Tony Bellew: I’m going to enjoy punishing Nathan Cleverly
On Saturday, in Liverpool, England, British cruiserweight Tony Bellew seeks redemption when he faces arch rival Nathan Cleverly in an explosive rematch, which could be every bit as exciting as their original encounter.
On Oct. 15, 2011, Cleverly defeated Bellew by majority decision and retained his WBO light heavyweight title in a classic pitch battle. Despite pre-fight hostility both men were respectful at the final bell, but the gladiatorial appreciation ceased quickly and the venom returned – by the bucket load.
As a result Matchroom Promotions have gambled on broadcasting this 200-pound non-title affair on a UK pay-per-view platform and invested in weeks of intense build-up material.
Like most rivalries the personalities of the combatants are as opposite as their respective fighting styles. Cleverly, who has a degree in mathematics, is a cerebral individual who would be best described as an intense volume puncher whereas Bellew, highly intelligent in his own right, is an explosive hitter who carries the unpredictability of a firework in an enclosed space.
Both Bellew and Cleverly have rebounded from tough losses at 175 pounds, against Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev respectively, and are now 2-0 (2 knockouts) at the cruiserweight limit. The victor could find themselves challenging for a world title in the first half of 2015, whereas the loser has a long way to fall.
Bellew (22-2-1, 14 knockouts) spoke to RingTV.com and stated his intentions loud and clear in the build up to this eagerly anticipated showdown.
RingTV.com: One senses by your demeanor that you’re not enjoying the build up to this rematch. Is that an accurate statement?
Tony Bellew: Yeah, it’s getting to the point where it’s just annoying me now. I’ve been in camp for nine weeks and there’s two to go, so I’m just annoyed at the sight of him (Cleverly). He’s a fraud and I look forward to doing damage.
RTV: What are your feelings about getting a crack at redemption in front of your home crowd, at the very same venue where the first fight took place?
TB: It’s good and I’m happy to be fighting at home. I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum and a hostile crowd can be very unpleasant. At the end of the day a boxing ring is a boxing ring, but I’m really happy, working hard, and looking forward to putting all this behind me.
RTV: You’ve had two fights at the cruiserweight limit, both of which ended in knockouts. Despite the fact that the move up was inevitable, are you a more effective cruiserweight now than you were eight months ago when you debuted at the weight?
TB: Without a doubt. This is the ideal division for me and there have been drastic improvements. I still have to lose weight and keep explaining to people that I don’t build myself up to the cruiserweight limit. I came into camp at 220 pounds and have trained as hard as ever. I have more energy, which means I put even more effort into my workouts. The results have been good and I’m much more willing to engage and trade, because I’m no longer dead at the weight. I’m leaving nothing to chance and my plan is to knock him out.
RTV: The first fight is what I would call a high contact boxing match and it was great to watch. What category will the rematch fall into?
TB: It’s all down to him. If he comes to fight then I’ll nail him in the first couple of rounds and he’s just going to think, what the f__k was that? That’s not what hit me last time. If he thinks my punching power is the same at cruiserweight, as it was light heavy, then he’s in for a seriously rude awakening. On the flipside, if he goes on the defensive then I’m a better boxer than him and have more versatility to my game. He had a great work rate at light heavy but if he tries that this time he’ll get knocked clean out. He’s clutching at straws and living in a f__king dream world.
RTV: You’re certain of victory, so can I ask you to look past Nathan Cleverly for a second? What do you see transpiring beginning, middle and end of 2015?
TB: I’m not thinking about other opponents right now. My goal is to fight at Goodison Park (Everton football ground) and to be honest I no longer have any interest in Las Vegas or Madison Square Garden. I can’t be arsed with all that, but what I can be arsed with is fighting at Goodison Park in front of thousands of Evertonians.
RTV: Marco Huck has mentioned fighting the winner. Did you hear about that?
TB: It’s crazy that world champions are calling me out. Huck has actually gone on record as saying that he wants me to win because I’m the money fighter in the division. That might be because I have a big mouth and I’m too honest for my own good, or it might be because I do good numbers. Denis Lebedev has also said that he wants to fight me.
RTV: You’re obviously vying for world honors but do you see Ola Afolabi getting in the mix, based on the British angle?
TB: I have no intentions of fighting Ola Afolabi unless there’s a world title on the line. It’s unlikely that I would look good against him and that is merely a trade fight. That said if he beats Yoan Pablo Hernandez next month then we’re doing it, because I don’t dodge anyone. He’s still a quality fighter.
RTV: If there was one title holder you could face in the first quarter of 2015, who would it be and why?
TB: I would like to fight Marco Huck in England because I don’t want to go to Germany, but beggars can’t be choosers. Huck is the most appealing fight because he’s Mr. Excitement for thirty seconds of a round, but he’s beatable.
RTV: When you were at light heavyweight you wanted Adonis Stevenson because he was “the best in the world.” Those were your words. Do you believe Huck is the best cruiserweight in the world?
TB: He’s the most exciting. At light heavyweight, at that time, Stevenson was head and shoulders the best after stopping Chad Dawson, who had beaten Bernard Hopkins, and there was a trail there. At cruiserweight all the champions have their own strengths. Hernandez is the best technically, but he didn’t look great against Firat Arslan. Lebedev is a good fighter but he’s not the best either. It’s different at cruiserweight than it was at light heavy.
RTV: Why should fans watch the rematch on Nov. 22?
TB: Fans should tune in because I cannot stand the sight of this guy and I’m able to do something about it. I’ve never enjoyed punishing someone as much as I will enjoy punishing him. I can’t put into words how much I will enjoy smashing his face from pillar to post. It means more to me than any fight I’ve had in my life.
RTV: It means more to you than a world title fight?
TB: It’s means more. I don’t class the first fight as a loss and what pisses me off more than anything is that this guy gloats and brags about it. When I knock him out and do a proper job on him it erases that black mark on my resume. I just want to put the record straight against this clown.
British fans can order Nathan Cleverly vs. Tony Bellew via Sky Box Office. The show is also available on the AWE network in the United States.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing.