Following what was a devastating first loss for Nathan Cleverly, an assessment of what to do next is required.
Cleverly, 26, came into the fight as the WBO light-heavyweight world champion and with an undefeated record of 26-0. I personally expected Cleverly to come through the fight with Kovalev by implementing his boxing skill and being able to take shots better than others due to his great chin.
I was subsequently proven wrong, as Kovalev was absolutely outstanding. He looked relaxed and comfortable early on, remarkable considering that he was the away fighter. He landed huge shots with remarkable accuracy and proved that he is the real deal.
It was a crushing defeat for Cleverly and one that has really knocked him back. If he had come through this fight then he was well on the way to getting the big fights out there with the likes of Bernard Hopkins. Fights with the likes of Hopkins would have been career-changing and huge money makers.
I am devastated for Cleverly as not only are such fights further away now, but he has also lost his world title. The Welshman needs to take some real time to reassess what he is going to do from here. He can definitely come back and be a world champion again as he is still young and developing as a fighter.
I personally would look to drop him down a level for his next fight. I would look at a European level fighter to regain confidence and then move him back-up to world level. This wasn’t just a loss, it was a brutal loss in which he was dropped twice in the third round and looked as though he had no idea where he was before the ref stepped in to stop the action in the fourth.
I still rate Nathan Cleverly as a very good boxer and I have every confidence that he will be a world champion again. He took a big risk in taking this fight with a dangerous puncher and it didn’t pay off for him on this occasion.
Before this fight I thought that Cleverly could become a real star of the sport and go on to dominate the light-heavyweight division over the coming years. I still believe that he can be a top level fighter but it may take a little longer than if he had come through last night successfully.
One route back to a world title could be through old foe and fellow Brit Tony Bellew. Cleverly and Bellew fought in 2011 and Cleverly came through successfully in a close fight. Bellew is now the number one contender to the WBC title currently held by Adonis Stevenson and will fight for the title later this year.
If Bellew wins this fight then I really can see a reigniting of the Cleverly-Bellew rivalry. The pair hold no love for each other and such a fight would be appealing to the public. I would personally love to see this rematch in 2014 sometime but there are lots of if’s and buts attached to it. Even if Bellew doesn’t win his shot at the title I would like to see the fight take place.
Nathan Cleverly was the sour-point of a night that saw a brilliant victory for Darren Barker and will be absolutely devastated to have lost. He was blown away by a beast of a man who looks to be a seriously good boxer.
Many will claim that Cleverly was exposed and some have already been calling him a paper-champion. I disagree with such sentiments and believe that he was in the way of a man on a mission to dominate the division. I believe that Cleverly is a very good boxer and that his time will come again.
Many a fighter has suffered losses and gone on to become much better boxers as a direct result. It makes you hungry to prove what you can do and shows you what you need to do to be better. A perfect example is the main man of the night Darren Barker who suffered a loss to Sergio Martinez in 2011 but learnt from that fight and as a result knew what to do when the going got tough last night and came through to win a world title.
I expect Cleverly to come back from this defeat stronger than ever and more determined than he ever has been before.
For Nathan Cleverly it was devastatingly disappointing, but by no means the end.
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