It took over three years, but tonight Tony Bellew (23-2-1, 14KO’s) exacted revenge over arch rival Nathan Cleverly (28-2, 14KO’s) in Liverpool with a split decision victory.
The opening rounds of the fight saw Bellew loading up with huge shots, most of which were being blocked and deflected by a high Cleverly guard. For his part, Cleverly was pawing with a weak jab and whilst light on his feet in the opening rounds, he soon slowed down as the rounds progressed.
After round eight, and a closely fought battle, Cleverly seemed to tire dramatically due to the action and pace set by his 31 year old opponent; Bellew’s work rate was relentless at times. Cleverly’s notorious mobility and speed had eluded him, he was static and Bellew smelt blood.
Closing the gap on the Welshman, he started to administer a high work rate up close, throwing strong hooks with both hands and combinations ending with uppercuts; Cleverly was being bullied by Bellew on the ropes and as a result the Liverpool crowd were on song.
Cleverly showed a lot of heart in bobbing, weaving and evading the shots of his opponent during the last four rounds, but it seemed the manufactured 25 pound weight increase to the Cruiserweight limit worked to the detriment of the former WBO light heavyweight world champion. He always did enough to stop referee Steve Gray stepping in to call a halt to the action, with short counters off the ropes, but in the end it wasn’t nearly enough.
The big question surrounding the fight once it had finished was the lack of right hands thrown by Cleverly. Throughout the whole encounter, the 26 year old threw around 20 shots, leading to speculation a serious hand injury could have scuppered his progress in the bout.
Split decision scores of 115-113, 116-112 Bellew and 113-115 Cleverly raised eye brows, but ultimately the deserved winner was recognised.
A rubber match third contest was discussed at the final bell in ring by Nathan Cleverly, but it’s likely Bellew will now go on to face WBO champion Marco Huck in Germany, in what will be his third attempt at capturing world honours.