March 2 -- A La Carte Event Pavilion, Tampa, FL
Winner: Darrell Woods MD-8
If this hadn't been an eight-rounder, we could be talking about a very serious candidate for Fight of the Year. Also, if it had been on a bigger stage, and meant more. Atmosphere counts for quite a bit, in my book, and even though the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa was roaring with delight as these two slugged it out for 24 action-packed, dramatic minutes, it couldn't hold a candle to many fights that are simply bigger in scale.
And that's about the only knock I can give this fight. Samuel Miller came in 17-0 with 14 knockouts, a Colombian prospect with good power but no real tests on his record. 39-year old journeyman Darrell Woods was just fighting as a hometown fellow that was going to make the young man a Friday Night Fights up-and-coming star. At 25-10, Woods was the stereotypical old guy who'd had a respectable career, never quite made it, and now it was time to be one of those dudes that just comes in, boxes his best, teaches the youngsters some ring savvy, and eventually, loses. Cosme Rivera did it for Andre Berto on a later edition of FNF this year.
This one didn't follow the script, though it looked like it was going to.
In the first round, Samuel Miller fired off a massive barrage of nearly 100 punches, and it looked like it would be a short night of work. Frankly, it's amazing Woods didn't go down, hard, in the opening round. To absorb that sort of punishment was pretty amazing, especially for a guy whose legs were assumedly pretty shot at his age.
The second round jumpstarted the fight in a big way. A big right haymaker sent Miller crashing to the canvas, stunning the Colombian and delighting Woods' hometown crowd. Miller would be floored again early in the third round, on another right hand, though this one was more precise, more of a boxing punch.
Woods felt like he could finish it. Darrell Woods was wrong. A monster punch upstairs on Woods knocked him back, and Miller, for two-thirds of the third round, beat the hell out of Woods. It was one of the most dramatic single-round momentum shifts I've ever seen -- Miller, knocked down, clearly dominated the majority of the round, and you could have argued it as being a 10-10 round.
At the end of that third round, you could just feel it. Sometimes a fight starts off hot and cools down -- Guzman-Soto would do that in November. But this was a totally different dynamic. I think now of the mindsets of both fighters. Miller, the heavy paper favorite, supposed to be the winner, in a fight set up to push him forward, came out hard and owned the first round. He was then taken to school by Woods, but stormed back. Where is his head at? If that was me, I'd probably be thinking, "Go for broke."
Woods, on the other hand, may not ever get back on TV. This fight, really, could have been his last. Maybe he'd considered that going in. Now he's put the younger man down, twice, and proven he can take his best shots. If that's me, I'm thinking, "Go for broke."
Showtime's Steve Albert, in particular, is big on the "ebb and flow" phrase so often brought up in a good or great fight. Well, this fight had that, more than almost any fight this year. You couldn't count the shifts of momentum on one hand, and it wasn't simple stuff like Vivian Harris' tough win over Juan Lazcano in February, where the fight was back-and-forth, but in a very controlled manner. That was a pretty good fight. This one was a slugfest, and wound up being phenomenal.
The fourth and fifth rounds belonged to Woods, and Miller lost a point in the sixth after holding, having already been warned earlier on. That's where the holding stopped, and it became even more violent. To be blunt, Darrell Woods and Samuel Miller spent the remainder of their fight beating the ever loving hell out of one another. The final minute or so of the seventh round was just remarkable, as Miller unloaded with everything he had, Woods taking it like he was Wolverine or something. By all rights, Samuel Miller should have knocked Darrell Woods out in the first round, the third round, or the seventh round. He didn't do it. And that is a credit to the chin and the heart of Darrell Woods on this night in Tampa.
The final round went down to the wire, both men fighting with everything they had until that final bell sounded. The crowd was off its ass, delirious in their approval of this outstanding war. Even Teddy Atlas at ringside couldn't help but become nothing more than a roaring fan, really. Recently, Joe Tessitore named this the Friday Night Fights Fight of the Year -- and rightfully so.
And in the end, Woods took a narrow majority decision, mostly thanks to the two knockdowns. Neither guy would do well in their next outing -- Miller lost another exciting fight to Brian Vera (and I thought Miller won), and Woods was obliterated by Allan Green.
It's one of those fights that you probably had to see live to really love the way I do. I tuned in that night to see Nate Campbell and Ricky Quiles, because I wasn't doing anything better. Campbell savagely destroyed Quiles over 12 ruthless rounds in a fight that should have been stopped. I'd have remembered that night more for that if it wasn't for Woods and Miller making an eight rounder as epic as it could be.