By Nick Parkinson, courtesy of The Daily Star
NATHAN CLEVERLY has threatened to quit if he fails to shut up bitter rival Tony Bellew on Saturday.
The Welshman defends his WBO world light-heavyweight title in front of British and Commonwealth champion Bellew’s home fans in Liverpool – after a bitter war of words between the pair.
Promoter Frank Warren claims the winner will face the victor of the WBC world title clash in America on the same night between golden oldie Bernard Hopkins, 46, and fellow Yank Chad Dawson.
Maths graduate Cleverly is so confident of doing a number on Bellew to set up a world title unification clash next year that he has promised to hang up his gloves if he loses his unbeaten record.
Their rivalry is every bit as intense as the festering feud before last May’s British super-middleweight showdown between George Groves and James DeGale.
Police were even been called to a press conferences to promote the clash but Cleverly, 24, has enjoyed the pre-fight hype.
He said: “Losing isn’t an option, we are both undefeated so it would be hard to accept defeat.
“Our undefeated records are on the line and that is what makes the fight interesting. We are both winners and on the night will be all out to protect our records.
“I would go as far as to say if I lost I would retire. If I was to lose this fight I would definitely get out of the sport. There would be no point in me continuing.
“I won’t get carried away because of our rivalry on the night. I have had 22 fights so I should be expected to deal with that and I am just looking forward. There have been a lot of verbals and pressure. There has been a big build-up and that has been nice.
“When you are fighting an unknown foreigner it takes the spice off the fight – but two Britons is different and there is a rivalry. I’ve enjoyed it.
“When I fought for the world title in May it was on the same bill as Groves-DeGale and that overshadowed it.
“I have got a title that I never want to let go of so there is obviously going to be a rivalry. It is great to have this intensity around the fight.”
Unbeaten Bellew, 28, has blasted bookies for making him the underdog and is looking forward to settling his differences with Cleverly in the ring.
He said: “Every once in a blue moon the bookies drop a b*****k and this is the biggest one they have dropped in a long time.
"People are asking whether this rivalry is real – but put yourself in our shoes.
“You are going in the ring to punch someone’s face as hard as you can and they are trying to punch your face as hard as they can.
“So of course there is rivalry. You don’t go in there with a smile on your face. The bottom line is that I want to smash his face in and he wants to smash my face in.
“This is real and we’re both going in there to win.”
Watch Cleverly v Bellew live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Platform Channel 456) from 6.30pm