The first time a fighter defends a world title belt, it's often a glorified tune up bout against a mandatory challenger who hasn't really earned the position. For tonight in Sheffield, England that's clearly not the case as Clinton Woods will place his IBF Light Heavyweight crown in danger against hardnosed former WBO titlist Julio Gonzalez. The Mexican American has shared the ring with some of the top men in the division, including Dariusz Michalczewski who had his 48 bout win streak shattered in Germany by Gonzalez. While Gonzalez is a mandatory challenger, he's certainly proven his viability as a title challenger and will have no trepidation whatsoever in climbing through the ropes in Woods' hostile Sheffield backyard.
Woods, 37-3-1 (23), finally won a genuine world title in March of this year when he delivered a masterful performance unto unbeaten American contender Rico Hoye. The hard as nails Yorkshireman had failed on three previous attempts against first Roy Jones, Jr and then twice against Glen Johnson. Gonzalez, who bears the remarkably similar won loss record of 38-2 (23), also fell short against Jones but does hold a somewhat controversial majority decision victory over Johnson.
This will almost certainly play out to be a highly charged dogfight from the first bell. Neither man will likely take a backward step and both have solid chins. It may very well come down to a case of stamina and who just who can walk through a hailstorm of punishment, all the while throwing punches like a runaway threshing machine for twelve difficult rounds.
When the smoke finally clears at the Hallam FM Arena, there may or may not be a new IBF Champion but one thing is for certain; the fans in attendance and those watching at home will have likely witnessed one of the best fights to take place on British soil this year.