• Cruiserweight

Cleverly: I know why Bellew hates me

ESPN staff
November 6, 2014
Nathan Cleverly was won his first two fights at cruiserweight in preparation for Tony Bellew © Getty Images

Nathan Cleverly understands why Tony Bellew hates him, but believes he will not be at a disadvantage when they meet at cruiserweight on November 22.

The former WBO light-heavyweight world champion faces Bellew in Liverpool for a second time after claiming a majority points decision to defend his title in 2011.

Since losing the title to Sergey Kovalev in 2013, Welshman Cleverly has stepped up to cruiserweight - as has Bellew following his final light-heavyweight defeat at the hands of WBC champion Adonis Stevenson last year.

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And while the step up in weight appears to favour the naturally heavier Bellew, Cleverly is adamant his intensity will once again prove too much for the Liverpudlian.

"It's been an unbelievable journey - this is my sixth different weight division," Cleverly told ESPN.

"Naturally he is the bigger guy but I think I've grown into this weight. I've naturally grown up and I feel good at the weight. If I can bring my speed and energy levels, I think I'll give this guy a world of problems."

Even without a title on the line, Cleverly rates his second showdown with Bellew as one of the biggest fights of the year on British soil given the long-standing bad blood between the two, particularly on Bellew's side.

Asked if the 31-year-old's constant trash-talking ever affects him, Cleverly said: "He doesn't get inside my head, no - I'm inside his head.

"You've got to remember that we were both Frank Warren fighters, both light-heavyweights" he continued. "I was two steps ahead of Bellew - I was British, Commonwealth and European champion.

"I had what he wanted. I was Frank's main fighter, and he wanted that position.

"He had his opportunity in Liverpool to fight me for the world title, and I beat him. He's still bitter from that. He can't give me respect for it.

"He feels I stole his position. I prevented him from going on to win a lot of money - I if wasn't there, Bellew would have been No.1 and been in the big fights, he would have had the titles, but I was there. That's why he hates me so much."

Kovalev defends the light-heavyweight belt he claimed from Cleverly against Bernard Hopkins on November 8, and the 24-year-old expects the Russian to overwhelm the 49-year-old and relieve him of his IBF and WBA titles inside the distance.

"It's old school versus new breed on the scene," Cleverly said.

"Hopkins is obviously old school - he's got the tricks, he's been there, done it - but Kovalev is one step too far.

"Kovalev is a new breed. Him and Gennady Golovkin, they've just blown through the world stage with ease. His punching power is exceptional, his technique is good, his timing… I just think it's one step too far for Bernard Hopkins and I think Kovalev beats him in the mid-to-late rounds."

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