By Michael Norby: Undefeated light heavyweight firecracker Tavoris Cloud
picked up the vacant IBF version of the world title in impressive fashion on Friday night after he out-hustled former champion Clinton Woods
en route to a fast paced and entertaining 12 round unanimous decision victory at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, USA.
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Cloud 20-0 (18) has blasted through every professional opponent he has faced, including a highly impressive tenth round stoppage victory over veteran former champion Julio Cesar Gonzalez in his previous performance a year ago. Any possibility of a gathering of rust due to such a long layoff was not evident tonight, however, as, after a closely contested first six rounds, he swarmed over Woods 42-5-1 (24) to control the second half of the contest and ensure the Englishman’s final roll of world championship dice turned up fruitless.
Cloud immediately began to batter his opponent to the body and head with quick combinations to open the first round – backing Woods to the ropes from the bell. The former champion managed to sneak in a few well placed counter shots to halt the assault and scored well with his jab in the center of the ring in the middle portion of the round. Both guys traded decent shots in the final minute, but the pace that Cloud was forcing served him well and he out-landed Woods throughout the round.
Woods began the second a little more aggressively and he connected with several left hooks to open the round as he moved forward behind his jab. Although Cloud responded by blasting his man with a trio of right hands, the Englishman bit down in the final half of the round and landed a slew of hard punches upstairs – each one set up beautifully and forcing Cloud to hover backwards and concede ground to the 37-year-old.
This was a tense and close beginning and Cloud, perhaps woken up by his opponent’s success a round earlier, fought a much better three minutes in the third. He reddened Wood’s body with a string of hooks downstairs and furthered his scoring to the head with two and three punch sequences. Woods broke up Cloud’s momentum with single shots upstairs but the younger man kept coming and rattled the Englishman against the ropes in the final 30 seconds with a string of powerful right hands to the head.
Woods forced a slowing of the pace in the fourth by spearing out his jab as Cloud searched for a way inside. He doubled up with that punch frequently and connected with decent sequences throughout the first half of the frame. Cloud came on strong at the end of the round, however, and continued his targeting of the Brit’s body to tighten a round that had been going Woods’ way up until that point.
Woods showed his mettle in the middle rounds as he took some heavy shots in order to ensure closely contested action and he fought bravely in the face of a younger and stronger opponent. In the sixth, however, the ferocity and pressure that Cloud poured on him was beginning to tell and the Englishman was tagged with some blistering shots, although he gamely forced his fists to respond consistently to at least give Cloud something to think about.