Nathan Cleverly lost his WBO light heavyweight title to Sergey Kovalev in August 2013, and after some soul-searching and a move to cruiserweight, the 27-year-old Welshman is ready for Saturday's grudge rematch with Tony Bellew in Liverpool, and is looking at a world title in 2015.
Cleverly (28-1, 14 KO) has fought twice as a cruiserweight since being blasted by Kovalev, stopping also-rans Shawn Corbin and Alejandro Emilio Valori. Bellew (22-2-1, 14 KO) also has two cruiserweight fights under his belt, following a WBC title challenge and loss against Adonis Stevenson in November 2013.
The two rivals fought in October 2011 as light heavyweights, Cleverly escaping with his a majority decision victory in an exciting, action-packed fight that had plenty of personal animosity. Tensions between the two have gotten worse if anything since then, and Cleverly isn't looking to make friends with another fight:
"[T]his grudge match is fuelling my fire and I'm raring to go. ... Too much has been said so I'll just turn up in Liverpool, take care of business, get my hand raised, fulfill my media commitments and leave him with another defeat. With the things he's said, and the way he's acted, that's what he deserves."
If he's successful against Bellew, Cleverly could soon look to challenge one of the four titleholders at cruiserweight: Yoan Pablo Hernandez (IBF), Marco Huck (WBO), Grigory Drozd (WBC), or Denis Lebedev (WBA). Cleverly says he prefers Hernandez, who also holds The RING championship, and faces Ola Afolabi on December 6 in Germany.
"He's a good fighter, well-schooled, but I believe my style would give him a lot of trouble. He struggled against Firat Arslan and I would be all wrong for him. I'd fancy that one big time."
Is championship gold in Cleverly's future at cruiserweight? Time will tell, but it really starts with Bellew on Saturday night. This is not just a personal rivalry, but a must-win fight for both men, at least if they hope to make a move in the division next.