This past Saturday, approximately 7,500 fans were on hand to see former WBO light heavyweight titleholder Nathan Cleverly rise from the ashes of his destruction to Russian puncher Sergey Kovalev, but one man, although happy with the result, was unimpressed by the Welshman’s successful cruiserweight debut.
Two-time light heavyweight title challenger Tony Bellew was working as a ringside analyst for Sky Sports, in the UK, when Cleverly dispatched Trinidad and Tobago journeyman Shawn Corbin in two rounds and, with time to ponder the action, the Liverpool puncher was anything but lost for words when it came to his domestic nemesis.
“He got the job done and fair play to him,” said Bellew, who is slated to face Cleverly in a rematch this November. “Corbin didn’t want to be there and got knocked out in two rounds, just like he did against Karo Murat years ago. There’s safe and then there’s Shawn Corbin, and the guy isn’t even close to being a natural cruiserweight.”
Just as is the case between British super middleweight rivals Carl Froch and George Groves, there are bucket loads of bad blood when it comes to Bellew and Cleverly. In October 2011, following months of poisonous pre-fight hype, Cleverly outpointed the Liverpool star by majority decision and that wound has never truly healed.
“There’s no respect whatsoever from my side,” said Bellew, when speaking to RingTV.com. “I don’t like him because I showed respect after our fight, whereas he went around talking s__t. He said he beat me easily, which he didn’t; he said he didn’t get out of second gear in the fight, which is crazy, and he said he beat me with two broken ribs, which is yet more s__t.
“Cleverly didn’t give me any credit and that’s what infuriated me and pissed me off as the weeks went by, and it still winds me up to this day. When I beat him in this rematch there will be no shaking hands, and no pleasantries, because I really want to hurt this guy. To be honest I want to smash his f_cking head in.”
Before “The Bomber” is allowed off the leash, he has a summer date against the highly unpredictable TBA.
“I’m back in Liverpool in July,” said Bellew, who will co-headline with Cleverly at the Echo Arena. “As soon as I know who I’m fighting I’ll let everyone else know, which is why Eddie (Hearn) is probably holding back from telling me, because he knows that I can’t keep my big mouth shut.
“I won’t be fighting Shawn Corbin, I can tell you that much. I don’t see the point in training my arse off for 10 weeks to fight someone of that caliber. I want to fight career cruiserweights and make a statement. Corbin made Valery Brudov look like f__kin Ivan Drago.”
In terms of public demand, the only British showdowns which rival Cleverly vs. Bellew 2 is the Froch and Groves rematch, which is a reality, and Carl Frampton versus Scott Quigg, which resides in the fantasy section at the present time.
Can Bellew and Cleverly produce the type of frenetic action which wowed the fans three years ago?
“The rematch won’t be as good, because it will be a lot shorter,” said Bellew, suggesting that he wins by early and decisive knockout. “I’m not drained at cruiserweight and that is the deciding factor here. I was coming down from 210 pounds to 175 and that takes something from you. I was great against Cleverly for seven rounds and then I ran out of gas.
“That won’t happen at cruiserweight.”
Bellew, like most professionals, wants to be crowned world champion, but this reporter got the distinct impression that career goals are on hold until he settles business with the man whom he has become inextricably linked.
“I don’t even see how fighting Nathan Cleverly gets me close to a world title shot, if I’m being honest. I’m fighting him purely for personal reasons.”
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing