By Sean Jones: Moments after stopping a WBA World light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly (30-4, 16 KOs) in the 5th round last Saturday night, Badou “The Ripper” Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs) called WBC 175 lb. champion Adonis “Superman” Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) for a unification fight. With his impressive win over Cleverly, Badou Jack stole the show from the main event fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor.
Jack’s performance was easily the best on the night in terms of the televised portion of the Mayweather-McGregor card on Showtime PPV. While performance wasn’t quite as good as Sergey Kovalev’s 4th round TKO win over Cleverly in 2013, it came close to being as good.
Jack wants the fight against the 39-yer-old Stevenson, and he also wants to fight light heavyweight champion Andre Ward. Jack, 33, wants to have those fights take place as soon as possible. If Stevenson or Ward accept Jack’s challenge, he’s going to be stuck having to defend against his number 1 mandatory challenger Dmitry Bivol (11-0, 9 KOs), who is a real handful. He does everything that Jack can do, but with arguably more punching power.
Bivol is 7 years younger than Jack at 26-years-old. The WBA already ordered Cleverly to face Bivol, but he could take the fight to Jack. Now that Jack is the WBA champion, he’ll either need to fight Bivol right away or face one of the other champions in a unification. The WBA will likely let Jack bypass Bivol as long as he has a unification match, but if none of the champions want to fight him, he’s going to need to take that fight.
As impressive as Jack looked against the weight drained Cleverly, he could be brought back down to earth against Bivol, who can punch like few others in the 175-lb. division. Jack has already shown that he wins his fights by brawling. If he does that against Bivol, he may end up getting knocked out right away like he was in his 1st round knockout loss to Derek Edwards in 2014.
“I want Adonis Stevenson, let’s get it on,” Jack said after stopping Cleverly in round 5. “Unless he wants a trilogy with Andrzej Fonfara. You can’t leave it in the hands of the judges. You’ve got to go for the kill,” Jack said. “I think [world champion] Adonis Stevenson [is next]. Let’s fight somebody real. I’d go anywhere.”
Stevenson has a title defense against his mandatory challenger Eleider Alvarez due. After that, Stevenson will likely go back to defending against vulnerable fringe contenders rather than choosing to take any unnecessary risks. The southpaw Stevenson would likely knockout Jack, but it’s doubtful that he’ll want to take a fight against him because there would be some risk involved. Stevenson seems to be risk aversive right now at this point in his career.
If Jack is wise, he’ll start getting mentally prepared for the Bivol fight, because that appears to be his only option unless he wants to vacate his WBA title to avoid fighting him. If Jack vacates, then he can fight whoever he wants, as long as his promoters at Mayweather Promotions can lure one of the top fighters to face him, which is doubtful. Jack isn’t a popular big money fighter. He’s got a well-known promoter in Floyd Mayweather Jr., but you need more than that if you want to get a big money fight.
Jack landed 172 of 442 pounds for a connect percentage of 39 percent against Cleverly last Saturday fight, according to CompuBox. Cleverly landed 82 of 442 shots for a 20 percent connect percentage. It was total domination for Jack, who was a much different fighter in this fight than he had in his last 2 bouts against James DeGale and Lucian Bute.
What made Jack look so good was the lack of power from Cleverly. Jack is a much confident guy when he’s not getting hammered like he was by Bute and DeGale. Those guys were keeping Jack in check with their hard shots, and sheer number of shots they were throwing at him. Cleverly looked weak, and he couldn’t do anything to get Jack’s respect in the fight.
This was Jack’s fight in the light heavyweight division since moving up in weight from super middleweight. Jack has been pretty much a light heavyweight in terms of size for years now. He’s somehow been able to melt down to make the 168 lb. weight division. Now that Jack is finally competing in the correct division for his weight and frame, it should be interesting to see what he can do. It’s going to be tough though.
Jack’s advantages that he had at 168 are no longer there for him at 175. Yeah, Jack looked good against Cleverly, but that guy should at cruiserweight. It’s too hard for him to make the weight for 175, and it’s draining him. Jack is going to need to prove that he can beat these types of fighters if he wants to go anywhere at 175:
Those are all going to be tough outs for Jack. Even Kovalev, who has lost his last 2 fights to Andre Ward, is going to be a really hard fight for Jack. We’re going to see sooner or later whether Jack has the talent to make it in the 175 lb. division.
“I wanted to box him and feel him out while establishing my jab,” said Jack via espn.com. ”Then the plan was to break him down from there. The plan was to finish him. I got a little excited at times but I barely got hit. My boxing IQ was the difference in this fight. Everybody doubting me motivated me. My trainer and my team did a great job getting me to this point. It’s a dream come true.”
Jack didn’t outsmart Cleverly. There was nothing that Jack was doing that screamed out that he was displaying great boxing skills in getting the better of the 30-year-old Cleverly. What made Jack so good against Cleverly was his power and aggression. Jack was going straight at Cleverly, beating him with brute strength and power shots. It was a really old school approach to the fight by Jack. That style will work against some guys that lack power like Cleverly, but it could get Jack in a lot of trouble against fighters that hit harder than him like Stevenson, Bivol, Kovalev, Barrera and Beterbiev.
Gvozdyk and Jack likely are evenly matched in the power department, but Jack isn’t in the same league as the Ukrainian in terms of mobility. That would be a really tough fight for Jack. I don’t know if he’ll ever fight Gvozdyk, as he’s with Top Rank. Jack with Mayweather Promotions. I’d be surprised if a fight between them ever takes place. But Jack will need to worry about the other guys like Bivol, Beterbiev, Kovalev and Barrera, especially now that he’s a world champion at light heavyweight.
Jack busted up Cleverly’s prominent nose in round 4 with some had left hands to the head. Cleverly was stopping shots with his face instead of his gloves. He had no defensive skills to get out of the way of Jack’s punches.
In round 5, Jack hammered at will against a bloody and beaten Cleverly when he had him backed up against the ropes. At one point, Jack turned to the referee Tony Weeks to give him a hint that he needed to step in to stop the fight due to how much punishment Cleverly was taking. Not long after that, Weeks stepped in and stopped the fight. Cleverly was unhappy with the stoppage, but he didn’t protest too strongly about it. The time of the stoppage was at 2:47 of round 5.
“Jack was very strong. He caught me and broke my nose in the third round,” Cleverly said. “It was a downward spiral from there. I was wounded and protecting myself. It’s horrible but part of the sport. I thought the stoppage was premature. He had just swung and missed but it’s up to the referee in the end. I have to respect that decision,” said Cleverly.
Jack may have missed the punch at the time of the stoppage, but he was hitting Cleverly with nonstop shots just before that. Jack didn’t look like he was getting tired from hitting Cleverly, and there was nothing coming back. You could understand Cleverly being upset if he was answering back with shots, but he wasn’t doing that. He was just getting nailed by Jack with repeated blows to the head. It was target practice for Jack.
Jack’s in a much better position with his career now than Cleverly. It’s unclear where Cleverly goes from here. He can stay in the division and wait for his promoter Eddie Hearn to set him up with a good fight, but I don’t know if he’s going to be able to get another world title shot anytime soon. Cleverly has lost 3 out of his last 5 fights. That tells you something isn’t right with his game. He could be over the hill or fighting in the wrong division.