By Phil Barnett, Press Association Sport
Tony Bellew believes last week’s “electric” face-off with Nathan Cleverly has lit the touchpaper for an inevitable world title scrap.
The Liverpudlian is still getting over “the darkest 36 hours of my life” after he was granted a shock world title shot at Cleverly last Thursday and engaged in a fiery press conference, only to pull out hours later due to problems making the weight.
The unbeaten Commonwealth champion then watched on as Welsh rival Cleverly, defending his WBO light-heavyweight belt for the first time, beat Poland’s Aleksy Kuziemski inside four rounds on Saturday.
Promoter Frank Warren has confirmed to Press Association Sport he hopes to match the pair later this year and Bellew believes the buzz created by their angry exchange last week has at least whetted the public’s appetite.
“He doesn’t like me and I don’t like him,” the 28-year-old Evertonian told Press Association Sport.
“I genuinely cannot stand the sight of Nathan Cleverly. When I see his face I want to punch it. I don’t like it. I was close at the press conference.
“If I’d got the other side of Frank I would have walloped him.
“Nathan Cleverly is intimidated by me. Deep down, when he goes to bed at night, when he closes his door, when he is all alone, Nathan Cleverly is scared of Tony Bellew. I know that. He is intimidated by me.”
The feisty press conference had to be taken off air by Sky Sports News as Bellew and Cleverly nearly came to blows and exchanged numerous profanities.
Bellew, however, believes the publicity it generated will boost his chances of securing the fight he craves.
He said: “It was electric and everyone wanted to see the fight. I was told the pay-per-view sales had started to go absolutely crazy after the press conference. Everyone wants to see the fight now and it’s just a case of the public demanding it happens and Sky wanting it to happen.
“Frank Warren knows the business so he’s obviously going to want this fight to happen. He knows it is a money-spinner, it’s massive, and if you ask me it’s got pay-per-view written all over it.
“That press conference has done something like 10,000 hits on YouTube. It’s crazy. There were 5,000 people going to tune in in Liverpool to that pay-per-view fight, just on the back of that press conference.
“A thousand Evertonians were willing to get on trains, buses, to do whatever they had to do to get to London for it. I would have been bringing crazy numbers with me to the O2 Arena. Hopefully it can get done and we can see it done as soon as possible.”
Warren told Press Association Sport he will meet with Cleverly to sound him out soon.
“Obviously a lot depends on what Nathan wants to do,” the promoter said. “It’s obviously a natural fight. I’m seeing Nathan next week and we’ll chat about it.
“Obviously Tony wants it but there’s no doubt it would be a huge fight, I’m quite confident of that. Last week showed that.”
As for the heartache of last week’s turbulent events, Bellew - who fights Ovill McKenzie in a rematch for the Commonwealth and British belts on July 16 - said: “Everyone forgets that I felt like I had the winning lottery ticket in my hand and then I lost it down the drain.
“It was one of the darkest 36 hour periods I’ve had in my whole life, that weekend.”