Kovalev predicts Cleverly win over Braehmer

By Boxing News - 09/30/2016 - Comments


By Scott Gilfoid: Unbeaten IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev is predicting a win or Nathan Cleverly (29-3, 15 KO) in his title challenge against longstanding WBA “regular” light heavyweight champion Juergen Braehmer (48-2, 35 KOs) this Saturday night in Germany. Kovalev thinks the 29-year-old Cleverly will beat the 37-year-old Braehmer. Kovalev doesn’t see it as an easy fight for Cleverly thought, because he notes that the German Braehmer has a good chin and can take heavy shots.

It’s hard to know how good Braehmer is. We know what Cleverly’s level is, as we saw him lose to Kovalev by a 4th round knockout in 2013, and then lose to Tony Bellew by a 12 round split decision in their rematch in 2014, and then lose to Andrzej Fonfara by a 12 round unanimous decision in October 2015.

With Braehmer, it’s a lot harder to tell how good he is because his German management has matched him so incredibly softly in the last eight years of his career since he was beaten by Hugo Hernan Garay in 2008. That Braehmer’s last quality opponent he’s faced. Braehmer has won his last 17 fights, but his opposition has been woeful to say the least.

The type of opposition that Braehmer has fought has been the type that you would see from a European light heavyweight champion rather than a world champion. There’s been no testing of Braehmer’s boundaries by putting him in with talented light heavyweights. It’s just been one soft opponent after another. As such, it’s possible to know how good Braehmer is. We know he has good boxing skills, a good jab, and decent defensive skills. However, it’s hard to imagine Braehmer lasing more than two rounds against the talented fighters in the 175lb division like Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson and Artur Beterbiev.

The good news for Braehmer is that Cleverly is a bottom fringe level fighter, and not one of the talented guys at 175. However, Cleverly might not need to be one of the best in the light heavyweight division for him to beat Braehmer, because the German fighter is clearly not a top level fighter himself despite the fact that he’s technically one of the champions in the division. Braehmer didn’t beat a good fighter to win his WBA title. He defeated little known Marcus Oliveira by a 12 round decision in 2013. Braehmer certainly hasn’t faced any good fighters since he won the WBA title. He’s defended it six times against the likes of Pawel Glazewski, Eduard Gutknecht, Konni Konrad, Robin Krasniqi, Roberto Feliciano Bolonti and Enzo Maccarinelli. Those are not great fighters are even good fighters in my opinion. Those are fringe level guys.

“I think that Cleverly has a very good chance to get victory over Juergen Braehmer, but Braehmer is a tough fighter,” Kovalev said to skysports.com. “He can take hard punches and stay on his legs. This will be an interesting fight, but I think Cleverly will win on points. I wish him the best of luck and victory for him over Braehmer.”

Cleverly does have a very good chance of beating Braehmer if he jumps on him and throws a lot of punches in each round. Braehmer does well when he can fight on the outside, use his jab, and throw pot shots. Braehmer struggles when his opponents get in close and work him over with nonstop punches. That’s what Garay did in beating him eight years ago. The blueprint has been out there all these years in how to beat Braehmer. It’s not news that Braehmer can’t handle guys that stand close to him that throw 80 to 100 punches per round. The thing is, Braehmer’s management has been good at matching him ever since his loss to Garay.

Braehmer hasn’t had to face any good opponents. He’s fought either fringe level guys or guys with inflated rankings but little actual talent or boxing skills. It was incredible how the World Boxing Association recently had Krasiniqi ranked #1 in their organization above talents like Beterbiev. If you’ve seen those two guys fight, you would be utterly confused about why the WBA would have Krasniqi ranked #1 ahead of Beterbiev. With the WBA’s rankings, you can argue that it’s kept Braehmer as the WBA ‘regular’ champion two years longer than he should have if the WBA had ranked better talented fighters at No.1 like Beterbiev.

Kovalev completely smashed Cleverly in four rounds in 2013. For the boxing fans that remember that fight, Cleverly came into the contest confident of victory. Indeed, there were a lot of fans who believed the unbeaten Cleverly would be too skilled for Kovalev to handle.

Unfortunately, the fight turned out to be a slaughter with Kovalev knocking Cleverly down twice in the 3rd round. Cleverly was so hurt after the second knockdown that referee Terry O’Connor had to half carry him back to his corner after the round had ended. To this day, I don’t know why O’Connor didn’t stop the fight, being that Cleverly was so hurt that he couldn’t even walk on his own back to his corner. At the start of the 4th round, Kovalev landed some big shots that led to the fight being stopped straightaway.

Braehmer is going to try and bounce around the ring on Saturday, jab, shove Cleverly when he gets close, and keep the fight at a distance. For Cleverly to force this into a war, he’s going to need to be a lot like Gennady Golovkin in cutting off the ring on Braehmer to force him into a phone-booth type of battle for 12 rounds. Braehmer doesn’t have the skills or the youth to win that kind of fight against Cleverly, so you can expect him to try and prevent that type of contest from taking place. We’re probably going to see a TON of clinching from Braehmer each time Cleverly gets close enough to start overwhelming him with his high volume work rate. Braehmer’s German trainers are smart. They’re going to likely have Braehmer using the old ‘punch and grab’ technique on Saturday to let him get his shots off and then immediately grab Cleverly in a clinch to keep him from retaliating.

The referee for the fight is Rafael Ramos. I’d like to think that he’ll step in at some point to take points away from Braehmer if/when he starts with the nonstop holding, but I doubt it. Good referees are so hard to find in boxing. I think it’s rare to find a referee that will enforce the excessive clinching rule. It’s unfortunate because fighters can game the system by using the ‘punch and grab’ technique to slow down fights to a crawl and prevent fighters with high volume attacks from beating them. The fans lose out because instead of seeing exciting fights, they wind up having to sit through contests filled with holding and wrestling. I think it’s bad for the sport because fans have better things to do than to watch holding for 12 rounds. You then end up with the fighter that did all the holding winning the fight, and it further leads to more boring fights in the future. If those types of fighters were weeded out from the sport by the referees doing their jobs of penalizing or disqualifying them, then the sport would be more exciting. I seriously doubt that the referee working this Saturday’s Braehmer vs. Cleverly fight will lift a finger to control Braehmer’s holding if that’s the tactic that he’ll be using in this fight.