By Anson Wainwright
Last summer Nathan Cleverly lost his WBO light heavyweight title to Sergey Kovalev. The heavy handed Russian ripped away Cleverly’s title in four devastating rounds.
The 27-year old Welshman endured several months of sole searching.
“It was a massive blow,” Cleverly told BoxingScene.com last Wednesday “my first career defeat, it was a big dent to me.”
After nine arduous months Cleverly returned to boxing in May, having made several changes, he’s no longer trained by his father Vince, instead working with Darren Wilson. He’s now promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom and campaigning at cruiserweight.
On Saturday evening Cleverly (27-1, 13 knockouts) returns for his second fight at the new weight when he takes on Argentinean Alejandro Emilio Valori.
If all goes well there is every chance that this fall Cleverly will meet old enemy Tony Bellew in a rematch of their 2011 bout that Cleverly won by majority decision.
“We’ve got a great rivalry, we dislike each other, we had a first great fight, he wants revenge and I want to put the record straight and not only I want to beat him this time but I want to win in emphatic fashion.” said Cleverly.
Cleverly-Valori co-headlines from Liverpool’s Echo Arena along with Tony Bellew vs. Julio Cesar Dos Santos. Also scheduled to appear in separate bouts is Rocky Fielding and hot prospect Liam Smith while 2012 Olympians Anthony Joshua, Anthony Ogogo and Luke Campbell take the next step in their careers. The Matchroom promoted event starts on Sky Sports at 7:00 p.m.
Anson Wainwright - You face Alejandro Emilio Valori, what are your thoughts on that fight?
Nathan Cleverly - It’s my second fight at cruiserweight so nothing overly testing or competitive as such. I think Valori is typical South American, tough, rugged will come to fight, will give it a go, will swing his wide hooks. Ultimately I should win, possibly look really good doing so, that’s my ambition. I think it’s a good fight for my second fight at cruiserweight.
BoxingScene.com - Though you're not looking past Valori, the rumour mill suggests if both you and Tony Bellew win Saturday you'll be matched later this year?
NC - That’s in the pipeline for myself and Tony, doubleheader “Collision Course” is the title of the show. With the aim of setting up that fight between myself and Tony Bellew. We’ve got a great rivalry, we dislike each other, we had a first great fight, he wants revenge and I want to put the record straight and not only I want to beat him this time but I want to win in emphatic fashion. So hopefully we both do the business on July 12th.
BoxingScene.com - You went to his hometown when you beat him a few years back this is also in Liverpool. Will the rematch happen in Liverpool also?
NC - There’s been talk of it happening in Liverpool but there’s been a suggestion of Manchester, London so that’s still to be decided and we’ll confirm that after July 12th. Ultimately it’s where makes financial sense, whichever arena is suitable.
BoxingScene.com - No mention of your hometown Cardiff?
NC - No mention of Cardiff, I don’t think that one is on the shortlist because there’s not a suitable size arena. There either to small or to big with the Millennium Stadium. I don’t think we can find a suitable venue.
BoxingScene.com - As you touched on this will be your second fight at cruiserweight, tell us about your debut fight against Shawn Corbin?
NC - I was happy with the fight. I think it was a good fight for me to get back in at cruiserweight. Shawn Corbin, he looked the part, he looked a good size cruiserweight. Ultimately it was an excellent fight for me to get back in the ring after nine-months out at a new weight division which is 25-pounds heavier. It was the type of performance I needed. I didn’t waste any time, straight in, let my hands go and I was happy with the way I performed and the finish was excellent. It couldn’t have gone any better.
BoxingScene.com - Last August you lost you WBO light heavyweight title to Sergei Kovalev, can you tell us about that fight and how it affected you?
NC - Yeah well it was a massive blow, my first career defeat, it was a big dent to me. I lost my world title it was on home soil. It was a devastating defeat for me. I think it was the curtains down on my light heavyweight days. I knew in the past I would go beyond light heavyweight, I was light heavyweight for seven-years, still growing, I just felt weak at the weight. I wasn’t the same at the weight in that fight. I just didn’t look like me in there, I knew that, a lot of people said that, it was evident and it’s down to the weight and now we’ve sorted it. We’re fresh at cruiserweight and now we’ll start seeing the best of me.
BoxingScene.com - That’s not to take anything away from Sergey Kovalev?
NC - No, he’s an excellent fighter. His power is exceptional, tremendous puncher, he’s got good timing, good length, good range and he’s most certainly the number one fighter in the light heavyweight division, I’m convinced of that.
BoxingScene.com - So you had plenty of soul searching to do?
NC - Yeah, a lot of soul searching, a bit of time off living a normal life and then seeing where I’m at, finding where my heart is at. Have I got that hunger to strive for that world title again to be the best again, to be number one. After a bit of time out I found that desire and that’s what put me back in the boxing ring. I feel fresh and invigorated at the new weight, enjoying it, I’m in a good place. Things are good right now.
BoxingScene.com - How close were you from walking away?
NC - There were temptations because the first career defeat was such a blow to me. It did cross my mind because I’m the kind of fighter who if you look at my background I don’t really need boxing but ultimately after the break I followed my heart and my heart is to be a fighter.
BoxingScene.com - What made you decide to stay in the sport?
NC - Just the buzz, the adrenaline I get from boxing and the fact I didn’t want to go out on a low like that. And I think all these years of hard work it would be stupid to throw it away. So get back in the gym, get back working and get back my head back in the game and lets go and get that world title again. I genuinely believe I can do it.
BoxingScene.com - During that time you made a few changes to your team?
NC - Big changes. Change of trainer, change of promotional outfit, change of weight. So three big changes in my boxing career.
Change of trainer, I felt I needed to freshen up, change of voice to take the responsibility away from my dad who’s under a lot of pressure watching and training his son for the big match ups. I felt I needed to take the responsibility away, freshen up, a new voice a young enthusiastic trainer in Darren Wilson.
In terms of promotionally I was made a good offer by Eddie Hearn at Matchroom with Sky Sports behind him and backing me. It was a tough choice to break that loyalty with Frank Warren but I had to do what I felt was best for my career and to be showcased on Sky again and Eddie is doing everything right at the moment. I’ve been happy with the offer and the way he’s working.
The change in weight which is probably the most crucial thing for me, that’s the biggest factor for me because by changing weight we’re going to see the best in me again and I’m going to push on and aim to be world champion.
BoxingScene.com - When you look at the cruiserweight division what are your thoughts?
NC - It’s getting exciting, the division is heating up, there’s quite a few big names in the cruiserweight division now and it’s starting to spice up a bit, some cracking fights to be made. If you look at the world champions they’re all quality fighters, there’s not one weak world champion in the cruiserweight division. All strong, they have there different strengths but I think you can move quite fast through this cruiserweight division and get that opportunity, that’s a bonus and I’m looking to get an opportunity quite soon I suppose and give it a go again.
BoxingScene.com - Do you think it works to your benefit to have a few fights at the new weight to get used to the weight?
NC - Yeah most definitely. I need a few fights at this weight, it’s a massive jump up in weight and these guys are big strong guys, experienced, established at the weight. I need to earn my shot, I’m prepared to do that by steadily working my way up the ladder and in that time I can gain valuable experience at this new weight, bit by bit increasing the standard of opposition and eventually and hopefully ending up with that world title shot.
BoxingScene.com - What goals do you have in boxing?
NC - To become two-weight world champion, that’s the ultimate.
BoxingScene.com - In closing do you have a message for your new division?
NC - Exciting times for the cruiserweight division, its heating up, some spicy fights to be made, there’s some experienced, established professionals in this division and now there’s young fresh blood in this division as well so there’s a good balance. It’s going to be an exciting few years in this once boring division. I think it’s come alive again.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright