Cleverly backs Selby for Brunker victory

Cleverly backs Selby for Brunker victory

Nathan Cleverly has backed his fellow Welshman Lee Selby  (19-1, 7KO) to succeed at world level on Saturday but concedes that it won’t be easy for his former team mate. Selby is one step away from an IBF world title challenge but must first overcome Australia’s fearsome featherweight Joel Brunker (27-0, 15KO) at the O2 Arena, live on Sky Sports. Cleverly said, “I expect a tough fight for Lee. I’ve heard Joel Brunker’s decent and he should be, it’s a world title eliminator. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a close fight but with Lee’s skills and Brunker coming forward letting the punches go, I think Lee will pip it on points.” Last week, Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn told BoxingWales.com that should Selby beat Brunker, he will target a fight with IBF champion Evgeny Gradovich around St David’s Day 2015. Although Cleverly admitted that a lot must happen in the meantime, including a repeat win over arch rival Tony Bellew on November 22nd, the former champion was obviously interested in a double headed world title show featuring him and Selby. Cleverly said, “There’s definitely potential for that. It’s something that’s probably in the back of the promoter’s mind but Lee’s got a big fight to get through on Saturday and I’ve got a big fight to get through against Bellew in November. “It’s a big ask for us both but it’s a big possibility at the same time. In that case, we could be sharing top billing in Cardiff in March for world titles. That would be fantastic for Welsh boxing.” Since the legendary Joe Calzaghe retired in 2009, Cleverly has been almost alone in flying the flag for Welsh boxing on the world scene but he’s more than happy for Selby to now share the burden with him. He said, “I was out on my own for a little while, kind of the only one there at world level. You wondered who else was coming through and all of a sudden, Lee broke out on the scene with his British title win over Stephen Smith and he’s gone from strength to strength. It’s great to see, Lee’s a good lad and it’s good to have a bit of company as well. “Lee’s always had the potential there, always silky skills and you could see he’s a boxer through and through. Given the opportunity in the professional ranks with a good promoter, I thought he’d definitely go on and do good things in the pros.” The pair, both aged 27, have known each other since they were children and boxed on the same Welsh teams as far back at 15 years ago and it was then that Cleverly identified a spark of something special. He said, “We were amateurs around the same time as we’re the same age. Lee was champion in his weight division, always like two weights below me, and I was Welsh champion at my weight. “We went on international tournaments in the same Welsh squads and you could see he was potentially going to go further. He’s stepped his game up now though, he was a class act as an amateur but you can see he’s stepped it up a notch now. Lee’s gone from strength to strength and I’ll think he’ll continue to do that.” Cleverly was fortunate enough to be signed by Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren when he turned professional, whereas Selby was without a major promoter and had to be strategically developed by his manager, Chris Sanigar. However, Cleverly recognises the parallels between the pair’s domestic title runs and believes it’s benefitted Selby. Cleverly said, “We’ve both done it the old fashioned route really, the traditional way. We started off in small fights, eased our way in and gone through British, Commonwealth, European and world level. There’s more satisfaction doing it that way and it’s been great to see Lee follow suit, it’s the proper way to learn your trade. “Lee’s come a long way, he started off on small hall shows and grafted hard to get to the O2 Arena. His handlers have done a great job, coming from that to where he is now must give him tremendous satisfaction.” Tickets to ‘Moment of Truth’ are priced at £40, £60 and £100. Tickets are available on 08448 24 48 24 and from The O2’s ticketing agent – www.AXS.com. VIP packages priced £150 are exclusively available from Matchroom Sport on 01277 359900 or at www.matchroomboxing.com. Image by Kris Agland.

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