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Brähmer vs Cleverly: Fight preview and analysis

Jürgen Brähmer and Nathan Cleverly square off on Saturday. Who’s got the advantage?

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

This Saturday on Sky Sports (UK), Nathan Cleverly travels to Germany to face Jürgen Brähmer for Brähmer’s WBA "world" light heavyweight title, a fight five years in the making.

Here’s a look at the matchup.

Jürgen Brähmer vs Nathan Cleverly

Jürgen Brähmer

Juergen Braehmer v Eduard Gutknecht  - WBA Light Heavyweight World Championship Photo by Boris Streubel/Bongarts/Getty Images

Record: 48-2 (35 KO) ... Streak: W17 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'11½" / 71½" ... Age: 37

Thoughts: Brähmer is one of those fighters who seems both underrated and overrated. He’s underrated because he doesn’t get brought up much in most conversations as one of the world’s better light heavyweights. He’s overrated because he doesn’t fight anyone good, like, ever, so his record is a mirage, as is his status as WBA "world" champion.

Brähmer can fight, though. He’s a good boxer, gets the most out of a relatively small frame at the weight, is clever, and is, at worst, an above average fighter.

The problem is his résumé doesn’t tell you any of that, and it could also mean that the eye test he does pass could be faulty, too. He’s on a winning streak that dates back to 2009, but who has he beaten? The most notable names in that run are Dmitry Sukhotsky back in 2009, and Enzo Maccarinelli in 2014. Not exactly the cream of the crop.

Brähmer and Cleverly were set to meet in 2011 in the United Kingdom, a fight that was canceled suddenly when Brähmer pulled out due to a cut suffered in training, at least officially. There was and is some belief that Brähmer simply may not be able to actually leave Germany, thanks to his status as an ex-con with multiple jail stints.

But now, Brähmer has the leverage in the situation. Cleverly has seen his career hit a wall, and is coming off of a loss. So going to Germany for a title shot makes all the sense in the world for him, even if he’s worried about bad officiating or whatever else. And for Brähmer, he gets a chance to beat a guy a lot of people thought he avoided years ago.

Nathan Cleverly

Andrzej Fonfara v Nathan Cleverly Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

Record: 29-3 (15 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 3-2 ... Last 10: 7-3 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’1½" / 74" ... Age: 29

Thoughts: Nathan Cleverly was once a promising light heavyweight prospect who was basically given a world title and called world champion. He is now a veteran who has found his ceiling, and the question on Saturday is whether or not Jürgen Brähmer is above or below that ceiling.

Cleverly’s run as WBO light heavyweight titleholder from 2011-13 was terrible. His list of opponents: Aleksy Kuziemski, Tony Bellew, Tommy Karpency, Shawn Hawk, and Robin Krasniqi. Those were the men meant to prepare him for Sergey Kovalev, who came to Cardiff on August 17, 2013, and destroyed Cleverly inside of four rounds.

A failed, three-fight stint at cruiserweight saw Cleverly lose a rematch to Bellew in 2014, after which he returned to the 175-pound ranks. Last October, he was beaten to a pulp by Andrzej Fonfara in Chicago, his face mangled and resembling ground beef by the end of the fight.

Cleverly has never really had a standout skill, anything that jumps off the screen. He is a solid fighter, a bit below world class level, but that may also describe Brähmer. Whatever you think of Cleverly, he is Brähmer’s best opponent in years, dating back to the German’s 2008 loss to Hugo Garay.

There will be some question as to what Cleverly has in the tank after the beating he took from Fonfara, because that might have been a career-altering fight, a sort of last stand attempt to break through into the contending ranks. But a win over Brähmer would make Cleverly a champion — a paper champion, yes, but a champion -- and could seriously revitalize his career.

Matchup Grade: C. A lot is on the line in this fight for both. If Brähmer loses, his entire career looks like a complete farce. If Cleverly loses, his career prospects are dim going forward. It’s almost more a "can’t lose" fight than it is "must win." Still, it’s also just not that great a fight. If Cleverly wins, it just shows us that Brähmer was a sham, since we know how Cleverly does against top fighters. If Brähmer wins, it likely shows us that Cleverly was really never as good as he was once thought to be. Not a bad fight, not a good fight, just a fight.

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