Curtis Woodhouse will knock you down. Over and over. But you’ll get up again and again too.
You’ll reel from shock and even disgust at the wanton self-destruction of a brilliant football career to jaw-dropping admiration of his unique transformation into a British champion boxer.
And I defy you not to shed a tear at the sheer emotion of the crowning moment; the culmination of a nightmare-turned-dream as Woodhouse climbs from the wreckage of being – so prematurely – a Premier League cast-off to lift that treasured title.
It’s hard to know whether to like, loathe or love the bloke in his brutally honest autobiography “Box to Box.” At times you can feel all three emotions at once.
But you can’t help but respect the one-time Sheffield United star-turned-boxing “freak show,” as some cruelly dubbed him. Not just for his candour but for refusing to follow the money-trail that made him a £4,000 a week teenager at Bramall Lane.
Curtis blew a luxury living for life by putting boozing above playing. But somehow he found the discipline and dedication his football lacked when he made a gloved grab for sporting glory with scant regard for the far greater riches his sensational career switch spurned.
Prepare to be surprised by the sheer scale of the drinking culture at Bramall Lane, and many other places it would seem, around the turn of the millennium. Prepare to wince, not so much from the blows Curtis both took and inflicted in the ring, but from the wild ways of a kid who literally fought his way through life after growing up in a domestic war zone he called “Beirut.”
Pulling no punches is putting it mildly. His one-time Blades bosses Steve Bruce (who also managed him at Birmingham) and Neil Warnock get called “a w*****” in one case and “a p****” in the other.
Karren Brady, who ruled his life from above at Birmingham, was “a bitch.”
By the end, though, Curtis admits that he would have viewed everyone and everything (or at least most in his turbulent life) a little differently had his behaviour not been ruled by the “f*** you” attitude that got him sacked from clubs and landed him with a community service conviction as he became in his words “a Jamie Vardy in reverse.”
But that would have robbed us of one of the most explicit sporting books you will ever read. Decide for yourself whether you like him afterwards. I’m going with a friend who knows Curtis inside out. David Holdsworth, his skipper at both United and Birmingham, insists: “Take it from me, Curtis is a good kid.”
As for the ending of the tale, maybe there’s a chapter or two left for the aspiring football manager, ex of Sheffield FC, who says: “The ultimate goal is landing the top job at Sheffield United.”
It’s in very good hands for now, but the story so far defies you to think he can’t achieve even that one day.
n “Box to Box” by Curtis Woodhouse. Released on October 6th from Simon and Schuster at £18.99