By James Slater – Tonight on Frank Warren’s big show in Liverpool, unbeaten light-heavyweight star Nathan Cleverly came through the toughest, most frustrating and least impressive fight of his pro career, as he won a messy 12-round UD over late replace foe Nadjib Mohammedi of France.
After 12 rounds that saw few clean punches landed form either side for the most part, the 23-year-old Welshman was awarded with a win by scores of 116-111, 115-112 and 115-113. “Clev,” who picked up the interim version of the WBO 175-pound strap, is now 21-0(10). 25-year-old Mohammedi is now 23-2(12)..
Quite early on in the fight, it was apparent the action would not catch fire. The Frenchman’s tricky, elusive style gave Cleverly fits, and with Mohammedi’s reluctance to throw many shots the fight was hard going for the fans who wanted more activity. Cleverly was doing more in the early rounds, winning them on sheer workrate. However, Mohammedi occasionally showed he could be a dangerous and sharp puncher.
The visitor enjoyed his best spell of the fight in rounds six and seven. Looking more aggressive in the 6th, Mohammedi won his first session on my card. Then, in the 7th, Cleverly was deducted a point for holding. The talented Welshman was also caught with some tasty-looking head shots thrown by the man from France. Given a severe telling off in the corner after the 7th, Cleverly came out and won the 8th.
Mohammedi’s nose was busted up in the 8th, and Cleverly appeared to be back on top of things. The younger man landed a low blow in the 9th, for which Mohammedi was given a brief time out. The fight was and had been messy and awkward all night and fans now knew there would be no KO. Mohammedi was given a warning for careless use of the head in the 9th.
Cleverly still up on his toes in the final couple of rounds, was just edging things due to his workrate and the fact that he was coming forward, trying to make a fight of it. At the end, Cleverly got the points win he deserved, but his triumph was met by boos from the fans.
Post-fight, the Welshman – who may never have as awkward a night for the rest of his career – spoke of how the late replacement factor served to bother him; how he had barely seen any footage of the slick operator from France. Promoter Warren said tonight’s hard fight might do Cleverly some good.
Next year still promises to be a big one for the gifted Welshman many see as the successor to Joe Calzaghe. Against a fighter who wants to fight and fight hard, Cleverly looks a totally different fighter to how he looked tonight.
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