New WBO light heavyweight titleholder Nathan Cleverly will make his first defense against Polish journeyman Alexy Kuliemski on Saturday, not Liverpool's Tony Bellew.
Bellew, 28, was selected Wednesday as a late replacement for injured German Juergen Braehmer, whose latest no-show has resulted in the WBO stripping him of his title and handing it to Cleverly.
But, just hours after Cleverly and Belew were involved in a fiery, foul-mouthed pre-fight press conference on Thursday, it emerged the new challenger had failed a preliminary weight check by the British Boxing Board of Control.
And, amid fears Bellew could not ‘safely’ get down to the required 175-pound limit before Friday’s weigh-in, promoter Frank Warren was left with no option but to have Kuliemski, 34, replace Bellew.
“I just hope this is the end of it,” Warren said. “It’s been a complete nightmare, firstly with Braehmer pulling out and now this. Tony wanted the fight and was desperate for his chance. That’s understandable. I allowed myself to get talked into it.
“But he couldn’t make the weight criteria and safety always comes first. We considered an overweight contest but then felt that wouldn’t be fair on Nathan. He’s ready to fight at (175 pounds) and would have be giving away maybe as much as 10 to 12 pounds.
"That's not on. That would have been good for the punters but not for Nathan. I think Nathan is pretty angry by everything that’s happened the week. Yet again, he is facing another opponent. But he will focus on the new fight because he is a professional.
“At least we had the foresight to talk to other fighters and had already lodged the details with the board. It’s a still a fantastic night of boxing, with a nigh-on full house. The show goes on.”
Meanwhile, super middleweight prospects James DeGale and George Groves, who put their respective British and Commonwealth titles on the line on the same O2 card, have staked their fight purses on the outcome.
“The drinks will be on me, the ugly boy is going down” said DeGale, the 2008 Olympic gold medal winner.