It’s been a long and sometimes hugely challenging journey from the boxing wilderness to the brink of a British title shot for Craig Woodruff.

But the Newport lightweight, who was out of the ring for more than four years before returning in November 2018, will have the vacant Celtic strap in his sights tonight.

A win for the 29-year-old against Scotland’s Ronnie Clark at the Vale Sports Arena in Cardiff would be the perfect preparation for a crack at the Lonsdale Belt later this year.

Woodruff, part of Team SMoA with trainers Luke Pearce and Johan Berendjy and Richie Garner, who is his manager, is scheduled to face either Gavin Gwynne or Luke Willis for the British crown.

The British Boxing Board of Control have said the winner of the Gwynne-Willis fight at York Hall on April 15 must defend the title against Woodruff within 90 days.

Getting the job done in the Welsh capital tonight is Woodruff’s first goal, and the Celtic prize is one he previously fought for nearly a decade ago.

Woodruff had two more fights after losing to Mitch Buckland in Newport before his world was turned upside down following an altercation during a five-a-side football match.

Having received a suspended jail term for his part in the incident, the prospect of Woodruff returning to professional boxing might have seemed unlikely.

South Wales Argus:

Craig Woodruff in action. Picture courtesy of

However, after making contact with Pearce, nephew of the late David ‘Bomber’ Pearce, the former British heavyweight king from Newport, in 2016, Woodruff began his journey back to the pro game.

Woodruff’s desire to follow in the footsteps of ‘Bomber’ matched the dream of Pearce and Berendjy to train a Newport fighter to a Lonsdale Belt.

“Craig approached me when I was raising funds for the statue of my uncle,” said Pearce. “He told me that if I was putting on a show to raise funds then he would fight on it.

South Wales Argus:

Craig Woodruff and Luke Pearce

“We didn’t do that but I did tell him that if he wanted to try and fight professionally again then I’d be more than happy to help.

“I approached Johan and we set about trying to get Craig’s licence back.

“Andrew Collingbourne was also involved with things in the background and Richie Garner, who was a licenced manager, got Craig’s licence back.

“Everything fell into place and me and Johan started training Craig, and 18 months later he had his first fight back.

South Wales Argus:

Luke Pearce, Craig Woodruff and Johan Berendjy

“I’d like to say thanks to Johan, Richie and Andrew for what they’ve done for Craig.”

He added: “The Lonsdale Belt is something me and Johan wanted to win more than anything.

“We have been offered fights for other titles but it’s about the history that comes with the Lonsdale Belt, and the connection it has with Newport.

“If Craig retired without at least fighting for it then we’d feel we wouldn’t have achieved what we set out to do.

“This has been a long journey for me. I’ve been thinking about training a boxer to win the Lonsdale Belt since my uncle passed away. I know Johan shares that dream too.

“We are doing this because we love the sport, not for any financial gain, and we’re proud to have got this far.

“We want to take the next step now and a win this weekend will set-up Craig for a shot at the Lonsdale Belt.”

He continued: “We know it will be tough tonight. Clark’s a former Scottish and IBF European champion who has fought for the Celtic and British titles.

“But we always knew we’d have to come through 50-50 fights to go for the Lonsdale Belt.

“Craig has been working hard since we’ve been with him, he’s never given up, and he’s ready for this huge challenge. It’s the biggest night of his career.”

Team SMoA would like to thank the following sponsors for their support:

A&S Formwork Ltd



Health Hut

The Cross Keys pub, Newport

Tom Sloan

Weekend Offender



Newports Rocky

RAF Diversity Allies

Therapy Works


Lemon Squeezy

"A&S Formwork Ltd director Andrew Clifford has been amazing by sponsoring Craig a week's wages and buying a VIP table at this weekend's show," said Luke Pearce.

"LeeTech director Lee Hancock has sponsored and supported Craig from the start. The Cross Keys' Jeanette and Jason have sponsored once again this year and artist Tom Sloan has also supported us.

"The Health Hut continues to sponsor Craig's fight camp food.

"Weekend Offender sponsoring the team training kit is huge and a huge thank you goes out to Sam Jones who formed the international brand in 2004.

"Terminator sponsor our fight kit for on the night and we are very grateful to Tom Harris and Callum Rowlands for their support to Craig and Team SMoA."