The fight fans who have watched Matchroom’s ‘Fighting Pride’ show that was staged in February witnessed something special; those fortunate enough to have been in attendance at Hull’s Ice Arena were truly the lucky ones.
The entire card was awash with drama as Tommy Coyle participated in a back-and-forth affair against Daniel Brizuela of Argentina, and Gavin McDonnell turned things around to stop Leigh Wood in the sixth to capture the British super-bantamweight title as vacated by Kid Galahad. But perhaps the most thrilling bout of the night was contested between defending British light-welterweight champion Darren Hamilton and challenger Curtis Woodhouse, who duly accepted the role of underdog only to upset the odds in dramatic fashion by taking a split decision in a fight that could have been scored either way.
Having come from a background of professional football, which began at the age of 17 with Sheffield United, and having had no boxing amateur career, Woodhouse truly became a modern day ‘Cinderella Man’ in dethroning the champ and snatching away his title.
In April 2006 when he was with Grimsby Town, Woodhouse was convicted for assaulting a police officer whilst drunk and using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour. Later that year he won his first professional bout via a points win and until 2012 remained active in both boxing and football; in December 2012, after six months’ service, Woodhouse resigned as manager from Sheffield F.C. to focus on boxing. He has stated that fighting was always his first love, claiming to have had perhaps a hundred street fights and would often spar after football training to the dismay of Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock.
Curtis’ dogged drive of boxing came by way of a promise he made to his father as he lay dying in hospital, a promise to become British champion. Leading up to the Hamilton fight Woodhouse spoke of it being his ‘destiny’ to become British champion and that win, lose or draw the fight would be his last.
Curtis has lost six professional fights through his career and his first title came in 2010, avenging a point’s loss to Jay Morris by halting him in the third to claim the vacant International Masters light-welterweight title. In the summer of 2011 Woodhouse took rising star and amateur sensation Frankie Gavin all the way, losing via a split decision. In September last year he was stopped in four by Derry Matthews in a bid to claim the Commonwealth lightweight title, but another two victories after earned him the shot against Hamilton.
The defending British champion was rightly the heavy favourite to retain his title; Hamilton was in tremendous form since upsetting the odds in May 2012 to win the Lonsdale belt from Ashley Theophane, now represented by Mayweather Promotions. He started the fight well and controlled most of the first round but Woodhouse come on strong in the second, slipping Hamilton’s awkward jab and attacking his body. From then on it was all subjective; the busy work rate from Curtis as he constantly worked his man over was contrasted with Hamilton’s slick and neat work. At the end of the ninth the fight was then widely regarded as a three-rounder on account of how close it had been all the way through but Curtis pulled ahead in the eleventh and completely dominated the final round, awarding him with the victory.
Credit has to go to Woodhouse’s promoter Dave Coldwell, who stuck by his fighter’s side after every defeat due to the belief he held in him, and also to master tactician Adam Booth team who had worked with Curtis for six weeks to implement the game-plan against Hamilton.
For a time Woodhouse had provisionally retired from boxing and accepted the role as manager of Goole A.F.C, which undoubtedly keeps him busy, but now it is official that the fairytale is most certainly not over as he is set to put his British strap on the line against Commonwealth titlist Willie Limond, 37(10)-4(3)-0, in a light-welterweight unification scrap.
The fight is scheduled for the undercard of Ricky Burns’ next fight on 27th June against as yet an unnamed opponent and will be Limond’s second defence of the strap he won in January last year, halting previously undefeated Eddie Doyle in the first round and dropping him twice along the way.
Woodhouse thrives on challenges and he is faced with another tough customer in the Commonwealth champion, whose four losses have come against elite fighters in Alex Arthur, Amir Khan and Erik Morales, and also to world-title contender Anthony Crolla back in November 2011.
It is an intriguing scrap that is sure to entertain and an argument can be made for each fighter. Limond will have been out of the ring for a little over a year by the time he meets Woodhouse in June but he has without question faced the higher class of opposition, albeit coming up short when stepping up to world level. Woodhouse beat a brilliant fighter in Hamilton, who had ambitions of stepping beyond domestic level after their fight, and he also pushed world-class Frankie Gavin to his limit.
For me the smart money goes on Curtis; he is hard, relentless and has now displayed ring intelligence; his grip around the Lonsdale belt is just too tight and it’s going to take something exceptional to snatch it away.