By Shaun Brown
Nathan Cleverly 26-1 (12 KOs) is looking at the bigger picture should a rematch with Tony Bellew 21-2-1 (13 KOs) be made later this year. Since the build-up to their first fight in Oct 2011 their rivalry has been fiery and has often spilled over when either face to face, during interviews or more recently on Twitter.
Cleverly, who returns to the ring against Sean Corbin on May 17 in Cardiff, is looking to make a successful debut at cruiserweight just like his British rival did when stopping Valery Brudov in 12 rounds last month in Liverpool.
The next fight or two for Cleverly is all about the Welshman establishing himself at his new weight and if taking on Bellew again, who he beat when defending his WBO light heavyweight title, is part of that path then the 27-year-old is happy to meet that head on.
“I think if we’re being realistic it’s a natural fight that will happen,” Cleverly told BoxingScene. “After the first fight a lot of people have said to me ‘What’s the point? You’ve won, why give him the rematch?’ But I look at the bigger picture. It’s a potentially easy fight to make, financially it’s a fight that would benefit us and it will attract a lot of boxing attention. It’s the type of fight that would be a good gateway to a title shot. It makes sense and if that’s the fight we’ve gotta do then so be it. I’m more than happy to do that rematch.”
After their initial encounter in front of a partisan pro-Bellew crowd three years ago, the two were interviewed on the ring apron in front of the BoxNation cameras. Bellew was emotional, but both were respectful of one another and even embraced after an absorbing 12 round contest. I asked Cleverly, in his opinion, why has the bad blood resurfaced?
“After the fight natural instinct kicked in. We just put up a great performance against each other. He got my respect from putting up an excellent fight and my respect for being a fighter because I know what it takes to be a fighter at this level. Likewise, I got his respect as well. That was the genuine feeling at the final bell. That was real.
“What happened during the time after was a lot of people had spoken to Tony. Close friends and people around him were saying they thought he won the fight. Bit by bit, I think he started believing that. He obviously seen me go on to defend my [world] title and move on with my career. It kind of hurt him and it kicked in afterwards.
“Reality kicked in that he had his first loss. Bit by bit in the press he was starting to say a few things and started to believe what he wanted to hear. I genuinely believe, watching the fight back, it was a good close fight but that I won the fight. I think it hurt him and he’s never got over it to this day. He’s been a sore loser over it and he’s said a few disrespectful things. He’s been very bitter and it’s opened up again.”
Keep an eye out for a more in-depth interview on BS this week with Cleverly as he speaks about his move to cruiserweight, his life after his first professional loss to Sergey Kovalev and much more.