Friday, August 28, 2009

Tavoris Cloud vs Clinton Woods Preview

Michael Nelson previews tonight's FNF light-heavyweight clash between Tavoris Cloud and Clinton Woods.

Tavoris Cloud took the Light Heavyweight scene by storm last August when he demolished Julio Gonzales in an IBF title eliminator. But instead of staying busy, he chose to sit on his position as Chad Dawson's mandatory as Dawson fought Tarver twice, and then dropped the belt to rematch nemesis Glen Johnson. The winner of tonight's bout will be rewarded with the vacant strap.

Needless to say, Cloud is looking to be more Cumulonimbus than calm against rugged Englishman Clinton Woods. Having grown up in desolate conditions, Tavoris fights as if he's been famished all his life. He's unlikely to take this opportunity lightly.

Clinton isn't either. This will be his final chance at regaining a stronghold in the division. The last time Woods was seen on American television, he allowed Antonio Tarver to camp in the middle of the ring and move his hands without consequence. If the 37 year old doesn't show more Grizzly against Cloud, it may be a short night in Hollywood, Florida.

Woods will hold a four inch height advantage over Cloud, but his fight is not one of maintaining distance. Expect Teddy Atlas' dialog throughout the bout to revolve around the real estate battle and how Woods is losing it. He's not comfortable moving for long stretches of a bout. Being one of the bigger and stronger men at Light Heavyweight though, he generally accustoms himself well in close.

How well he expects to do banging with the explosive 27 year old Floridian is a question that might not take long to answer. Cloud in many ways is reminiscent of Andre Berto, except he loves to fight on the inside rather than clinch. He loads up on powerful right hands and lead left hooks while mixing in violent uppercuts to keep a ducking opponent honest. And when he remembers to go to the body, he's cruelly effective. A normally sturdy Gonzales winced every time Cloud landed a hook underneath the rib cage.

As evident in his trilogy with Glen Johnson, Clinton is worryingly open for a right hand, Cloud's bread-and-butter. Johnson chopped him down with straight rights to the point where he was nearly out on his feet in the 9th round of their rubber match. To Woods' credit, he survived and won a split decision.

But that was on his home turf in the UK when he was three years younger. Now fighting on Cloud's stomping grounds, the odds are against him. If he gets slammed with as many right hands tonight as he did against Johnson, it's unlikely he sees the final bell, much less win a decision. He'll have to rely on his experience, stamina, and guile to blunt Cloud's charges and outwork his untested opponent.

While most indicators point to it being the younger man's time to shine, the steely veteran can't be counted out. He has defied the critics more than once in his 15 year career. The Friday Night Fights finale shouldn't disappoint.

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Check out Lee Payton's Juan Urango vs Randall Bailey Preview