25 years ago - the fight that changed Clinton Woods' life

It's a match that lies hidden among the age-worn pages of boxing history - but 25 years later the memory of it still shines brightly in the mind of former world champion Clinton Woods.
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A quarter of a century ago, tomorrow (Wed) the Sheffield lad stopped opponent Crawford Ashley to land a triple-whammy of British, Commonwealth and EBU European Light Heavyweight titles.

Subsequently, Woods went on a 10-fight winning streak before being granted his first world title opportunity, against pound-for-pound great Roy Jones Junior.

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He lost that contest, but regrouped, stayed the course and was later crowned IBF world champion, retaining the belt from 2005 to 2008.

Tomorrow though, is the anniversary of a battle that was to open up his horizons and transform Woods' life.

Prior to the fight, Woods had been dismissed as a heavy underdog.

"Nobody gave me a chance, if you listen to the TV coverage they just assumed he would beat me" he recalled. "But I stopped him in eight rounds, which shows how much they knew at the time."

Woods admits he had to dig deep to earn the victory.

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"Crawford broke my nose in the first round, I bled heavily...I have actually got those blood-spattered shorts hanging on the wall in my gym! I had to have two operations on my nose; I had a lot of trouble with it.

"I remember it had been a right hand straight down the middle, TV footage shows my legs buckled a little bit but I didn't go down...not like these pansies these days.

"But it was one of the few or only time I have been hurt in the ring.

"The pain is horrible in the nose after a blow like that, but I got on with it.

Clinton, his team and those blood spattered shorts in 1999Clinton, his team and those blood spattered shorts in 1999
Clinton, his team and those blood spattered shorts in 1999
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"I wore him down and was gutted when his corner threw the towel in, because I wanted to knock him out."

Woods, who'd had Howard Rainey, Neil Port and Andy Marlow in his training camp, said he'd long been confident he could drag the more experienced Leeds-born Ashley into deep waters the more the fight went on.

"We knew he was a lazy trainer, we'd seen some of his fights before and he'd depended on his big shots, but we knew after five or six rounds we'd win it. Those were the tactics."

Woods, now aged 51 and running a successful gym in Carley Drive, Westfield, described the night as the biggest before his eventual IBF title win.

A bloodied nose didn't stop WoodsA bloodied nose didn't stop Woods
A bloodied nose didn't stop Woods
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"The European title was a big deal then, it was a route to the world level.

"Now it has all changed. It's more or less who your dad is like Connor Benn and Chris Eubank.

"Do you really think they'd be as highlighted as much as they are without their dads?

"But back in those days, a fight like that was corner-stone to lead you on. Being the best in Europe and those two other belts meant something."

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Another anniversary falls this year for the Ridgeway family man - it is 30 years since he started his professional career, with a fight at the Pinegrove Country Club.

"You hear Tony Bellew complaining he only got around £5,000 or something like that for his first fight, I got £240 against a better opponent than he fought!

"But does it feel like 30 years ago. It's scarey, I hate it, I hate getting old."

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