17th October 2011
|Nathan Cleverly – By Al Stevenson
The Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew fight certainly didn’t disappoint on Saturday night and after all the pre-fight arguments, hype and ego that were carried into the ring, the showdown lived upto the billing.
The fight went off just as the pre common notion was written – That this meeting wouldn’t be anything but a stormer.
Liverpool was at fever pitch bit time Bellew walked to the ring, the Everton’s Z Cars anthem bellowed out around the acoustics of the Echo Arena, that had become like a coliseum for a royal gladiatorial battle ‘the clash of the unbeaten.’
The crowd went crazy, waving football banners, singing and jumping from their seats they roared there man to the ring and in equal measure booed and heckled the defending WBO world light-heavyweight champion Cleverly as he made his entrance, if we or the Welshman forgot we were in Liverpool then we knew now!
Bellew had cut an intimidating persona in the run up to this clash, he had pursued this fight with Cleverly for a long while, even before this meeting was made the first time. He is an all or nothing fighter, wears his heart on his sleeve, determined, of strong character and all that stuff, and so he proved.. he wasn’t bluffing anyone!
Cleverly equally as equipped in the cliche list of physical and mental attributes, swaggered into the breach and stood at the opening to the arena that awaited him. He paused looked at the crowd and smiled. This kid with the red headband in the style of the great Julio Cesar Chavez really does look like the star of the show, he has an aura of energy that resonates, he is cut out of Welsh rock and fits the part of world champion boxer to a T.
|Tony Bellew – By Al Stevenson
We couldn’t be in for anything but a fight and half here, and we were not disappointed! The pair jolted from there corners and locked horns or punches from the first second of round one to the last second of round twelve. Gladiators we salute you!
No more puns were needed. – But in a nutshell, the fight was ‘six of one and half a dozen of the other’ all the way through!
As the pendulum swung in this toe to toe battle. You just couldn’t split them, the referee rarely had to either.
For the record this writer had it 116-113 in favour of Cleverly. The rounds were tight but the champions punching was that bit sharper and his speed was very telling for a light-heavyweight, Cleverly can shift!
Both proved that they are fighters for the world class stage and matched each other all the way. The distaste before the fight was genuine, make no mistake.
But the tension in the build up had not only helped drill the pair into the best physical shape possible, it mentally dragged them into a place of spite for each other and a will to surpass the challenge that awaited them.
Most thought that Cleverly would box and stay away from Bellew’s bombs, but he chose to throw caution to the wind and became involved in a slug fest with his rival.
Had Bellew in his endeavour, actually managed to rile the dragon in Cleverly to get him to fight his kind of fight? Yes he had! But Cleverly can box and he can fight and he matched Tony in every trade off, both continued to ship as many punches as they were handing out.
Bellew who had stopped 10 of his 16 victims can certainly dig and many believed he had the power to stop Cleverly. Late bets flooded in and tipsters in the know were onto the news that Bellew had been giving a very good account of himself sparring with WBC world champion Carl Froch in his preparations.
|Cleverly lands a hugh right hand – pic by Al Stevenson
Bellew’s wish to goad the world champion into his fight was evident and he received a stern lecture from the referee Richie Davies for a clear headbutt less than 30 seconds into the contest.
But Cleverly responded with a couple of clean lead right hands which put Bellew on the back foot. Cleverly continued to come to Bellew at the start of the second round and as he encroached, Bellew unleashed a combination of solid shots that tested the champion resolve driving him back.
Cleverly signalled to the partisan crowd that he wasn’t hurt and took the fight back to Bellew to attain an equal pegging in the round. The crowd were now truly gripped by the spectacle taking place and the support for Bellew was tremendous, spurring him on to maintain his relentless charge.
|Bellew lands a big left hook on Cleverly’s jaw – pic by Al Stevenson
The action never let up and the work crammed into the first few rounds at the pace that was set had both men sucking the oxygen into their lungs, as they each tried to keep momentum and the upper hand. Both began to make good use of the jab and Bellew was boxing better than we had ever seen him before at times out boxing and having Cleverly at his game
The challenger gained the momentum in the fourth and again took the fight to Cleverly he landed some hurtful body shots, and his rights over the top were posing problems for the champion, in the form of crashing off the side of his head. Although Bellew did have a decent round, he finished it a bit worse for wear with a bloodied nose and reddening eyes.
Cleverly hit Bellew below the buckle in the fifth, Bellew was smarting and the grimace on his face reflected his pain. He took some time to recover, before storming back into a furious tear up on the ropes. Bellew again complained of a low blow and Cleverly was at risk of losing a point. Referee Ritchie Davies was lenient and Cleverly ended the round strong.
|Uppercuts were a telling factor throughout the fight – pic by Al Stevenson
Cleverly was bringing up some devastating uppercuts and landing them on Bellew’s chin, but he didn’t flinch and proved his durability time and again at the pounding of the Welshman’s heavy shots, in-turn Bellew was handing out his own form of a good hiding to Cleverly.
The crowd were right behind the home fighter and pushing him on, but Cleverly was always on his toes and dictating the pace, always ahead, but only just. Bellew was really feeling it as the fight entered the championship rounds and he bit hard on his gumshield and smashed his way through the wall to claim his second wind, catching Cleverly with some bang on uppercuts of his own.
Cleverly upped the anti again the eighth but Bellew fought back in the latter stages that had the referee applauding his effort at the bell. Cleverly seemed to have a round off in the ninth, as Bellew pushed home his advantage.
The champion came back well in the tenth, but was caught by a hugh right from Bellew that sent the spray off his head, the champion again raised his hand insisting that he was not hurt by it, but there was no doubt the punch brought a few stars with it.
|Cleverly retains his title pic by Al Stevenson
But again Cleverly was not to be denied and fought like a champion who was determined to do everything he could to hang onto his treasured world title belt.
And so the fight played out, every punch in the book was thrown by both and absorbed in equal measure in this the penultimate session and mirrored the whole fight.
At the start of the twelfth and final round the customary touching of gloves was replaced by an embrace in respect of each others efforts, before they resumed the task of trying to knock each other cold for a final three minutes.
Bellew shipped a massive right cross and a flurry of hooks from Cleverly who finished the fight the fresher and livelier. The referee had to send Bellews trainer away from ringside near the end of the round and a cheeky left hook from Cleverly ended the fight
Cleverly claimed the last round and ultimately the fight, winning it on the judges scorecards by majority decision. The official totals finished up 114-114 a draw by the first judge, with other two scoring it 116-113, 117-112 in favour of the champion.
Cleverly’s victory was certainly earned and the steely challenge from Bellew was one of a high standard. But it proved that Cleverly is just slightly ahead at this stage of his career than the British and Commonwealth champion Bellew. But the gap is no thicker than a cigarette paper and he can hold his head high for his gallant effort, he will come again and can go on to get another world title shot in the future and one day maybe a rematch, no one would turn that down.
Cleverly though had paid his dues – By fighting in Bellews back yard he had shown the sign of a good champion but fought with the intensity of a starving challenger. But although their lad lost the knowledgeable Liverpool crowd know a good boxer when they see one and Cleverly had earned every ones respect, least Bellew’s and vice versa.
On Saturday night Tony Bellew would have beaten most men who were put in front of him, he was relentless in his approach and boxed like a seasoned pro, a fantastic performance, which kind of explains how good Cleverly was!
Afterwards hostilaties were put aside and a new mutal understanding and respect that only the boxers can experience after pushing each other to the limits was fused. After all the pre fight press conference barneys and hostilities that succeeded in bringing the worse out in each other, they finished up bringing out the best in each other too.
On the way to the Echo Arena in Liverpool my car broke down on the outskirts of the City next to Toxteth Cemetery. I abandoned the vehicle and continued on foot attempting to flag down a taxi to get me there. I eventually met upon some students who were waiting for a pre ordered taxi, I was offered to share a Joe with a guy called Andy from Belfast who was on his way out into town. I eventually got to the Echo and was treated to a top class night of boxing action for my woes. The car was left in Liverpool and I was kindly given a lift back to Mancunia by fight photographer Big Al and Terry Dooley, thanks lads!
full undercard results from the Echo Arena in Liverpool to follow.
By Chris Maylett
Share the post "Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew bring out the best in each other"