Tony Bellew Still Aching To Get It On With Nathan Cleverly

By James Slater: Proud warrior Tony Bellew has referred to the time that followed his near-fight with “rat” Nathan Cleverly as “the darkest 36 hours of my life.” So fiercely wound up was Bellew at the hastily arranged press conference to announce his coming in at late notice to fight the unbeaten Welshman, that the two suddenly bitter rivals had to be separated by security. Bellew was incensed at what he thought was disrespect from Cleverly, and Nathan’s offer to “take it outside” really lit the blue touch paper!

Bellew wanted to fight right there, and the fact that his subsequent failure to make weight prevented him from having a chance to land some hurt on Cleverly was an almost unbearable one for him. In the words of Muhammad Ali, never had a fighter wanted to whup someone so bad!

But though the fight collapsed on May 21st, unbeaten bomber Bellew has no intentions of forgetting about the fight. Speaking to BBC Sport today, Bellew said he plans to get past the dangerous Ovill McKenzie (in a July 16th rematch of a great fight that saw both guys on the floor) and then finally take out his frustrations on the reigning WBO 175-pound champ.

“The bout with Cleverly is within touching distance,” Liverpool’s Bellew said. “It was the darkest 36 hours of my life [not being able to make the weight for the May 21st fight]. I lost a stone (14-pounds) in 24 hours. I just couldn’t get down any more and I was devastated. My chance will come. I think the exposure and the build-up between myself and Cleverly is now massive. People want to see the fight, people are itching to do it.”

Indeed, the internet sites were buzzing with fans eager to see the hot and heavy grudge-match go ahead after that press conference (which enjoyed many hits on You Tube). But then the potential war was taken away from us. Cleverly may look elsewhere now that he is a “world” champion, with big fights with the likes of Tavoris Cloud on the horizon. But in the eyes of some people, Bellew at the top of the list, “Clev” needs to settle some domestic business first.

Bellew admits he must be focused on again beating former “Prizefighter” winner McKenzie, or he can forget about a fight with the WBO ruler. And the previous fight between the two, which contested Bellew’s Commonwealth title, was a terrific action fight. Many people felt the challenger was stopped prematurely last December (downed in the 8th, after having scored two early-rounds knockdowns of his own, McKenzie was on his feet and seemed okay when the ref waved the action off), and the return was deemed necessary.

Now, with the vacant British title at stake in the rematch, Bellew has the added incentive of shooting for that needed fight with Cleverly. No offence to McKenzie, who calls himself “The Upsetter,” but I hope to see Bellew get a win at The Echo Arena on July 16th - for no other (admittedly selfish) reason than I, like many other British fans, really do want to see who will come out on top between the two bitter rivals who almost punched without payment back on May 20th!

Article posted on 14.06.2011

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