Woods Takes a Step Towards the Light

04.09.06 - By Matthew Collin: As boxing fans in the 21st century, we take a number of things for granted: Firstly, boxing has left the sporting mainstream. Secondly, to maintain an up to date knowledge of boxing in 2006 you need an internet connection. I’d like to think that more changed on Saturday night than Clinton Woods’ and Glen Johnsons’ record.

Having been a fan since my father let me stay up one night to watch two guys called Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns go at it over in America, I have, like us all, seen boxing’s status change over the years. The glory days of the Mike Tyson electrified us all and delivered a new generation of fans to boxing. In the UK, we had the tremendous careers of Benn, Eubank, Collins et al to enthral us week after week on prime time television. My love of boxing stems from these times. As I sat down to watch the Woods/Johnson fight on Saturday, those butterflies returned. Here we had two evenly matched men at the top of their game, about to give it all. For Johnson, defeat could spell the end. At his age, given the fact that he has fought eleven title fights on foreign soil, how many more chances would get? For Woods, defeat would certainly mean this final chance to step into the limelight would pass, probably never to return. Could the stakes be any higher?

But this wasn’t what I had become used to. I wasn’t sitting at home with matchsticks under my eyelids, waiting until 5am to watch a fight I had payed for on PPV from America. I was watching prime time boxing on mainstream television. On paper, if boxing is to make a glorious return, could we find a better prospective fight? And what a fight it turned out to be. Each man gave their all, knowing what was on the line. The fight swung like a pendulum, one rounds to Johnson, one to Woods. As round nine approached it was impossible to call, when Johnson took control, wobbling Woods with a series of right hands. With legs wobbling like a newborn foal, Woods toughed it out and returned to his corner to a barrage of abuse from two-weight world champ Ricky Hatton. These words galvanised Woods, who in my humble opinion took the next three very close rounds to earn a well deserved victory.

I don’t want to speculate on the judging here. Everyone will have their opinion on that. My joy comes from the sensational advert for boxing I witnessed that night. Two men who may not be known to people outside the internet boxing community layed it all down. Both gave 100%.

By the end of the fight, I was jumping up and down with excitement. It was like being 9 years old all over again. Lets hope the viewing public agreed. On a day when England trounced a pub team in a game during which I struggled to stay awake, we had this spectacle of fistic prowess to enthral us all. I take my hat off to both men, Johnson and Woods are two honest professionals who are a credit to the sport, and I hope people across the world felt the same thrill that night that I did. On Saturday night Woods retained his belt and took a step into the light. Johnson gained the respect of fans in the UK he probably never knew he had. I’d like to think the perception of boxing to the viewing public and the excitement a good fight can bring changed as well.

Article posted on 04.09.2006

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