Nathan Cleverly may have won the WBO interim light-heavyweight title and preserved his unbeaten record in out-pointing late replacement Nadjib Mohammedi but he struggled to impress at the Echo Arena in Liverpool on Saturday night.
Cleverly, 21-0-(10), was to have faced Alejandro Lakatos on the biggest night of his career but Lakatos bailed out three days before the fight because of illness,
Mohammedi was not the kind of opponent Cleverly could look good against and he struggled to get to grips with the elusive Frenchman. The more elusive and awkward Mohammedi became the more Cleverly looked to be frustrated.
Cleverly’s obvious frustration at not being able to tag his opponent cleanly very nearly cost him dearly in the fifth round when he overstretched with a big left hand, missed his target and was caught with a similar punch, himself. As the fight progress Mohammedi gained in confidence as Cleverly found himself drawn into the Frenchman’s type of fight.
By the seventh round, which the Frenchman won, Cleverly was clearly running out of ideas and was docked a point for wading in with his head. Cleverly went back to his corner and was read the riot act in no uncertain terms which has the desired effect because Cleverly came out in the eighth and rained all manner of punches to regain control of the fight.
The fight was closer than many of Cleverly’s Welsh fans would have liked going into the last three rounds dug in, upped his workrate and connected with some big punches but Mohammedi stood firm.
Cleverly’s burst of urgency over the last three rounds proved enough to secure the win, all three judges made him the winner by scores of 116-111, 115-113 and 115-112.
The undefeated 23 year-old was obviously disappointed with his performance and said as much after the fight. "The late change of opponent did not do any good," Cleverly told Sky Box Office HD.
"The opponent I was training for was a static opponent so I could work in close but this guy was a mover who was so awkward.
He was making me miss and dragging me in so I had to hold and use a type of Bernard Hopkins tactic to stop him from punching.
"It’s spoiling tactics but that’s what you have to do sometimes to win."
Cleverly may well feel disappointed come Sunday morning but by the close of business on Monday he could be the outright champion. Current titleholder Juergen Braehmer is up in court Monday on assault charges and if convicted could go to prison.
December 10, 2010