By Clive Bernath: Prior to Nathan Cleverly’s WBO light heavyweight title defence against Sergey Kovalev, the undefeated 26 year-old from Cefn Fforest in Wales was adamant that he wanted to unify the titles at 175lbs. In fact he was so focused on achieving his goal that pretty much every interview the articulate and well spoken champion conducted he mentioned facing either IBF champ Bernard Hopkins, WBA king Beibut Shumanov or WBC titleholder Andonis Stevenson. And when that failed ‘Clev’ even attempted to entice IBF super-middleweight champ Carl Froch into an all British clash.
To his credit and being the intelligent young man that he is, Cleverly was only too well aware that the only way he was going to share a ring with any of the aforementioned to get the backing of American tv. And the only way to force the situation was to seek out and destroy the most dangerous and avoided contender at 175lbs, step forward Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev.
The 30 year-old from Chelyabinsk in Russia, who now resides in the US, had built up a pretty impressive record by either knocking out or stopping 20 of his 23, opponents, only three lasting more than five rounds. And when Bernard Hopkins, one of the sport’s greatest ever defensive boxers, decides Kovalev is too hot to handle there has to be a reason why.
Unfortunately Cleverly found out the reason why on Saturday night when he was battered from pillar to post for almost four rounds. Cleverly was down twice and repeatedly hurt until referee Terry O’Connor decided he had seen enough.
Lets be honest here, Cleverly was never in the fight and he was never able to respond to the heavy onslaught heaped upon him.
As I said Cleverly is an intelligent man and with 2.2 degree in mathematics he has a bright future ahead of him away from the sport. And immediately after the painful defeat to Kovalev, Cleverly pretty much indicated as much
"I will have a holiday now and recover and see where I go from here and see what I want to do in life now," said Cleverly.
"I will go away and live a normal life for a bit now. Just leave boxing for a bit - it has been an intense period.
"You know six weeks into that where you want to go. Your instincts tell you if you are missing boxing, or are you going to find another career path. Who knows where my heart is going to lie?
"If I continue, I will come back and give it a go. But the background I have got and the brain I have got, do I really need to continue? It could go either way, my career."
Cleverly knows he was defeated by the better man and has no excuses whatsoever. "The good thing is that I prepared well and I cannot have any regrets, because I missed training or cheated on anything.I can hold my hands up and say Kovalev took his chance," added a remarkably honest ex champion.
Many people questioned Cleverly’s decision to face such a dangerous opponent and maybe his promoter Frank Warren even tried to talk him out of it but both he and Cleverly were also aware that to entice American tv and the big money fights you sometimes have to take a huge gamble. Ricky Hatton elevated himself to pay per view status when he defeated Kostya Tszyu in 2005. For him the gamble paid off, unfortunately for Nathan it did not.
Again, if i’m honest I feel Nathan should be applauded for taking the gamble. Many boxers and their promoters often avoid the Kovalev’s of this world and I can understand why. I’ve been around this business long enough to know what it takes to build up a fighter and maximise his/her financial value. But boxing is also a sport and Nathan wanted to fight the best in order to test his own fighting ability and give the fans the fights they demand.
At 26 years old Cleverly can re build and it would be a shame see him walk away from the sport. But he will be honest with himself and whichever decision he make i’m sure it will be the right one.
August 19, 2013