Bellew gains revenge on Cleverly

Liverpudlian won on points after disappointing rematch between cruiserweights

Nathan Cleverly (left) and Tony Bellew in their WBO & WBA Intercontinental Cruiserweight title fight at the Liverpool Echo Arena. Bellew won on a points decision. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Tony Bellew dredged up a revenge points win over Nathan Cleverly to move into world cruiserweight title contention at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.

Bellew came on strong in the later rounds to clinch a majority decision win and make up for his majority decision defeat to the Welshman in their WBO light-heavyweight showdown at the same venue three years ago.

Watched by Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli at ringside, Everton fan Bellew worked his way past a sluggish start as Cleverly faded, allowing Bellew to take the verdict 116-112 115-113, with one card 115-114 in favour of the Welshman.

Since their first fight both men had subsequently suffered crushing knockout losses at the hands of Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev respectively, this bout was always likely to come down to how much either man had been affected.


Cleverly had suffered particularly badly in his loss to Kovalev in August last year, and he went into the fight with justifiable concerns over his desire to launch a renewed world title push at the higher weight.

Bellew had also been bruised by his sixth-round defeat to Stevenson in Canada but had bounced back with two straight knockout wins and his non-stop verbal barbs at Cleverly in the fight build-up suggested he was up to the task.

Bellew was roared to the ring by the vast majority of the 10,000 capacity crowd but there was also a sizeable contingent supporting Cleverly and both men looked fully focused on the job in hand during the pre-fight introductions. It was hard to split the pair in a tight opening three minutes but Bellew perhaps got the better of the session courtesy of a strong right hand which he threaded through Cleverly’s guard towards the end of the session.

Cleverly began to find his range in the second, stinging in a couple of jabs, and his accuracy was in contrast to Bellew’s more eye-catching single right-hands which often failed to reach their target. The third and fourth were split, with Cleverly unwisely resorting to some showboating in the latter, and an equally tight next two left the pair almost impossible to split at the half-way point.

Bellew stepped up the pace a little in the seventh, but with increased ambition came more misses, and it looked set to come down to whether the judges preferred the home favourite’s aggression or Cleverly’s cleaner work. Cleverly spent most of the ninth round with his back against the ropes but, despite the crowd’s cheers, Bellew was missing with the vast majority of his shots as the bout became ragged and short on quality.

Cleverly’s strange reluctance to leave the ropes in the latter stages looked likely to be costing him dear on the judges’ cards and it proved to be the case despite one judge — Terry O’Connor — giving the fight narrowly in favour of the Welshman.

Bellew cut a relieved figure after the bout.

“I want to thank God I’ve come out of there because I’m willing to go places that no-one’s willing to go,” he said afterwards on BBC Radio 5 Live. “I was getting tagged there and I just kept walking and taking it and going through, but thank God because I love this sport and the glory of it.

“I’m being deadly serious when I say I can’t quit and I’ll end up in a grave before I quit. I’m sorry I’ve got to say that but I really do mean it — I will never quit. I’m just so happy I get home to my three kids — I love my kids more than life itself and winning means just so much to me.”

Bellew admitted he was disappointed to learn that not all three judges had picked him as the winner.

“I was gutted because I thought I won at least nine rounds,” he said. “And I was looking out to you (the media) going, ‘Guys, not again’. Every time I get in a close fight it’s like I just don’t think I’m going to get it (the result).”