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Nathan Cleverly vs. Badou Jack possible for Mayweather-McGregor card

Image: Nathan Cleverly vs. Badou Jack possible for Mayweather-McGregor card

By Scott Gilfoid: A fight between former WBC super middleweight champion Badou Jack (21-1-2, 12 KOs) and WBA World light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly (30-3, 16 KOs) is in the works for the August 26 fight card headlined by Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGegor on Showtime pay-per-view at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

With a little over 1 month to go before the Mayweather-McGregor fight, the undercard is just now being put together. That’s obviously not good news for boxing fans wanting something concrete to see in terms of REAL fight on the card. Mayweather-McGregor is a nice event, but it’s not a fight involving 2 guys that are evenly matched as far as boxing ability goes.

Badou, 33, will be fighting for the first time in the 175 lb. division after recently vacating his World Boxing Council super middleweight title following his controversial 12 round draw earlier this year against IBF 168 lb. champion James “Chunky” DeGale on January 14. Jack has outgrown the super middleweight division, and he can no longer put his body through the rigors to make the 168lb weight limit. As such, Badou will be going straight into a world title fight against the 30-year-old Cleverly without a tune-up in the 175lb. weight class.

This is sink or swim for Badou Jack. He either does well or he loses the fight to Cleverly. Badou has the punching power on his side in this fight against Cleverly, but not the work rate. Badou doesn’t tend to throw a lot of punches. That’s the problem that Badou had in his last two fights against DeGale and Lucian Bute. Both guys were able to outwork him. Jack-Bute was initially scored a 12 round draw. it was later overturned after Bute failed the doping test for the fight. Never the less, Badou was still outworked during the fight, and that’s a flaw that Cleverly will almost surely be looking to exploit on August 26 if the fight does take place.

This will be a voluntary defense for Cleverly, who recently beat WBA World 175lb. champion Juergen Braehmer by a 6th round injury stoppage last year on October 1, 2016. Braehmer suffered an elbow injury that resulted him not being able to continue after the 6th. At the time of the stoppage, Braehmer was ahead on all three of the judges’ scorecards by the scores 58-56, 58-56 and 58-56.

Cleverly was throwing tons of nonstop shots to the head and upper body of the 38-year-old Braehmer, but he was still getting hit by the harder, cleaner shots by the German fighter. With 6 rounds to go, Cleverly might have worn Braehmer down with his high punch output if not for the injury. Braehmer was taking a lot of shots on the elbows. That seemed to have resulted in the injury.

Cleverly’s career has been up and down since his 4th round knockout loss to Sergey Kovalev in August 2013. Nathan Cleverly lost his WBO light heavyweight title to Kovalev. Since that fight, the 30-year-old Nathan Cleverly has gone 4-2 with defeats at the hands of Tony Bellew and Andrzej Fonfara. Cleverly’s wins have come against the aforementioned Braehmer, Tomas Man, Alejandro Emilio Valori and Shawn Corbin. The only real win of those names if Braehmer.

The rest of the guys Cleverly beat were pretty much easy marks. Cleverly is a clear example of how it pays to have a good promoter that opens doors that would normally be closed for a fighter that has lost the number of fights that he has. Cleverly is promoted by Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport. This is the same guy that promotes IBF, WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and a whole bunch of other top fighters in the UK.

As the saying goes, ‘when you stand on someone’s shoulders, you can see far.’ Cleverly’s career has definitely been helped by having Hearn as his promoter. However, there’s only so much Hearn can do. He’s not going to be able to fight for Cleverly on August 26 against Badou Jack. Hearn is giving Cleverly his best chance to successfully defend his WBA title by putting him in with Badou Jack. As I mentioned before, Jack can be outworked by guys with high volume punch attacks, and that’s how Cleverly fights.

It won’t be easy for Cleverly, but this is a winnable fight for him if he can do what he did to Braehmer. If Hearn doesn’t make the Cleverly-Jack fight, then the alternatives would be Cleverly facing the likes of #1 WBA Dmitry Bivol. That would be a really bad match-up for Cleverly, as Bivol is like a younger version of Sergey Kovalev. Bivol hits very hard with both hands, and he doesn’t appear to have the same flaws in his game that we’ve seen with Kovalev in terms of having problems taking body shots. Cleverly would have his hands full against Bivol. It doesn’t matter which game plan Cleverly used against Bivol, he’d still likely wind up getting knocked out by him.

Jack landed a lot of heavy shots in his 12 round draw against DeGale. Jack knocked out some of DeGale’s front teeth, and he had him looking badly bruised about the face by the end of the fight. That was a punishing fight for DeGale. Jack knocked DeGale down in the 12th, and had him on the verge of being knocked out. Had there been another three rounds, it’s likely that Jack would have knocked DeGale out.

Jack will likely be seen as the favorite to topple Cleverly due to his punching power, and his good body attacks. Cleverly will have the size advantage over Jack, but I don’t know if that will matter. We’ll have to see. Cleverly’s best bet is for him to come out fast, throwing 100 punches per round in the first 6 rounds in order to build up a big lead over Jack, If Cleverly can win 4 out of the first 6 rounds, he’ll have a chance of getting a decision. Cleverly has always been a fast starter. He’s going to need to for him to beat Badou Jack, who tends to come on strong in the second half of his fights.

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