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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Martin Rickett/PA Wire/Press Association Images Curtis Woodhouse and Frankie Gavin (right) are separated during the weigh-in yesterday.
# Corner man
Different ball game for Woodhouse
A decade ago Birmingham City paid Sheffield United £1 million for the then 20-year old Curtis Woodhouse. Tonight, in Liverpool, he faces the biggest test of his career – in the ring.

TEN YEARS AGO, Birmingham City paid Sheffield United £1 million for the then 20-year old Curtis Woodhouse.

Tonight, in Liverpool, he faces the biggest test of his career, though it comes in the squared circle rather than on the football pitch.

Woodhouse was a decent footballer, who lined out for the England U-21 side four times.  He played around 300 League matches in the heart of various midfields, but despite that relative success, he turned his back on the sport in 2006.  He was on the books of Hull City when he made his professional debut and continues to play non-league football on occasion.

Swapping the boots for the gloves was an easy decision for Woodhouse, who says boxing was “always his first love.”  Even though he entered the sport with no amateur experience, he’s done well so far recording 14 wins from 15 fights.  Tonight, though, he will be expected to lose against the unbeaten Frankie Gavin. Ironically, the former World Amateur Champion would have cheered on Woodhouse when he lined out at St Andrew’s but expect plenty of tension later – these men have clashed outside the ring before.

“For me, knocking someone out is 100% more enjoyable than scoring a goal,” says Woodhouse.

“There’s no feeling like it.”  However, despite his love for knockouts, Woodhouse is most likely to end up on the seat of his pants later.  Nonetheless, he has at least followed his dream.

Frankie Gavin v Curtis Woodhouse forms part of a tasty bill at Liverpool’s Echo Arena, which is headlined by John Murray v Kevin Mitchell and also sees Ricky Burns and Tony Bellew in action.

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Though labelled corrupt by some, boxing is a much cleaner sport than it was during the times of mob control.  This point was evidenced this week by the New Jersey State Athletic Commission, who have suspended three judges following last weekend’s bout between Paul Williams and Erislandy Lara.

Lara was given the fight by TV pundits, and most fans in attendance, but in a robbery The Sopranos would have been proud of, it was the much-fancied Williams who scored a majority decision win.

Lara had landed 20 more punches, despite having thrown 500 less in the 12 rounds.

This week, the three ringside judges were suspended from further duty (though no evidence of bias or fraud exists) while they will have to undergo further training to get their licences returned.  The move is of little use to Lara however – his loss cannot be overturned.

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Willie ‘Big Bang’ Casey is set to make his ring return in front of his home fans.  The Limerick man, who was beaten by Guillermo Rigondeaux in March, has signed a deal with Cork promoter Gary Hyde and will make his ring return in his home city on 3 September.  His opponent is set to be Daniel Kodjo Sassou, a relatively unimpressive Frenchman who lost to Patrick Hyland last time out.

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This Week In Boxing History

16 July, 2005 marked the last meaningful fight in the career of one of Ireland’s grittiest fighters.  Wayne Pocket Rocket McCullough (as is his real name these days) was beaten by Oscar Larios in the second of two fights between the men, a win which mean the Mexican kept his WBC Super Bantamweight World Title.

McCullough had held his own WBC belt – 10 years previously, he went to Tokyo to defeat Yasuei Yakushiji, becoming the first (and to date only) man from the British Isles to win a World Title in Japan.

In summary, McCullough’s career was that of a very good, but not a great fighter.  He lost his biggest fights against Erik Morales, Naseem Hamed, Daniel Zaragoza and his 1992 Olympic Final to Joel Casamayor.

There’s no disgrace in this – all of the above men were great fighters, and McCullough was not stopped in any of those contests.  His two inside-the-distance defeats came in his last two fights, against Larios (and that in itself was a premature stoppage) and then in an ill-advised ring return three years ago.  The Belfast native was a cracking fighter, always entertaining to watch, even if his taste in music leaves a lot to be desired.