After perhaps one of the most baffling decisions in the recent history of British boxing, Curtis Woodhouse looks unlikely to ever step through the ropes again. Making the first defence of his English light-welterweight title against Shayne Singleton, Woodhouse help a firm grip on proceedings from the fourth round onwards but somehow, someway, two judges gave Singleton the nod by one and two rounds respectively.
Indeed, upon the announcement of a split decision, Woodhouse and his promoter Dave Coldwell exchanged looks of horror. And given his recent Twitter posts, it seems the Driffield fighter is now adamant on hanging up the gloves.
The defending champion patrolled the ring with menace and left his rival bloodied and bruised thanks to a fearsome jab and straight right. Tellingly, Singleton’s face was a mess towards the end of the fight, with a cut below each eye and blood flowing from his butchered nose.
Still, Singleton counter-punched well and grew accustomed to boxing and moving towards the end of the fight. He struck gold with a few crosses and rangy jabs in the opening three rounds but despite Woodhouse losing a point for punching after the break in round ten, it seems staggering that Singleton was adjudged to have won on two cards.
This was meant to be an easy fight for Woodhouse, a night where he would dispatch a mere gatekeeper before challenging the likes of Adil Anwar and Darren Hamilton. However, both men looked in competitive mood during their ring entrances.
Boxing in front of a home crowd at Manchester’s Bowlers Arena, Singleton scored with the greater frequency in the opening two rounds as Woodhouse opted to feint on the inside and anticipate his opponent’s attacks. Indeed, by the third round, Woodhouse was only just warming up and had perhaps thrown more feints than significant punches.
Soon, however, he found his stride and was walking his man down with merciless intent. The former Premier League footballer dug into his reserves and moved up a gear in the fourth, jabbing with malice and sticking to Singleton’s chest.
It seemed the longer the fight went on, the more Woodhouse’s pristine conditioning was becoming a significant asset. As he weaved forward at a terrific pace, keeping his hands up and firing that hurtful jab, the challenger became bloody and weary. Time after time, Curtis snapped his adversary’s head back with alarming regularity.
By the eighth round, the titlist’s straight right was finely tuned and finding its mark each time, particularly when thrown as part of a combination. Woodhouse’s clusters of punches and speed were frightening and towards the end of the fight, it seemed Karl Ince in Singleton’s corner thought once or twice about throwing the towel in to rescue his outfought charge.
However, in a fight where both men frequently went eyeball to eyeball at the end of each round, Woodhouse connected with a vicious sucker punch in the tenth and final round soon after referee Howard Foster had called for a break. Woodhouse appeared to fire an insult at Singleton but came up short when Foster deducted a point from him.
How crucial that would prove to be. Singleton took it upon himself to somehow motor over the finishing line and threw five jabs at a time, perhaps spurred on by a second wind. His work ethic and Woodhouse’s point deduction won him the final stanza but despite his celebrations at the bell, surely the judges would score the fight to Woodhouse.
Regardless, Singleton got the green light from two of the three judges, prompting a mass bundle in the middle of the ring as Ince leapt to his fighter’s acclaim. Even though Woodhouse had a point torn away from him in the commencing moments, it is difficult to see where he would have lost the majority of the rounds. Granted, from the middle to latter rounds he pierced his rival’s leaky defence and rocked him with jabs to the body and head numerous times.
It was a dreadful verdict and leaves one of Britain’s most industrious fighters on the scrapheap. Coming off a successful career in professional football, few thought Woodhouse could switch professions with such ease, but after winning the English title and going toe-to-toe with the likes of Frankie Gavin and Dale Miles, he drew revenge against those who said he would never make it. In Singleton’s case, though, he should be in no position to call himself a champion.
By Alistair Hendrie