By Jim Amato
Although he ended his career losing almost as many bouts as he won. At one time in the mid-60’s heavyweight James J. Woody was considered a fine prospect.
He was a southpaw from the Bronx who had his first professional fight in 1964. He reeled off ten straight wins against better then average competition. He twice defeated Lou Hicks and also the giant James J. Beattie a couple of times. He also won a duet from Everett Copeland and outscored Tony Doyle.
He suffered his first loss to the crafty Johnny Persol in 1966. That began years of winning a few and losing a few more for Woody. At times he was good enough to beat decent fighters like Dante Cane, Roger Russell and Charlie “Emperor” Harris. At other times he was overmatched at that stage in his career against contenders Manuel Ramos, Brian London and Big Buster Mathis losing to all three.
On April 17, 1970 he faced the feared Olympian George Foreman. The undefeated future two time world champion was impressive bombing out Woody in the third round.
In his next bout James faced the highly regarded Oscar Bonavena and was stopped in five. Later that year Bonavena would meet the comebacking Muhammad Ali in their classic encounter.
James would bounce back into the win column with a pair of decision victories over the hexed Tony Doyle.Those would be his last victories.
In 1971 James would prove he was no chump as he went the distance in rugged bouts with top contenders Jose Luis Garcia, Ken Norton and in 1972 to Henry Clark. Although he lost all three they were all competitive. Especially the Norton fight.
He met Norton again in 1972 and Kenny halted James in eight. In 1973 James was toppled in two rounds by the comebacking Jerry Quarry. In 1974 James was halted by Bob Stallings.
He returned two years later on the Ali-Norton III undercard at Yankee Stadium in his hometown the Bronx. There he was taken out in three rounds by up and coming Bernardo Mercado.