Nathan Cleverly has launched a stinging attack at WBO light heavyweight titleholder Juergen Braehmer after the German’s sudden withdrawal from their weekend clash in London.
Braehmer pulled out early Wednesday, citing a cut eye picked up in training as the reason for his no-show. But the unbeaten Welsh challenger, who is expected to be named the new titleholder in the next few hours, claims that was just an excuse and has accused the 32-year-old of running scared.
''It's very unprofessional. He's ducked out of the fight as far as I'm concerned. He's let everybody down," Cleverly said on Sky Sports News. “To be fair, I knew he didn't want to fight. And he's proved it. I know he’s a temperamental character and that's why I was always anxious whether he would turn up.
"It was an awesome fight on paper, he was getting paid well, so why not just come and fight? I just can't understand the mentality. At least lose your title in the ring and go down fighting. But he's taken the easy route and decided not to fight me."
The race is on for Cleverly's manager, Frank Warren, to find another opponent for Cleverly who is suitable to the WBO and a pay-per-view television audience that also will see the all-British super middleweight scrap between James DeGale and George Groves.
Commonwealth champion Tony Bellew, from Liverpool, is now considered the favorite to step in. The 28-year-old, ranked No. 14 by the WBO, tweeted late Wednesday that the fight was “getting close.”
Warren, who learned about Braehmer's injury on the internet, said: "We are talking to a few fighters who have got good records and are ranked. It’s just a matter of trying to agree terms with one of them."
Whatever happens with those negotiations, Warren expects Cleverly to be the WBO titleholder before Saturday and then make an immediate first defense.
"What we believe will happen – we’re just waiting for official confirmation – is that Nathan will be declared champion and we’re looking for an opponent for him to defend against on Saturday," he said.
Picking up the belt in such hollow fashion is certainly not what Cleverly, 25, had in mind.
"I am devastated because this was the fight I really wanted, " he said. "I have been training for Braehmer for over a year now. He had the world title and I badly wanted to get that off him – with style, in the ring.
"I don't know if I will be elevated to world champion but, as far as I'm concerned, I'm still fighting on Saturday night – against a random opponent – for the world title. My celebrations begin when I get the business done."