Boxing: Woods' late rally fails to impress Calzaghe

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One judge, some ringside experts, and a few hundred spectators thought that Clinton Woods lost his International Boxing Federation light-heavyweight title on Saturday night in Bolton, but nobody inside the arena could deny that he won the hearts and minds of everybody there.

Woods was a narrow but deserving winner over Glen Johnson, a Jamaican based in Miami, in what was their third and by far their most intense and savage encounter. Johnson won their second fight and the first was a draw.

On Saturday night the two boxers easily claimed the British fight of the year. Woods, aged 34, won the last two rounds to deserve the split decision; but there were moments, especially in the ninth round when he looked like he was ready to lose, when it was nearly impossible to separate and pick a winner of a round.

In addition to leaving the ring with the IBF belt, the winner is also in possession of a reasonably favourable bargaining position for a fight against the unbeaten double super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe, who was at ringside and was unimpressed with both fighters.

Woods against Johnson was the main event, but the main attraction was the local rival Amir Khan, who moved to nine successive wins when he stopped Ryan Barrett in just 51 seconds in round one.

Barrett was brave and was sent to the canvas three times, but he had no defence against Khan's speed. Barrett was stopped for the first time in 16 fights, and now the real problem for the promoter Frank Warren is finding a way to get somebody into the ring with Khan with the ability to last six or eight rounds, but without the power to pull off a shock.

Khan is simply the finest prospect in world boxing; the next 12 months shall be crucial but difficult for him.