Tony Bellew gained sweet revenge this evening with a split decision victory over bitter rival Nathan Cleverly in his hometown of Liverpool. In doing so, Bellew (who moves on to 23-2) established himself as mandatory challenger to the WBO Cruiserweight World Champion Marco ‘Captain’ Huck.
It’s often the case that rematches just fail to deliver on their promise of a repeat of what had gone before. Tonight the Liverpool Echo Arena bore witness to one such occasion, when Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew met for the second time to settle their long-standing bitter feud, in the full view of the PPV cameras.
The fight just didn’t catch fire; developing into a cagey affair early with Cleverly (now 28-2) content to circle the ring flicking out a defensive jab that inflicted little or no damage to the stalking Bellew, whose work seemed forced and in the main off target. The fight would follow a similar pattern throughout the early and middle rounds and you picked what you preferred. Personally, I liked the more business like Bellew, who although inaccurate for the most part was forcing the fight, whereas Cleverly although elusive refused to throw any meaningful shots, particularly the right hand (Injury was ruled out immediately after the fight).
As the fight wore on, Bellew’s natural strength at the Cruiserweight limit started to tell landing a big left hook midway through the 9th round, to take what was left of the Welshman ambitions of victory and ultimately turn the fight in his favour. It was the only real punch of note in the fight and it was decisive, such is the depreciation of the former World Champion at 14st 4lbs.
Cleverly spent the last 4 rounds with his back to the ropes being overwhelmed by the marauding Bellew who dragged 12 minutes of work from his tired body on sheer will to win to take all of the last 4 rounds by clear margins. Cleverly was spent and deserves credit for the tremendous courage it must have taken to remain on his feet, because he had absolutely nothing left.
When it was announced that we had a split decision, Nathan Cleverly was as surprised as anyone else to learn Terry O’Connor had scored in his favour. When justice was done and the arm of Tony Bellew was raised, there was not argument, Cleverly knew himself what had transpired. He is not a Cruiserweight and Tony Bellew is and that is a huge advantage and one that prove decisive on the night.
Bellew now goes on to challenge for Marco Huck’s WBO Cruiserweight World Title, on tonight’s performance that looks a very big ask indeed. Where Nathan Cleverly goes remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure the likeable Welshman does not belong at 14st 4lbs and even if he did it might take Don King to sell the third fight on this evidence.