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Cloud dominates Woods, calls out Dawson

28
Aug

Undefeated light heavyweight prospect Tavoris Cloud made up for lost time with his unanimous decision victory over veteran Clinton Woods in the co-featured bout of ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights finale from Hollywood, Fla., on Friday.

Cloud relentlessly attacked Woods with the work-rate of a lightweight, punishing the game former titleholder’s body and head with vicious power punches over the second half of the bout to win by unanimous scores of 116-112.

The impressive victory earned Cloud (20-0, 18 knockouts) the vacant IBF title and instantly established him as a player in the light heavyweight division. It was a moment the 27-year-old Tallahassee, Fla., native literally waited an entire year for.

Cloud became the IBF’s mandatory challenger with a 10th-round stoppage over former titleholder Julio Gonzalez last August. He had hoped to fight then-IBF titleholder Antonio Tarver by the end of the year but the veteran was on a high-profile collision course with talented standout Chad Dawson, who beat Tarver last October.



Cloud switched his sights to Dawson, looking forward to a clash of young guns. However, a rematch clause in Dawson’s contract with Tarver was enacted, forcing a return bout between the two southpaws. The rematch was to take place early this year but Dawson suffered a hand injury in training that pushed it to May. Dawson won the rematch while Cloud sat idle.

He figured he would get his shot by the end of summer, but when it was announced that Dawson would rematch with former champ Glen Johnson in November of this year, Cloud realized he would have to be satisfied with fighting for the vacant title that was relinquished by Dawson.

That was Cloud’s main goal, anyway — to win a world title. So he sat on his mandatory ranking and refused to fight until that elusive belt was on the line.

The opportunity finally came Friday night, and Cloud took out an entire year of frustration on Woods (42-5-1, 25 knockouts), aggressively pressing the 37-year-old Englishman with jolting combinations from the opening bell.

However, Woods, THE RING’s No. 7-rated light heavyweight, put up a valiant effort. The Sheffield native has battled the best light heavyweights of the decade and he used the experience of his 14-year career to make things interesting during the early rounds.

Woods used subtle lateral movement and a stiff jab to keep Cloud reaching and at bay long enough to land accurate hooks and crosses as the younger, stronger man tried to bull his way inside. The veteran boxed well enough in rounds two and four to visibly frustrate Cloud.

Woods was encouraged enough by his early-rounds success to stand and trade with Cloud in the center of the ring during the middle rounds. Big mistake.

While Woods landed the more accurate punches during their exchanges, Cloud punished his older foe with a higher volume and much heavier shots. By the seventh round, Cloud was walking Woods into the ropes where he punished the gutsy veteran's body. It got worse for Woods in the eighth round, when Cloud sent him reeling into a corner with head-twisting hooks. Woods gamely fired back but was nailed by right hands in return.

It looked like Woods, who has only been stopped by Roy Jones Jr. back in 2002 (and he was never off his feet in that bout), would not last the distance. But his heart and ring savvy enabled him to survive to the final bell.

“He’s a very experienced fighter, I can’t take nothing away from him,” Cloud said of Woods during his post-fight interview. “I don’t go in looking for the knockout. I can go the distance if I have to. I can still be strong and dangerous in the later rounds.”

Cloud, who threw more than 1,000 punches against Woods and never appeared out of gas, proved that in his last two fights.

He will likely take Woods’ spot in THE RING’s light heavyweight ratings, adding some much-needed youth — along with Dawson, gifted WBC beltholder Jean Pascal and hard-punching Yusaf Mack — to the 175-pound elite.

Cloud encouraged Dawson, who is also 27, to fight some contenders who are his age.

“I can understand you having a couple of fights for money but how can you call yourself the pound-for-pound best and everyone you're fightin’ is 40 and over,” Cloud said. “Come on, man, fight some young guys.”

If Dawson accepts Cloud’s challenge and Cloud heeds his own advice the 175-pound division will become a fan-favorite weight class very soon.

Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]

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