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WBA orders Nathan Cleverly vs. Dmitry Bivol

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By Scott Gilfoid: Nathan Cleverly got some disappointing news this week with the World Boxing Association ordering him to defend his WBA World light heavyweight title against interim WBA champion Dmitry Bivol (11-0, 9 KOs). Cleverly (30-3, 16 KOs) and the hard hitting 26-year-old Bivol have exactly 30 days to negotiate the fight between them otherwise the WBA will order a purse bid.

The timing of the WBA’s announcement is obviously not good for the 30-year-old Cleverly, as there’s been talk of him defending his title against former WBC super middleweight champion Badou Jack on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor fight next month on August 26 on Showtime pay-per-view at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Bivol was born in Tokmak, Kyrgyzstan. He turned pro in 2014 after a lengthy amateur career. His amateur record is 268-15. Bivol’s huge punching power seems more suited to the pro game than in the amateur ranks, which is more of a tapping game than one designed for power punchers.

What happens now is the big question. Cleverly’s wily promoter Eddie Hearn will need to make a move if he wants to still make the Cleverly-Jack fight. Can Hearn convince the WBA to put the Bivol fight on hold while Cleverly takes the Jack fight? That’s going to be interesting to see. Cleverly would show a lot of courage by taking the Bivol fight, as it’s not one that he will likely win.

Honestly, I don’t see Cleverly being able to beat the Russian Bivol. He hits too hard, he’s too talented and he’s looking unbeatable right now. Bivol reminds me of a younger Artur Beterbiev. Bivol has got knockout power with either hand. Bivol would give Andre Ward problems with his power, and his ability to land crushing shots from in close. Ward would have a real fight on his hands against a guy like Bivol.

If Hearn can’t work out a step aside deal for Bivol to take with the WBA, then Cleverly can always vacate his WBA 175 lb. title and take the fight with Badou Jack next month. Of course, I’m not entirely certain whether that would be a desirable thing for Badou, as I think he wants to capture a world title at 175. Fighting Cleverly without his WBA title might not be worth it for Badou.

It’s better for Jack if he can fight Cleverly for his WBA strap, and then use that belt to get a fight with Ward or a unification fight against WBC champion Adonis Stevenson. It’s always to be a world champion. Jack isn’t popular enough to not need world titles right now unlike some fighters. Guys like Saul Canelo Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather Jr. don’t need to have a world title for them to be popular. It’s different when you’re still trying to build a fan base in the boxing world like Badou Jack is.

If Badou is willing to take the fight with Cleverly with the WBA title not on the line, then it’s a good idea for Nathan to vacate the title so that he can avoid fighting Bivol. It wouldn’t look good Cleverly giving up his WBA strap to steer around Bivol, but you have to look at it from a business perspective. Cleverly is not going to beat Bivol in my view. We’re talking too different fighters. Bivol is a monster right now with the way he’s knocking out guys left and right.

Cleverly is not going to beat guy like that. The only question is how badly Cleverly loses to Bivol. I can’t see Cleverly making it past the 4th round against a talent like Bivol. Cleverly is a high-volume puncher, who doesn’t have much in the way of power. If you throw him in with a knockout artist like Bivol, he’s likely going to be torn apart in lightning fashion.

Cleverly made it the distance with Fonfara and Bellew, but Bivol is a better puncher than those two guys. Bivol is got freakish power for the light heavyweight division. Cleverly won’t last long against Bivol. That’s why I believe it’s smarter for Cleverly just to vacate his WBA title and move in another direction towards whatever fight pays the most. Badou Jack would be an interesting opponent for Cleverly. I can’t see Cleverly beating Jack, but he would stand a better chance of beating him than a guy like Bivol. Jack is moving up in weight, and he doesn’t have Cleverly’s size or his work rate. Jack had problems at times in his last fight against James DeGale, and Lucian Bute also gave him issues. It’s potentially a fight that Cleverly can win if he faces Jack. I can’t see Cleverly beating a talent like Bivol in this lifetime. That’s a bad match-up for Nathan.

Cleverly beat WBA light heavyweight champion Juergen Braehmer by a 6th round knockout on October 1 last year to win the WBA title. Braehmer suffered an elbow injury and couldn’t continue fighting after the 6th. He was winning the fight at the time. Before that, Cleverly had lost to Andrzej Fonfara and Tony Bellew. To say that Cleverly didn’t deserve a world title shot against Braehmer is an understatement. With 2 defeats in his last 3 fights, Cleverly was arguably gifted a world title fight against Braehmer. The injury that Braehmer suffered in the fight was a stroke of luck for Cleverly, as he was losing at the time. The judges had Braehmer ahead by the scores 58-56, 58-56 and 58-56.

Cleverly is not in the position for him to get another fight against Tony Bellew. That would be the best fight for Cleverly right now if he could get it. Unfortunately, Cleverly put in a lackluster performance in losing to Bellew by a 12 round split decision in their rematch on November 22, 2014. Nathan fought like he didn’t have any ambition.

Bivol looked good in his last fight in beating Cedric Agnew by a 4th round knockout on June 17. Bivol easily beat a guy that gave Sergey Kovalev problems in 2014 in losing by a 7th round knockout. Bivol also has recent stoppage wins over Samuel Clarkson and Robert Berridge.


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