By Paul Moon
Some boxing fans were less than impressed with Nathan Cleverly’s WBO light-heavyweight victory over Tony Bellew in October, especially given Cleverly’s desire of unifying the light heavyweight divisions. However, there were circumstances neither known nor recognised that need to be aired before we can look at his next fight in the proper light.
Cleverly sustained an injury to his ribs when sparring with Chris Eubank Jnr. and in a rare acquiescence it was deemed serious enough for the British Boxing Board of Control to authorise a painkilling injection before the fight. The situation demanded a postponement so trainer Vince Cleverly made two anxious calls to the BBBC. Rescheduling was the only option but a pumped-up Nathan Cleverly, not wanting to be labelled a quitter, insisted on fighting despite the subsequent disadvantage.
This gift to Bellew amounted to a lot more than the free hit on the chin Cleverly offered at an earlier press conference. The reported injury had been given to the Board of Control in strict confidence but within minutes the Bellew camp knew of it. This gave the Liverpudlian braggart a fillip to aid his best ever preparation. Consequently the injury was targeted with the champion spending precious fight-time protecting it.
The Frank Warren machine realised that Bellew had reached an ephemeral moment in his boxing career and something unlikely to be repeated. Team Cleverly readily acknowledged his massive effort. Warren confirmed that on that night Bellew would have been a handful to any light heavyweight champion and in turn upgraded the victory.
An aside to the above was the disgraceful behaviour of the Bellew entourage who used phrases like the ‘slitting of throats’ and it was accepted, that in part, the situation got to Cleverly. Despite the injury and intimidation history will record that the boy from Cefn Fforest dealt with and then mastered Bellew in the most challenging of circumstances.
Bellew has since been in the Frank Warren office bellyaching about the result and the latter had to draw a line under proceedings by telling him ‘Tony – you lost, get over it!’ I watched the fight live with famous Welsh trainer Jimmy Bromfield and we both scored it Cleverly by three rounds and whilst the last two rounds influenced the decision they did not affect the result. The scoring given by Enzo Maccarinelli at ringside bordered on farce.
New challenger and southpaw Tommy Karpency has a ranking in the top 15 by the WBO for his 25 February 2012 clash with Cleverly at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. He was ranked 10 by the WBA. This has given the fight added patina along with the fact that the American has not been stopped in 24 fights with just two losses.
When putting those statistics to Vince Cleverly he told Betfair: “We have spotted a fundamental flaw and aim to make full use of it - the fight will be over before the tenth round. Karpency jabs from too low a position leaving him open to shots across the top.”
Nathan added: “The Battle of Bellew will be long forgotten after this one - for this fight I am physically and mentally in the same place. I will not be denied my homecoming; this is my first fight in Wales since 2007 and I want to win it looking good.”
The fight will be viewed on American TV with WBA champion Beibut Shumenov the most interested. Team Cleverly have targeted him but he is nervous about coming to the UK and wants to fight in the comfort of Las Vegas with the lion share of the purse.
It was both interesting and dishonest to hear the Shumenov team say that they had not been offered the fight, but people close to the Cleverly camp have categorically confirmed that he was. Apart from home comforts and the majority purse, he (Shumenov), wants the safety-net that of home soil.
Vince Cleverly adamantly believes elderly WBC champion Bernard Hopkins would not be able to cope with his son’s non-stop combative action and the latter has already shown marked reluctance in signing up for a fight and that leaves least able Tavoris Cloud the IBF champion. He has just claimed a controversial split decision verdict over Gabriel Campillo - the latter and most neutrals thought the verdict a disgrace. He remains the weakest of the four light heavyweight champions and is also on Cleverly’s radar.