Bay City's Woods at crossroads in career
Feb. 15, 2012 at 11 p.m.
Updated Feb. 15, 2012 at 8:16 p.m.
MIKE FORMAN , ON SPORTS :: Terrance Woods couldn't prepare for an opponent until he stopped fighting himself.
Woods would travel from the ConocoPhillips plant in Old Ocean and show up at the makeshift gym outside Mike Zavala's Bay City residence.
But for all practical purposes, Woods had never left the Houston hospital room where he and wife, Crystal, watched Earl Woods draw his final breath.
The passing of his grandfather left Woods with more than a heavy heart.
Woods was awake when it was time to do roadwork at 4:30 a.m. The problem was he hadn't slept.
The workout and sparring sessions continued, but little was accomplished.
Woods was less than five weeks away from stepping into the ring against an undefeated 26-year-old former Olympian, and the motivation was nowhere to be found.
"Mike and I had a talk after a sparring session," Woods recalled. "I didn't like the way I felt. We had a heart to heart. He felt that I was just going through the motions and as an athlete I knew that's not what you want to do. I did a lot of soul searching and came back with a totally different attitude."
Woods is well aware an unlikely boxing career that began when the former collegiate high jumping champion ran into Zavala while working as a substitute teacher and began training in his gym has come to a crossroads.
Woods will turn 33 on April 18. With son, Adan, 5, and daughter, Lalia, 9 months, at home, he recognizes the final bell is about to ring.
"To me this is do or die," he said. "I either win this fight or hang it up."
Woods has a difficult task on his hand.
He will fight Shawn Estrada at the College Park Center located on the campus of the University of Texas-Arlington as part of ESPN2's Friday Night at the Fights.
Estrada is a former Pan American Games champion who fought in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
He will bring a 13-0 record that includes 12 knockouts into the eight-round, 172-pound bout.
Woods and Zavala are well aware that Estrada's 13 fights have gone a total of 22 rounds.
"He's a big bully," Zavala said. "He's usually 3 to 5 pounds heavier than his opponents. He keeps coming and tries to impose his will with his body. His skills aren't refined. We're going to make him come and try to stop us."
Woods has a 9-3 record that includes six knockouts and is optimistic about his chances.
"I'm very well prepared," he said. "I picked up my training and my conditioning was way better."
Woods has been sparring against heavier fighters and hopes to put his athletic skills to use against Estrada.
"I want to move around, but I want to keep the fight in the middle of the ring," Woods said. "I have to work my jab. He like to throw long, looping punches. I need to stay away from his right hand. He uses that to set up his left hook and he knocks guys out with that punch."
Woods was on the wrong end of a technical knockout when he lost to Russian Sergey Kovalev nine months ago in California, but learned a lesson in the process.
"I need to snap my punches instead of just throwing them out there," Woods said. "When I snap my punches, they have quickness and power. I have to utilize my power and at the same time, I can't wear myself out."
The options are clear for Woods. A win will likely land him a contract and even bigger paydays. A loss and he returns to Bay City to begin the rest of his life.
"Terrance is his biggest, strongest opponent yet," Zavala said. "He cannot push Terrance around. Terrance has an excellent chance."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.