Editor’s Column: Under-appreciated Cleverly could capitalise on Mayweather-McGregor circus

Editor’s Column: Under-appreciated Cleverly could capitalise on Mayweather-McGregor circus

Floyd Mayweather, arguably the greatest boxer of his generation, has announced he will fight Mixed Martial Artist Conor McGregor on 26 August in Las Vegas’ T Mobile Arena.

McGregor achieved absolutely nothing as an amateur boxer and has never had a professional boxing bout. However, due to the Irishman’s larger than life personality, he has gained a humongous, albeit deluded, fan base who somehow think he can trouble Mayweather. Yes, the same Mayweather who won an Olympic medal and reigned supreme as an unbeaten multi-weight world champion with 49 consecutive victories in the paid code.

The southpaw, who has won two UFC world titles in the MMA world, has been sparring boxers for over a year in preparation for such an opportunity. When footage has leaked, it’s been less than flattering for McGregor, who is no longer aided by the use of kicks, elbows, takedowns and the general unpredictability of cage fighting inside a squared circle. One clip showed him sparring Chris Van Heerden, a borderline top 30 welterweight, who appeared in first gear and enjoyed taking advantage of McGregor’s novice-like rawness.

Despite that, Mayweather-McGregor is set to make hundreds of millions of dollars and one beneficiary may be Cefn Fforest’s Nathan Cleverly. It’s likely that the 30-year-old will defend his WBA ‘Regular’ belt against Badou Jack, who is promoted by Mayweather, on the same show. The Swedish native was WBC world champion at super-middleweight and has now moved seven pounds north to light-heavyweight, swimming in the same waters as Cleverly.

The pair have expressed their interest in facing each other on social media and it’s a logical matchup for them, especially as the division’s top guns are tied up. This weekend, Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev rematch for the WBA Super, WBO and IBF belts, while WBC ruler Adonis Stevenson must face mandatory challenger Eleider Alvarez next.

If it’s made, Cleverly would be the underdog in Las Vegas and a small part of that is down to having a lower profile compared to Jack, who is riding a wave of popularity at the moment due to an impressive string of wins. Still, it won’t deter Cleverly, who can match (and more) Jack for size, strength and output – all the attributes that have previously been in his favour at 168lbs.

There’s little chance Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn would dig down in his deep pockets to make the fight happen in the UK. In defence, the promoter would cite that he wouldn’t make a return on his investment at the limited capacity venues available in Cardiff. Convenient? Possibly. So, Vegas would make more sense.

Under Hearn’s guidance, Cleverly has been a road warrior, appearing in the away corner against world level opposition in Tony Bellew, Andrzej Fonfara and Juergen Braehmer already. It’s a run of opposition that few others in Britain can boast. The Welshman will have been handsomely compensated, and rightly so, for the outings but they have come too far apart.

Cleverly is the ultimate professional and trains all year round. However, Hearn hasn’t kept him busy and four fights in the last 32 months is the reason Cleverly is massively under appreciated by the public, even in Wales. Whatever happens in the immediate future of our 11th world champion, he deserves an opportunity to headline at home again, before the final chapters of his unforgettable career are closed.

Dewi Powell, Editor of BoxingWales.com.

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