certainly capture the imagination of the boxing public.

Article posted on 02.09.2006

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