Clev backs countrymen in biggest nights of their careers

Clev backs countrymen in biggest nights of their careers

Last time out, Cefn Fforest’s former world champion Nathan Cleverly (28-2, 14KO) found himself one half of an intense Pay-Per-View focus but it’ll be a big contrast at the O2 Arena on Saturday. The returning light-heavyweight will again appear on Sky Box Office but in a surely routine eight round outing against Tomas Man (13-8-1, 8KO). The visitor is little more than a relative no-hoper as Cleverly brings himself back down in weight, after defeat at cruiserweight, to target WBA Regular world champion Juergen Braehmer. Wales’ main interest on the show comes courtesy of two men who Cleverly knows very well and they will embark on the biggest missions of their careers to date. ‘Sugar’ Lee Selby (20-1, 8KO), who Cleverly spent years with on Welsh amateur squads, will co-headline Matchroom Sport’s show and bid to become IBF world featherweight champion. During his WBO world light-heavyweight title reign, Cleverly was Welsh boxing’s flag bearer but Selby is set to takeover and he has the backing of his countryman to thrive as Wales’ 12th world champion. Cleverly said: “It’s fantastic, you live the dream as world champion. Boxing is the dream we live and love, you’re at the highest level as world champion. It’s an incredible feeling. Selby is one step away and if he wins, he’ll love it.” The Barry boy’s ex-international team mate believes he’s well equipped to deal with the expectation and overcome reigning champion Evgeny Gradovich (19-0-1, 9KO), an undefeated Russian who will be making his fifth title defence. Cleverly said: “Selby’s looking good, he has for a long time now. He’s classy and he’s done everything the traditional way. He’s got the momentum behind him to take the title. “It’ll be a tough fight, Gradovich is a good champion and he knows how to grind out the wins. I think this might be Selby’s time now though, he’s the right age and it’s come at the right time for him.” Although Selby stands on the edge of making Welsh history, Cleverly advises that it should be approached just like any other fight, a tactic that will surely decrease pressure. He said: “Lee should just do as he’s been doing, it’s just another fight and he should treat it like any other fight. Obviously, there’s a massive prize at the end of it but that’s at the end of the fight. For everything before and during, it’s another day at the office for him. “It’s best to keep it simple and not overthink it. Lee’s won big fights before. So, he’s obviously been doing things the right way.” Blackwood’s Craig Evans (14-0, 3KO) spent many of his teenage years with Cleverly at Fluer-de-Lis Boxing Club, under the guidance of Pengam’s venerable Alan Davies, who would later play the role of co-trainer in 15 of Cleverly’s professional outings. It was during that period that Evans soared as an amateur, winning 72 of 84 contests and representing Wales on the world scene. The southpaw’s unpaid career culminated at the 2009 World Championships in Milan and he was only beaten by eventual gold medallist Vasyl Lomachenko, who would later be thought of as the best amateur boxer of all time. Despite not receiving masses of hype as a professional, many Welshmen believe that it’s that solid grounding in the sport that stands Evans in good stead for his battle against fellow unbeaten prospect Scott Cardle (17-0, 5KO). Cleverly said: “I’ve known Craig a very long time, going back to the amateur days when we were early teenagers, he’s only a couple of years younger than me. We trained in the same amateur gym for a long time, he was a spiteful fighter. He likes to let hard, snappy shots go but he’s also got a high skill level, he’s a good counter-puncher, too. “There’s always been excellent potential in Craig. He has the British title shot and he’s bang up for it, he sounds really enthusiastic and it’s going to be a tough fight for him.” There are striking similarities between Cleverly and Evans’ challenges for the British title. In 2009, Cleverly, then a Frank Warren fighter, appeared on a rival promoters show in London and knocked out Hennessy Sport’s previously unbeaten Danny McIntosh at York Hall. Evans, still a Frank Warren fighter, will also appear on a rival promoter’s show in London to take on an unbeaten opponent and Cleverly concedes they’re evenly matched. Speaking of his ex-gym mates’ chances, Cleverly said: “I see it being an entertaining fight. Cardle has built up good momentum, he’s looking sharp and so is Craig. They’re both unbeaten and it’s their first real test. I think it’s an excellent 50-50 match-up. It’s even and it’s going to be fine margins in this fight, very close rounds and something will have to give at one stage. “It’s a tough one to call but I have to go with Craig’s confidence. I’m surprised by how confident he is and that’s edging it for me at the moment.” Sky Sports Box Office will show ‘Rule Britannia’ exclusively live this Saturday. Buy now at www.skysports.com/brookgavin

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