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GUEST ARTICLE: Book Review – Into The Woods

Into The Woods – Mark Turley & Clinton Woods – Pitch Publishing RRP £18.99

Into the woods looks back on the life and career of Sheffield fighter Clinton Woods, who went from a fighter looking to earn a few quid whilst staying out of trouble, to becoming the IBF Light Heavyweight Champion of the World.

It’s a great story, and includes lots of Yorkshire dialect and grit throughout, which really warms you to the likeable Woods. Clinton was a promising amateur who nearly slipped away from the sport due to numerous bar room brawls and mixing with the wrong crowds. Woods also became a father aged just 15, and this came way too soon for him to come to terms with. Thankfully he has since reconciled with his son, Kyle, following a chance Facebook friend request, after several years without seeing him.

The story tells of Woods’ journey through his career, alongside his tight knit unit of promoter/manager Dennis Hobson and trainer and friend Neil Port, as well as his long term partner and later wife Natalia. Sadly Port died after being fatally stabbed by his own son, while also trying to come to terms with the want to become a woman, something no one in his circle of family and friends knew anything about. A great story is included where Woods had to meet Port – or Penny Fletcher as he wanted to be known, and see Port dressed a woman for the first time, in a Little Chef!

Woods’ love for his home City shines through throughout, and he built a great following during his 15 year career, with his fans following him over both sides of the Atlantic.

Some eventful nights out feature, with what in Woods’ early years he describes as “the pot”, that bubbled over if the wrong buttons were pressed, leading to more than one brush with the law. This “pot” mellowed over time, but he still had more than his fair share of trouble to deal with, whether it be himself or his family. One of his brothers was stabbed, while the other tried to take his own life, with bizarre consequences involving a female patient at the hospital and a toilet!

The book also intermittently references round by round details of Woods’ finest hour, his World Title win against the dangerous and highly touted American, Rico Hoye. This was success at the fourth attempt for him after agonising near misses.

After a promising professional start, Woods moved from Super Middleweight to Light Heavyweight, but made a bad decision in using creatine prior to his fight with David Starie, which weakened him and cost him his unbeaten record back in 1998. He rebounded from this by relieving the highly rated Crawford Ashley of his British, Commonwealth and European Titles via eighth round stoppage to give his career lift off.

Woods is a rare breed of domestic fighter, in that he held Area (Central Area), British, Commonwealth and European Titles before lifting the World Crown against Hoye on that famous night in 2005 in Rotherham at the Magna Centre.

Prior to that night, in 2002 Woods challenged the then pound for pound superstar and undisputed Light Heavyweight World Champion, Roy Jones Junior, who was in the prime of his career. After what Woods described as a training camp where he over trained, and looked like a “corpse” close to fight night, he was stopped in six rounds by the Pensacola man.

Opportunity knocked again three fights and just over a year later when he challenged the Jamaican Glen Johnson for the vacant IBF Title in Sheffield. Jones had vacated by this time to conquer the Heavyweight division, winning the WBA Title. Heartbreak again struck for woods as the fight was declared a three way split draw. A rematch immediately followed, and third time was unlucky for Woods. He dropped a close unanimous decision after again securing home advantage, this time at Ponds Forge.

Two fights later, with the IBF Title lying vacant again, this time Woods made no mistake, stopping Hoye in five rounds to finally capture that elusive World crown.

Impressive defences followed against the tough Mexican, Julio Gonzalez, who Woods beat twice on the cards, and he finally settled the score against old foe, Glen Johnson, outpointing him in Bolton in 2006. In the book Woods recalls promoter Frank Warren’s horror post fight, when the top table was reserved for Joe Calzaghe and Johnson, so sure was Warren that Johnson would win to set up a clash with the Welshman, only for it to go up in smoke. Much to Woods’ delight!

In the end Woods was finally relieved of his Title in Tampa by Antonio Tarver, in a fight where weeks before Woods was unable to walk after a bad back injury. He also struggled with a severe elbow injury, leaving him in agony during training and fights. He was unable to pull out of the Tarver fight on advice of Dennis Hobson, as to not annoy their American paymasters, Showtime. A lacklustre Woods lost to Tarver on the cards on the night.

There was to be one last hurrah for Woods. Following a points win over Elvir Muriqi in Jersey, the opportunity came up again for the vacant IBF Title. This time Tavoris Cloud stood in his way of becoming a two time Champion. By now Glyn Rhodes, his old mentor had taken over the trainer reigns following Woods’ split from Richard Poxon following the ill-fated Tarver fight. Woods gave it his all, but came up short on the cards. However, it would be a case of “what if” in the end, as, on visiting Cloud post fight, Woods found him exhausted and his trainer told Woods they were close to pulling him out. Added to this pre fight Woods complained to his wife that he could smell something horrible, and it was only in the aftermath of the Cloud fight that a green deposit seeped out of his ear, which hadn’t healed properly from an early career fight against Mark Baker, and had been perforated since. Doctors were surprised that his balance hadn’t been affected, and that he could fight at all.

Woods called it a day after this, and tried to find his niche outside of the sport with limited success. He now runs his own gym, working with several clients on a class and personal basis. He has become just as much a success outside of the ring as he was on the inside. It’s good to see, and the book is a real rags to riches tale, the local boy done good. He even had the honour of a statue being built in his honour in Sheffield and a star on the pavements of the City. All beyond his wildest dreams as a boy and young adult growing up.

As he says himself – “Not bad for a skinny lad from Sheffield!”

A highly recommended book that I couldn’t put down. A likeable man, career and book, and Mark Turley does it again after the success of the brilliant Journeymen book.

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