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Cleverly vs Kovalev: Preview and picks from the Bad Left Hook staff

Will Nathan Cleverly stay unbeaten and retain his WBO light heavyweight title tomorrow in Cardiff, or is it Sergey Kovalev's time to truly shine on the bigger stage?

Michael Steele

Ryan Bivins

Cleverly-Kovalev is a 50/50 fight. How do I know that? Well that's what the great Bernard Hopkins told me. I trust his judgment. Anyways, I like Kovalev by KO in the 1st half of the fight or Cleverly by KO / decision in the second half. Nazim Richardson told me he's never seen a John David Jackson fighter get hurt and comeback to win a fight. He didn't say it never happened, just that he'd never seen it. I couldn't think of any counter example off the top of my head when he told me that either. He said they all can punch, like Kovalev, but when they get cracked back they fall apart. It sounded about right to me. So what happens when Kovalev gets cracked? We'll see...or we won't. **** it. Kovalev KO6.

Scott Christ

Make no mistake, this is a step up for both men. While Kovalev is certainly better than Karpency, Hawk, and Robin Krasniqi, which has been the meat of Cleverly's rather laughable "world title" reign, Cleverly is a pretty good step up from Cornelius White and Lionell Thompson, too, and while Campillo is a good fighter and Kovalev trucked him, I happen to believe Vince Cleverly is 100% right when he says that Campillo, a notorious slow starter, was always an easy mark for a guy like Kovalev, who starts really damn fast.

I love this fight, and I expect it to be a really good one for however long it lasts. We don't know much if anything about Kovalev's stamina, but I do know for a fact that Nathan Cleverly can go 12 rounds and throw punches in bunches for all of them. He's a very active, very fit fighter, and one of the reasons that I've been so harsh on his schedule is that I think this is a guy who can really fight. If Kovalev is what he's cracked up to be, he's going to stop Nathan Cleverly, and he's going to be bashing through guys better than Cleverly for a while before he slows down. But if he's not, Nathan Cleverly is really dangerous here. His workrate and his solid, arguably underrated ability should make for a really nice style clash, and I don't know what it is, but I'm going on my gut and going with Cleverly to prove out. I think he'll be able to push through the first few rounds, even if he gets into trouble, and from there, I can see him taking over this fight and making Kovalev look a bit more like a plodder than we've seen to date. Cleverly by decision.

Fraser Coffeen, Bloody Elbow

Fantastic fight right here between two men who really have earned a shot on HBO. It's a real shame that one of them has to lose, but that's what happens when you have a well made fight. I wish this was being aired live on HBO, but it is what it is. Obviously, this one is all about those first three rounds, as that's when Kovalev will be at his most dangerous. He'll be gunning for that early KO, and if Cleverly can survive those rounds, I see him being able to outbox Kovalev and put together a decision win. But that's a huge "if", and I don't think Cleverly can do it. Kovalev is on the rise, and this is his time to use his power to announce himself. Kovalev KO-3.

Tom Craze

I've been looking forward to this fight for a long time - on paper, it has all the ingredients to be one hell of a fight. Let's discount the notion that Kovalev is going to win a decision here. Doing so on the road is hard enough - regardless of the fact that, technically, he appears to be the sounder of the two - but Cleverly's sheer activity rate, one of the best in the game, is bound to catch the attention of the judges. There's no doubt he'll be the busier fighter of the two if given the chance.

All of that said, while a Cleverly decision appears the logical pick, there's no doubting this is an altogether different test for the Welshman. Kovalev has been spectacular of late, and assuming he doesn't entirely fail to replicate the kind of form he showed against Campillo, he could send the home crowd home very unhappy, and very early. This ain't Shawn Hawk, etc. Kovalev TKO5.

Kory Kitchen

This could be a very underrated matchup. We know Kovalev is going to come forward and, despite it being best suited for Cleverly to box, I get the feeling he is going to stand and trade right with Kovalev. Kovalev's aggression is both his strength and his weakness. He clearly overwhelms his opponents with his offense, but is prone to squaring his feet and leaving himself open. This is where Cleverly has to take advantage, and if he can keep a jab in Kovalev's face, it could be a long night for the Russian contender.

But I think it is Cleverly who will have the long night. Cleverly is good but I don't think he has the ability to keep Kovalev off the whole night. He'll smack his opponent with some good shots, but Kovalev will soak them up and keep coming. It will look ugly at times but Kovalev will grind Cleverly down and get him out of there. Kovalev TKO-8.

Dave Oakes

If Kovalev can catch Cleverly clean then he has a good chance of winning, especially early in the fight. If he can't catch Cleverly clean, he's in for a long night. I expect the Welshman to box Kovalev's ears off for 95% of the fight, it's the other 5% that will be dangerous for Cleverly. If he can keep his concentration, box sensibly and not take unnecessary risks, Cleverly should be able to box his way to a wide-ish points victory around the 117-111 mark. Cleverly by decision.

Final Tally: Sergey Kovalev 4, Nathan Cleverly 2.

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