Boxing: Woods faces the fight of his life in Johnson rematch

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The Independent Online

It has taken Clinton Woods 10 years to reach the most important fight of his life and tonight he must win or face a bleak future.

Woods, 31, has made many sacrifices during his career as part of a long-term plan to win a world title and, after two failures, he has a third and possibly final chance when he meets his old rival Glencoffe Johnson tonight for the vacant International Boxing Federation light-heavyweight title at the Ponds Forge Centre, Sheffield.

Last November, Woods and Johnson drew but opinion within both camps was understandably divided and a dual protest led to an instant rematch and a second encounter that in many ways promises far more than the first. Both boxers realise that this could be their last chance in a fight for decent money.

Johnson, 35, is truly one of boxing's most unfortunate characters having been at the harsh and debatable end in a series of fights that have helped shape him into a thorough and genuinely world-class fighter. But during the last two years he has been 10 rounds or more five times and managed just one win. All five bouts took place against proper and respected fighters.

Woods can look too comfortable in some fights but has been able to increase his pace and improve his concentration when necessary. Tonight, in front of a capacity crowd and the BBC's cameras, he will need the performance of his career to improve on his fortunate draw last year.

There is a chance that Woods has altered his training schedule and acquired some forgotten skills that will help him to keep Johnson at bay but if the switch from the American Tim Witherspoon's guidance to his original trainer, Neil Port, has not been successful, he will surely lose.

There is also a chance that Johnson will finally find, after about eight or nine rounds, that a lifetime of coming second, even in fights of dubious conclusion, has somehow denied him the energy to last a final few rounds.

Woods can only get better compared to their first fight but it is unlikely that Johnson can improve. Woods looks fresh enough to win on points and Johnson looks weary enough to be stopped late in a bruising and unforgiving encounter.