Cleverly doesn’t see the fight going the distance…
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Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew will step in the ring to face each other for a second time to settle their feud in Liverpool on Saturday night, but which fighter will come out victorious?
Cleverly has the advantage of having already beaten his opponent, after he secured a points decision to defend his light-heavyweight title in Liverpool back in 2011.
While many believed that the fight was close, the Welshman did enough to edge the decision on two of the judges scorecards and he simultaneously proved his heart and determination by winning in a hostile environment.
Nevertheless, the dream came crashing down against Sergey Kovalev, and the 27-year-old was forced to consider his options, which he confessed included retirement, after losing his unbeaten record at the hands of the big-hitting Russian.
However, after a lengthy hiatus from the ring, he returned and made the step up to the cruiserweight division and ultimately he has been on a collision course with Bellew from the outset.
Victories against Shawn Corbin and Alejandro Valori allowed him to settle, although there were some question marks in the fight with the latter, and he believes he is ready to now lock horns with his domestic rival again.
Cleverly certainly has the athleticism, speed and stamina to thrive at the top level, and he will look to put pressure on Bellew in order to back him up and take the fight to him with his usual busy fighting style.
While he may not possess the same level of power as his opponent, Cleverly can systematically break down his opponents with regular hard shots, and he will hope that will be the case on Saturday night as he looks to stop Bellew within 12 rounds.
In addition, given his cool, calm and collected personality in the build-up many experts believe that he will be able to control his emotions better on the night. Cleverly has arguably tried to wind his rival up further by refusing to be drawn in by his fiery temper, although things might still change with the final press conference and weigh-in still to come.
Naturally, there is a risk factor here from both a psychological and physical standpoint in that it remains to be seen how Cleverly deals with Bellew’s power. The Merseysider believes that the defeat to Kovalev has broken his rival mentally, and if he starts to land heavy shots then things might start to unravel for Cleverly who at this stage is confident that he can absorb those ‘bombs’ and come back with his own.
However, he is also confident that his speed and ability to avoid punches will minimise the threat of his opponent, and in turn he will be able to catch him regularly. Many believe that the move up in weight category suits Bellew more, but Cleverly will be keen to prove that he is stronger, more powerful and more durable with the extra weight.
Ultimately, Cleverly is the faster, sharper and more athletic fighter of the pair, and he has the tools to produce a repeat performance on Saturday. There are inevitably questions about both fighters at cruiserweight, but the Welshman knows what to expect at the Echo Arena and he will look to dictate the fight tempo and gain control early on.
Prediction: If Cleverly wins, it will be on a points decision.