• Steve Bunce

Klitschko could learn something from Cleverly

Steve Bunce November 13, 2012
Wladimir Klitschko kept Marius Wach at arm's length for 12 disappointing rounds © Getty Images

As expected, Nathan Cleverly won in Los Angeles, defending his WBO light-heavyweight title against Shawn Hawk in a fight from which he can take more positives than negatives.

The positives are simple: he boxed in America, it was an exciting fight and he had Tom Jones and Mickey Rourke by his side, so he certainly made an impression at the Staples Center. But being in LA with Jones and Rourke in tow and knowing that he needed to make an impression made him a little reckless. It made for good viewing, but it wasn't necessarily a vintage performance.

Then again, that's what boxing should be about - taking risks to get opponents out of the ring even if it means getting clobbered along the way. Nathan did get hit a few times - his nose was busted up a bit - but he won the fight and looked good doing it. He probably could have breezed it in 12 rounds, but he wouldn't have drawn half as much attention as he did for the way he fought.

It is interesting that Bernard Hopkins only started talking about a fight on March 9 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, after watching Cleverly. The Welshman's name had been mentioned, but it wasn't highlighted. There are three potential opponents Hopkins is looking at, all of whom hold a version of the light-heavyweight world title - WBA champion Beibut Shumenov, and Tavoris Cloud with the IBF belt are the other two - but my gut feeling is that Hopkins will take Shumenov or Cleverly, leaving the remaining pair to fight each other. Effectively we would have two unification semi-finals, which would be brilliant - not just for the light-heavyweight division but for boxing.

I would love Hopkins to fight Cleverly next. That's the fight I'd push for - I don't want Hopkins in a hard or boring fight that he could potentially lose before facing the 25-year-old. But Hopkins is a brilliant negotiator and will know that's the best fight out there right now - so that's the fight he'll ask the most money for.

Wladimir Klitschko's decision victory over Maruisz Wach in Hamburg was in direct contrast to the Cleverly-Hawk fight. Klitschko could have, and should have, knocked Wach out before the final bell. The Pole was immensely brave, but was finished from about round seven or eight - and looked like like a man waiting for the inevitable. But Klitschko either didn't see the signs or simply refused to take the slightest risk.

If you hit a man with 20 right hands to the head in every single round and he's still standing there, you've got to change your tactics - throw some body shots, you've got to start mixing up your cominations. But Klitschko refused: he just stuck with left jab, big right. Of course he won the fight, clearly, taking every single round as far as I'm concerned. But where was the variety? How did he manage to let Wach survive round seven and eight? It is a mystery.

As a result, we had a world heavyweight title fight that will be remembered for being 'competitive', but in truth it was anything but. Wach had one brief moment at the end of the fifth round when he landed one right hand, and Wladimir Klitschko - and let's not mince our words - looked panicked. Looked scared. Looked in trouble and had to hold.

I was slightly disappointed after that when Wach didn't go all out in round six. The giant Pole still lost the fifth round - you can't win a round on the back of 10 seconds - and should have gone for broke on his return. As Tim Witherspoon said in the ESPN studio, "Son, the world title is yours - go out and get it." But he never did - and that's where Wach lost his golden opportunity.

The broadcast on ESPN was a resounding success. Witherspoon was brilliant and Frank Maloney was forthright and honest. However, he did make one comment that I'm sure he regrets. It was a comment aimed at Wladimir that for some reason people think was an insult aimed at the late Manny Steward.

It was not. It was an attack on Wladimir and just how cold he can be in business. It was a throw-away, and at the same time unnecessary, comment.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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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.