On April 12, 2008, Clinton Woods will go into the lions den when he takes on former undisputed light heavyweight champion of the world, Antonio Tarver. Odds are about even for a fight which is made up of two ageing fighters.
Woods, a veteran, won his world title on a fourth attempt with a fifth round TKO of Rico Hoye, who was recently unmasked by Adrian Diaconu. Tarver, on the other hand, despite being the older man, only came to spotlight in 2003 when he was, in many peoples' mind, robbed against the great Roy Jones.
Since Woods won his world title, he has defended it four times, avenging his defeat against Glen Johnson in his third world title bid. However, the jury is still out on Clinton and this fight should gauge how much the Sheffield man has left in the tank.
The same can be said of Tarver, whoʼs first professional fight was at the age of 29. Now 39, the Florida man surely only has a handful of fights left in him? Or was his loss against Bernard Hopkins and split decision victory two fights ago proof that he is already struggling to adhere to the intense pressure and workload of that of a world championship boxer?
Two common opponents between Woods and Tarver are Roy Jones and Glen Johnson, Woods lost badly against Jones and had a trilogy against Johnson, while Tarver has the upper hand on Jones over three encounters and has a win and a loss against Johnson.
Tarver's famous ʽ I have a questionʼ before his second fight with Jones and the following knockout has meant he is now a massive name in America despite not being a champion of one of the four major sanctioning bodies.
Woods has stated that he sees this as the first semi final for a place in the spotlight in the final against the winner of Joe Calzaghe and Bernard Hopkins on April 19, but in reality it is unlikely that Calzaghe or Hopkins would take on Woods due to his lack of star power, even if he knocks out Tarver.
Hopkins again would be unlikely to be drawn into a rematch with Tarver and would see no point in fighting Woods if he won, as he would have just defeated the best of Britain.
Woods must stick to a game plan, Tarver is a slick southpaw who has more natural talent and should comfortably outbox Woods on the night to a 12 round decision. Despite this, do not underestimate the courage of Woods, who has, like Tarver, never been knocked out, and had to be pulled out against Roy Jones after sustaining a six round battering.
In addition, Tarver as we have said, has shown signs of aging and has not looked good in recent bouts. Either way, expect this one to go the distance unless Tarver can hurt Woods in the later rounds and stop him as Johnson so nearly did in their third fight.
It will take all Woods' skill, will and mental toughness to come through this one a winner and take his titles back to Sheffield.