By Chris LaBate
Echo Arena, Liverpool - In a war of wills, Nathan Cleverly (23-0, 11KOs) won a twelve round majority decision over previously undefeated Tony Bellew (16-1, 10KOs) to retain the WBO light heavyweight title. The scores were 114-114, 116-113, 117-112.
As soon as the first bell rang, they both came right to the middle of the ring and started going to work. A very fast pace with both boxers landing well on the inside. A few good rights by Cleverly in the final minute.
Bellew started well in the second, landing hard shots to stun Cleverly, who recovered well and taunted him. A jabbing battle in the third. They were fighting on even terms, with Bellew displaying much faster hands than expected. Bellew's face was starting to show signs of swelling.
Bellew outjabbing and outworking Cleverly in the fourth. Bellew throwing a lot to the head and body. Cleverly was slipping a lot of the punches, but not throwing a lot of punches in return.
They were trading bodyshots in the fifth. When Bellew pressed Cleverly against the ropes, they were trading shots. Cleverly spun him around and landed a bad low blow. The referee gave Bellew a moment to recover. Cleverly winning the battle of punches at the end.
They went back to an inside fight in the sixth, with bodyshots being exchanged. Cleverly seemed fresher and the pace was starting to take a toll on Bellew. In the seventh they were trading a lot of punches. Bellew was more active and he was really taking the fight to Cleverly.
Another active war of punches in the eight. Cleverly was landing cleaner and outworked Bellew by a few punches. The ninth round was a boxing match. Bellew was winning the jabbing contest and coming foward to push Cleverly back.
Bellew was more active and Cleverly was more accurate in the tenth. In the final minute of the tenth, Bellew landed two big right hands when he pinned Cleverly against the ropes. Cleverly's legs dipped for a moment, but he stayed on his feet and continued to fight.
Cleverly was on his feet, moving and jabbing in the eleventh. Bellew was coming forward, applying pressure and trying to land something big. Cleverly stopped moving in the final minute, as they came in close to trade punches to the head and body. Cleverly came on strong in the final twenty seconds.
They came out swinging in the twelfth round. Hard punches were being landed by both. They stood on the inside trading. Bellew's shots were harder and Cleverly was more accurate and busier in close quarters. Cleverly was coming forward, as Bellew seemed to be very tired. They traded a few punches to close the round.