• Steve Bunce

Bellew battle proves Clev's ready for anyone

Steve Bunce October 18, 2011

I gave the Nathan Cleverly v Tony Bellew battle - a real classic - to Cleverly by two rounds, but I wouldn't have minded if it was judged six each. I certainly wouldn't have given it more than two rounds either way.

Bellew performed out of his skin, while Cleverly boxed quite elegantly, but he did, on occasion, get drawn into fighting recklessly. Bellew has spent the last two months trying to drag Cleverly into a scrap anywhere: in a press conference, on the street, in a taxi, on a boat. The whole point was to try and get under Cleverly's skin and drag him into a scrap - and, at times, it worked.

For me, it's not a worry that Cleverly was coaxed into becoming hot-headed. In the future, unless he has a rematch, he's not going to face anyone like that again. Against Bellew, we saw 14 months of increasing animosity - he won't go through his career and have another guy dogging him so much.

If they have a rematch - and I reckon they probably will at some point - Bellew will be as noisy, as much of a pain in the arse, but I don't think it will get to Cleverly as much.

Another meeting makes sense, but Cleverly's promoter Frank Warren will look at the other champions, see what he can do - and also what makes cash common sense. No-one else in the division is the boxing equivalent of Tyrannosarus Rex, so I'd have no problem catapulting Cleverly into the ring with anyone.

I think Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson will end up fighting again - more on that later - which means if Cleverly wants a unification bout, he's got to be looking at WBA champion Beibut Shumenov or IBF king Tavoris Cloud. I think they're both beatable and a deal could be done.

They are good fighters: Cloud's got no profile or following but that's irrelevant, because he's a class operator; Shumenov is very tough, very hard. Cleverly could look good against him.

Bernard Hopkins' tumble had parallels with rugby union's Sam Warburton fiasco © PA Photos

It might seem a bit of a leap to stick Cleverly in a unification fight after he didn't exactly dominate Bellew - but he doesn't want 11 years of treading water, with one hard fight every 12 months. He wants to push himself all the way, and that should be applauded.

At the end of the fight there were no complaints. Cleverly never mentioned his cracked rib and Bellew never said a word about his damaged right hand. Both injuries are serious but the pair kept their mouths shut. Nice.

DeGale nearly blown over
James DeGale had clearly learnt a lot from his fight against George Groves when he faced Piotr Wilczewski: he paced himself better, and put his foot on the gas when he had to. Yes, he was rocked in the fifth round - but look, it's his 12th fight, and in an ideal world he'd still be doing ten rounders and looking for 12 rounders in the next year.

But he's not in an ideal world, he's being fast-tracked because he's Olympic champion and wants to push himself. And the guy he fought was tough, the sort of opponent that DeGale could have met in another 12, 14 months. He didn't; he got caught with a good shot, was rocked, really rocked, then found the strength to dig deep and come back.

He wants to win a world title before the Olympics next year, and that might be a bit soon. His next move is tough: I don't want him going back to guys he's going to blow over easily, but equally you don't want to fight a warhorse like Wilczewski three times a year.

If I were Degale, I'd stay at European level until I thought there was a champion at super-middleweight I could easily beat, however long it takes.

Hopping mad
The ending to Hopkins v Dawson wasn't dissimilar to the Sam Warburton fiasco in the rugby.

What happened to Hopkins was illegal, but for some reason the ref didn't penalise Dawson or simply give Hopkins time to recover. Did Hopkins exaggerate? The MRI says no: he has a dislocated shoulder of sorts - it's a bit complicated. In the fight, before the chuck, Dawson puts his hand on Hopkins' leg to lift him. It was ugly, they'll have to do it again, we'll see how it goes from there.

Dawson can say that he won't give Hopkins a rematch, because he might not have any input, he could be ordered to. Hopkins and his people have officially asked the WBC to investigate. If I was Dawson, I'd weigh it up. If I can make a fortune from a grudge match, I'm fighting Bernard Hopkins. It's a no-brainer.

If you think about it, Dawson has to say, "No rematch". If he says yes, he's surrendering negotiating power. He'll make five times more in a Hopkins rematch than he will fighting the others who are out there.

Dawson and Cloud in a unification fight would not ever be a sell-out at York Hall in London's east end, trust me!

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.