Tony Bellew would like another crack at Nathan Cleverly. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
British light heavyweight champion Tony Bellew wants a rematch with WBO titleholder Nathan Cleverly, and the 29-year-old Liverpool fighter says he's willing to travel to Wales -- and then some -- to make it happen. From ESPN UK:
"I'll fight him tomorrow, I'll fight him in Wales," Bellew said. "Hey, I'll fight him in his back garden. I still consider myself an unbeaten fighter."
Bellew (17-1, 11 KO) lost a closer-than-expected decision to Cleverly (24-0, 11 KO) on October 15 of last year in a highly entertaining fight that drew a strong crowd in Bellew's hometown, where he's become a legitimate draw.
The 25-year-old Cleverly has since seen his opposition scaled back by promoter Frank Warren, as the two tried in vain to sell a fight in February with Tommy Karpency, whose claims to fame are being a nurse and once sparring with Roy Jones Jr, and were again under fire for dodgy matchmaking for a fight that was scheduled this weekend, as Cleverly was to face German also-ran Robin Krasniqi on Saturday before pulling out late due to illness.
Bellew, meanwhile, made his return to the ring this weekend with a sharp, one-sided beatdown of Danny McIntosh. While Bellew may never become world class, he looked to strike a balance on Friday between his old, balls-out reckless style, and the smarter style he's tried to incorporate over his last few fights. At this point, having seen it once and getting the feeling that Cleverly and Warren are a bit timid about who they'll fight, there's a very real chance that Tony Bellew could upset Nathan Cleverly if the two were to be matched again.
Most difficult making a rematch will be whether or not Frank Warren has interest in doing so. When Warren first brought the fight up last year in a bogus bit of fake matchmaking in the spring -- when Juergen Braehmer ducked out of his fight with Cleverly at the last minute, and then Bellew couldn't fight because he was too heavy -- most thought Warren was setting up the limited Bellew for a fall to one of his golden boys. When he actually did make the fight, most still expected Cleverly to box circles around Bellew. It didn't happen.
Warren is heavily invested in Cleverly's future and is well-known for protecting his golden geese (and boys -- loads of gold here), particularly if he can go around calling Cleverly "world champion." If Warren and his matchmakers see trouble, they're going to do their best to shelter Cleverly from tough fights. Most worrisome for Cleverly's actual future instead of his protected future is that Bellew is not someone world class fighters should be fearing -- he's a solid fighter who has made strides, but he's not someone who should be a threat to actual world-class operators. Cleverly may not actually be one.
But it's also a fight that would make money again in Liverpool. Cleverly had a hard time drawing a crowd for the Karpency fight at home, a promotion which saw Warren almost attempting to shame boxing fans into buying tickets with the old, "This is a world champion coming home and he might not fight here too many more times, so you should definitely come to this big party-like event and celebrate his greatness" routine, and those who did come were certainly not entertained with the main event, which was a glorified sparring session.
We'll see what shakes out, but unfortunately I have the feeling that Cleverly vs Bellew II might be a bit bigger a risk than Warren wants to take right now.