Curtis Woodhouse: The journeyman footballer who became a boxer

Danny Ryan

In the world of sport, some athletes are so naturally gifted that they can often play on a professional level on more than one stage. Ian Botham, England’s greatest ever cricketer, once played for Scunthorpe United but one of the greatest cases to fall into this genre is that of former Sheffield United midfielder, Curtis Woodhouse.

He was a journeyman footballer who cropped up all over England’s lower leagues who decided he had fallen out of love with the beautiful game so, in 2006, he made the switch to professional boxing, a sport in which he had no previous experience. He had experience of street fighting due to his tough upbringing – he was often racially abused as a youngster in Beverly where was born – but that was it, he was a professional footballer with a temperament entering the brutal world of boxing.

As a footballer, Woodhouse is most famous for his days at Sheffield United, where he burst onto the scene as an exciting defensive-minded midfielder, becoming the famous club’s youngest ever captain at the age of 19. However, in the years that followed, Woodhouse’s mind appeared to be elsewhere, leading to a stagnation in his promising career.

He went on to play for Birmingham City, Rotherham, Peterborough, Hull City and Grimsby Town before his love for the ball at his feet disappeared, replaced with a desire to cause damage with his fists – with gloves of course. The Englishman actually captained Peterborough but it was clear his footballing days were in decline. The spark that had made him such a promising talent had disappeared, usurped by another sport.

Woodhouse was a huge fan of boxing, often sparring in the gym at football clubs with Neil Warnock once confronting him about the fact he had been partaking in the sport outside of the club. In 2006, he had his first professional fight in a welterweight contest against Dean Marcantonio, winning on points.

In 2007, the biggest moment of Woodhouse’s life occurred. His father tragically passed away, and on his deathbed, the footballer made the promise that he would be a success in the ring. Had this not happened, his gloves may have been hung up after one fight, accumulating dust while he reverted back to football. As it were, he had a mission to fulfil.

2007 was the start of Woodhouse’s ascendancy up the boxing ladder – aside from having his licence revoked for five months for assaulting a police officer drunk – but he did return to the football pitch on a part-time basis. To keep his focus primarily on boxing, the midfielder decided to move out of the football leagues and into the conference divisions.

Rushden & Diamonds, Mansfield Town, Harrogate and Eastwood Town were his non-league homes which acted as almost a foil for his boxing exploits. He embarked on an eight-year career in the ring, fighting a total of 29 times and emerging victorious on 22 occasions – 13 of those were by knockout.

Once his journeyman playing days were over, Woodhouse opted to move into management alongside his successful boxing ventures. In 2012, he took over non-league side Sheffield – no, not United or Wednesday – before moving to Goole. In 2015, after his last fight, a loss to Willie Limond which saw his British light-welterweight title taken away, the footballer-turned-boxer took the job at Hull United. After a short three-month stint, Woodhouse continued his journeyman style, joining Bridlington Town where he can still be found today.

It has been a life of little stability, but one which has seen Woodhouse claim some more success in the ring than it did on the green grass of England’s football pitches. He has not fought since for a few years and is unlikely to do so again but the Englishman deserves kudos for making a daring switch, following a path that few would ever dream of making.

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