PHOTOS BY DKPHOTO1 STORY BY NATE JOHNSON
FightZone wasn’t ring side, but rather podium side for the press conference to announce TNT, Title Night in Tampa, to be held April 12th at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Billed as a thrilling and explosive boxing championship Title doubleheader, the fight’s press conference was a precursor to different worlds colliding.
The first championship fight of the doubleheader will pit WBC titleholder “Bad” Chad Dawson against former world champion “The Road Warrior” Glen Johnson.
Not only do these two come from different worlds, with Dawson from Hartsville, South Carolina and Johnson from Clarendon, Jamaica, they are also on opposite ends of their boxing careers.
The age of these two fighters is certainly the glaring difference with Dawson still at the fresh age of 25, and Johnson at a seasoned 39. Johnson has also had more than twice as many fights as Dawson over his career.
Another difference was apparent at the press conference, Dawson was absent, recovering from illness, giving only Johnson an opportunity to promote and give his proposed outcome of the upcoming fight. As you would imagine, Johnson feels that he can turn back the clock to defeat his younger opponent. That’s not out of the realm of possibility since Johnson has had victories in recent years over such outstanding boxers as Clinton Woods, Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. These victories did come however, in 2004 against three men that are closer in age to Johnson.
Johnson enters this match riding a streak of three victories by knockout over Montell Griffin, Fred Moore, and Hugo Pineda. With Dawson, Johnson could be in for a much tougher battle. After his title defense against Jesus Ruiz on June 9th 2007, broadcast on Showtime, "Boxing News" praised Dawson by saying, “Bad Chad may be the best pure boxer in the game today.” A victory over Johnson would go a long way in convincing others of that statement.
The second exchange of gloved fury and what most will call the main event will see IBO champion and well recognized Antonio “the Magic Man” Tarver against IBF world title holder Clinton Woods.
The two men both hold title belts, and both are known for being so called good guys in the sport, although they go about it in different ways. After those couple of similarities, they have few things in common. In a sport where nicknames sometimes hold sway over boxing prowess, Clinton Woods is less known for his nicknames “Clint” and “Super Clinton”, and more for his toughness.
Hailing from Sheffield in the United Kingdom, Woods is a mild mannered and unassuming individual on a personal level. He is the type of guy you want to sit down and have a pint with at his local pub back in his hometown. He is also the type of guy you want to have on your side if a fight breaks out in said pub.
In the ring his unassuming demeanor turns into dogged determination. He displays toughness that the English boxers are recognized for. We need not have long memories to reminisce over the Floyd Mayweather verses Ricky Hatton fight to see an example of that toughness and determination trade marking these English fighters.
Will Woods put up that type of fight against Tarver? Woods thinks he’ll fair even better, winning the fight. For Woods, he hopes the old adage that a boxer is only as good as his last fight applies, since he was out of the ring due to injury for a year.
After his return, he displayed the qualities previously mention to win a unanimous decision over Julio Cesar Gonzalez back on September 29th of 2007. Going the distance may continue to be his best strategy against Tarver. He is slightly younger than his opponent being 35 verses 39 for Tarver, indicating that outlasting “The Magic Man” may be the strategy that Woods employs. Tarver voiced his strategy at the press conference saying he was “looking for a knockout. At 39, I’m not looking to go 12 rounds, I want to get it over early.”
Tarver’s desire for a knockout echoed that of promoter Gary Shaw who asked Woods what type of pillow he liked so that he could have one provided for him in his corner. Looking in Woods direction he then explained, “Since your going to be going to sleep during the fight.”
It’s that type of bravado that appears to separate these two camps more than anything else. When we asked Woods what he thought the biggest difference was between American Boxers and English he stated, “With the athletes, the sports guys, it seams that the Americans are better at talking. They must be born with the ability to trash talk, to bait others with their words. I’m not naturally good at talking; I’m naturally good at fighting.”
The two fighter’s personalities appear to prove Woods correct. If Clinton Woods has a blend in with the crowd way about him, Tarver is a stand in the middle of the crowd and scream “Look at me” type.
The “Magic Man” also has a magic tongue when it comes to hyping his fights, and this press conference was no different. Tarver was bold in his predictions, and flashy in his presentation from the podium. Where Woods although very presentable, looked like he shopped at stores with names like “Every Day Man”, Tarver looked like his fashions came directly from Hollywood. Indeed they may have since Tarver is not long removed from his role in the film ‘Rocky Balboa’ from 2006.
Tarver however, is not just flash without the boom and the bang. He will forever be remembered for his fights with Roy Jones Jr., including the most memorable second fight with Jones where he knocked him out in the second round, regaining his title belts.
In his recent matches, he was defeated by Bernard Hopkins in 2005, but scored victories over Elvir Murioi and Danny Santiago in 2007.
Tarver’s motivation for this fight is the self set goal of collecting as many belts as possible in 2008. This sets up the possibility of some of these participants colliding again in the future.
Tarver feels that he has an advantage because of his motivation as well as his experience of being in such a well publicized fight. As he puts it, “I’ve been to the big dance.”
This “dance” is also in Tarver’s backyard being that he resides in the Tampa Bay Area. Tarver has worked to bring events such as TNT to Tampa and it is obvious that his efforts are paying off.
For Woods, it is only his second fight in the United States and his first broadcast on Showtime. Tarver pointed out the differences that also exist between fans in England verses the United States boxing aficionados and then issued a challenge to fans especially in Tampa. “The fans over there take it to another level! They are truly fanatical. I’m bringing a challenge to the fans here, to come out and support this event with all we got!” He then added, “We don’t want what happened in Las Vegas to happen here in Tampa.”
He appeared to be referring back to the Mayweather verses Hatton fight were some of the Hatton supporters booed the National Anthem.
As reserved as the English are perceived to be, events and their fans can be a step up in reference to energy when compared to their “across the pond” counterparts.
An example of this was at the press conference in London a few days ahead of the one in Tampa to announce the fight.
Although the one in Tampa had its usual entertaining moments, the video of the one in London has become a favorite on the internet. With the two combatants dueling verbally in the background, reporters broadcast their reports and cut to clips of the pair banging their fists on the table.
There is even a clip of promoter Gary Shaw getting into a verbal exchange with one of the reporters. To our outwardly appearing relief, and our inwardly feeling of remorse, none of this happened at the Tampa press conference.
Despite this, with such different worlds coming together on April 12th, we can expect that “Title Night in Tampa” will be a powder keg of excitement. The fuse has been lit; we await the explosion of entertainment!
Tickets are on sale now at the McDonald's Box Office at the St Pete Times Forum and all Ticketmaster outlets. Charge by phone at 813-287-8844 or 727-898-2100 or log onto ticketmaster.com.
NATE JOHNSON INTERVIEWING CLINTON WOODS
NATE JOHNSON INTERVIEWING CLINTON WOODS