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Cleverly: “It’s all about getting that belt”

Jurgen Brahmer Nathan Cleverly

By Scott Gilfoid: Nathan Cleverly will be trying to become a two-time world champion this Saturday night in his fight against WBA light heavyweight champion Juergen Braehmer (48-2, 35 KOs) at the Jahnsportforum in Neubrandenburg, Germany. Nathan never got a chance to fight Braehmer five years ago when the German fighter was the World Boxing Organization 175lb champion.

Braehmer was stripped of his title after he failed to take the fight with Cleverly. Now things are a little different. Braehmer is the WBA “regular” champion, and Cleverly has been selected by him and his team in a voluntary defense. Braehmer didn’t have to take this fight with Cleverly. He wanted to.

Cleverly’s career has taken a MAJOR hit with him losing three out of his last six fights, including his last one. If you were to pick deserving contenders for a world title shot against Brahmer, I would venture to guess that Cleverly would be the last one that you would pick. After all, how is a fighter with a 3-3 record in his last six fights deserving of a title shot?

If mediocrity is what you’re looking for in title challengers, then Cleverly is the guy for you, because he’s certainly been mediocre. Sadly, Cleverly is a GREAT fighter compared to the gawd awful contenders that Braehmer has been milking his WBA title against since winning the vacant belt over Marcus Olieveira in 2013.

In Braehmer’s six successful title defenses since winning the WBA strap, he’s beaten this group: Eduard Gutknecht, Konni Konrad, Robin Krasniqi, Pawel Glazewski, Roberto Feliciano Bolonti and Enzo Maccarinelli. See what I mean when I say that Cleverly is a great fighter compared to the mediocre bunch that Braehmer has been milking his WBA title against since winning three years ago. It’s interesting that Braehmer hasn’t had to face talents like Artur Beterbiev, Joe Smith Jr., Andrzek Fonfara, Andre Ward, Dmitry Bivol, Jean Pascal, Eleider Alvarez, Isaac Chilemba, and Sullivan Barrera.

‘’It’s all about getting that belt and becoming a two-time World Champion,’’ said Cleverly. ‘’That’s all I care about. It’s an opportunity for me to live that dream again. I did it once as 24 year-old, and here I am as a 29 year-old ready to relive it.”

I don’t see Cleverly being able to beat Braehmer. That’s not because I think Braehmer is a good fighter, because I don’t. I think he’s a fringe contender level fighter that is holding a paper title. I rate Braehmer around No.10 or lower in the 175lb division. The thing is, Braehmer didn’t have to beat anyone good to win his WBA title, and he’s faced nothing but poor fighters since them. I lump Cleverly in that category. He’s not good. Cleverly was beaten recently by Fonfara in his last fight. He was beaten by Tony Bellew and Sergey Kovalev. I’m just surprised that the WBA still has Cleverly ranked in their top 15. It seems to me that when a fighter has lost three out of his last six fights, they probably shouldn’t be ranked in the top 15 at all, period. I’m just saying. I mean, how many defeats does Cleverly have to have before the sanctioning bodies drop them from their top 15.

‘’I just want the opportunity to get my hands on that belt and to fulfill my ultimate potential,” said Cleverly. “I don’t feel we’ve seen the best of what I can offer, and getting my hands on that belt will allow me to showcase what I can really do, and make this second phase of my career the best yet.’’

Why does Cleverly want to get his hands on Braehmer’s belt so badly? I don’t understand. Even if Cleverly did win the belt, do you honestly think he’s going to be able to hold onto the title for any length of time. I’m guessing Braehmer will have a rematch clause in his contract with Cleverly. As such, even if Cleverly were to get lucky and come out of Germany with a decision on Saturday night, I sure as heck don’t see Cleverly winning for a second time by going back to Germany to defeat Braehmer for the second time. A win for Cleverly over Braehmer on Saturday night will be like him winning the lottery. I don’t see Cleverly winning the lottery a second time around by marching in and getting a decision victory over Braehmer in the rematch.

This whole bit about Cleverly getting his hands on Braehmer’s title is kind of weird for me, because Cleverly really didn’t do much during his time as the WBO belt holder from 2011 to 2013. Look at the guys that Cleverly fought during his time as the WBO champion: Aleksy Kuziemski, Tony Bellew, Tommy Karpency, Shawn Hawk and Robin Krasniqi. It’s not as if Cleverly was dazzling the 175lb division by taking on the best fighters in that weight class.

It wasn’t until Sergey Kovalev worked his way to the No.1 spot with the WBO that Cleverly finally had to face a quality opponent, and he promptly lost the fight by a 4th round knockout. Future events cast their shadows before. If Cleverly wins the WBA title from Braehmer, don’t you think he’s going to go back to the same tired routine that he had going before with him facing lesser fighters one after another. In other words, Cleverly would be doing exactly what Braehmer has been doing for the past three years in fighting mediocre guys instead of good fighters.


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