SEPTEMBER 21 promises to be a great night for boxing fans. In London, at the Copper Box, highly-touted and undefeated middleweights Billy Joe Saunders and John Ryder clash for the British 11st 4lbs championship in a contest that pitches two young and highly skilled southpaws against each other with the winner on an upwards trajectory towards a world title.
180 miles away in the claustrophobic surroundings of Liverpool’s Olympia, two sluggers, one an ex-footballer turned pugilist and the other a local fighting legend who has more lives than a cat, will attempt to rip each others' heads off in the name of entertainment.
Ever since Derry Mathews detonated a left hook onto the chin of Tommy Coyle to claim the Commonwealth lightweight title in July, his fifth as a professional, there has been a clamber amongst boxing fans to see the blood and guts warrior from Merseyside pitted against the always entertaining Curtis Woodhouse.
The match is a perfect one in terms of styles and fighting ethos. Both men love to trade leather, both like to hurt their opponents with power shots and both men can be hurt themselves. Oh, and Mathews bleeds. A lot. Mix the ingredients together and you are left with an exciting concoction.
“I think everyone knows what we are getting into,” said Woodhouse during a phone call to Boxing News.
“It can’t be anything less than blood and thunder!”
With Mathews given six months grace by the Commonwealth Council before his mandatory against Ghanaian puncher Richard Commey is due, promoter Dave Coldwell moved quickly to make the potentially thrilling matchup, and Curtis revealed that a phone call he received from Coldwell whilst he was languishing on his couch at home may prove to be the most important of his career.
“Dave rang me up one Saturday and said ‘listen do you fancy fighting Derry Mathews in Liverpool?’ And I was like, ‘are you serious?’
“He said if I was up for it he would make the match. He must have phoned Derry because a few minutes later he was back on the phone and told me I better get my arse off the couch and in the gym because I had myself a fight!”
Woodhouse has come a long way in boxing since he swapped lacing up football boots in the premier league for 8oz gloves and sweaty gyms in 2006. The former English 10st champion revealed that he had a rude awakening to the art of the sweet science in his very first sparring session under the tutelage of Dave Coldwell.
“When I first set out in boxing I had my goals like every fighter. I wanted to be British champion and watching boxing on TV I thought, like a lot of people do, ‘I can do that’.”
“It was only when I started doing it I realised how bloody hard this sport is. I had my goals but I didn’t know how far off the top of the domestic ladder I was until I sparred for the first time with Dave Coldwell. I finished a session with this kid and said to Dave ‘Who is that? He was very good.”
“Dave replied ‘That’s Daniel Thorpe, he hasn’t won a fight in two years! That’s when I knew I had a lot of work to do!”
After campaigning as high as welterweight Woodhouse, who stands 5ft 8ins tall, lost two of his first 17 professional contests before being matched against former world amateur champion and hot prospect Frankie Gavin in 2011. Although he lost a split decision to the then 10-0 Gavin, Woodhouse had proven he was for real.
A five round shootout with Alfreton’s southpaw puncher Dale Miles saw Woodhouse lose for the fourth time in June last year, then nine months later, following a win over 13-6 Dave Ryan for the vacant English light welterweight title at the Magna Centre in Rotherham, the 33-year-old lost a controversial split decision to Shayne Singleton in his first defence.
That crushing loss pushed Curtis to the brink of retirement but something in the build-up to the fight convinced him that his future lay at 9st 9lbs.
“Lightweight hadn’t really crossed my mind until immediately before the Singleton fight but my weight was so good, I was 10st 2lbs three weeks before that I told Dave [Coldwell] that I wanted to do 9st 9lbs.”
“Dave said I had no chance of doing it but I explained to him that I had brought a dietician [Liam King] on board and he had run all sorts of tests and told me I could do it easily and still remain strong.”
“It has made a massive difference to me. He hasn’t changed one massive part of my diet but five or six small things. I really feel lightweight is my optimum fighting weight.”
Like Mathews, Woodhouse has begun to carve out a reputation for never ducking a challenge inside the ring and the ‘Driffield Destroyer’ believes that both men are cut from the same cloth.
“As a fighter I really admire Derry. He has done things the hard way and been in some fantastic fights. In fact I am gonna really enjoy studying him because he is always in great fights. But make no mistake about it, when that bell sounds I will be setting about him like he has stolen something from me.”
When I suggest he could surprise everyone and revert to boxing like Gatti did in his rematch with Micky Ward, Woodhouse laughed and said, “No way! When I try that at home I usually lose on points to my lad!”