EXCLUSIVE: Nathan Cleverly secures “fate” fight with world champion Juergen Braehmer

EXCLUSIVE: Nathan Cleverly secures “fate” fight with world champion Juergen Braehmer

Cefn Fforest’s Nathan Cleverly (29-3, 15KO) will fight for a second world title and believes he’s destined to win it.

The 29-year-old will finally face long-standing German rival Juergen Braehmer (48-2, 35KO), who holds the WBA Regular title.

The pair of light-heavyweights will fight in Neubrandenburg, Germany on Saturday 1 October and it will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.

Speaking to BoxingWales.com in his first interview about the official announcement, Cleverly said: “This is awesome news. This fight between myself and Braehmer has been destined to happen for five years. So, here we are and it’s finally on. I just can’t wait.

“He’s a good champion. I think he’s underrated, has good amateur pedigree and he’s shown that all the way through his professional career. He’s been a world champion for a long time, always been a good puncher and stylistically good. I’ve got respect for him,” said Cleverly. “When I’m on my A-game and over any niggling injuries, I’ll be too much. I’m ready to go for him and I have too much fire power.”

Sauerland Promotions will stage the show, which will see Cleverly and Braehmer fight each other five years after they were first supposed to. Originally, Braehmer was forced to make a mandatory defence of his belt against Cleverly during his period as WBO world champion in May 2011.

However, Braehmer refused to travel to London and was stripped of the title because the sanctioning body wasn’t satisfied with the reasons given for his repeated cancellations. Cleverly was installed as champion as he held the WBO Interim title and he made a short-notice defence against Aleksy Kuziemski. The Welshman made four further successful defences but admits that becoming champion outside of the ring tainted his title reign.

Cleverly said: “Yeah, it did taint things but sometimes, things are meant to be. Things happen and you look back and you think what could have been but maybe it was meant to happen. The way it’s all worked out, here we are again and history is repeating itself.

“We’re matched up to fight again for the world title, he’s champion again and I’m challenger again. This time, I’m going to Germany and take him on, it’s been a long time in the making.”

Braehmer knocked out Manchester’s great Ricky Hatton and out-pointed Nottingham’s warrior Carl Froch as an amateur. Now 37-years-old, he hasn’t suffered a defeat for eight years and has maintained his best asset, a tricky southpaw stance. It’s something that helped him become a two-time champion and defend his new silverware six times, including a TKO of Swansea’s brave Enzo Maccarinelli. Cleverly hasn’t faced a southpaw since beating the basic Tommy Karpency in 2012 and he’s mindful of the obstacle stance.

He said: “Southpaws are notorious for being awkward and making it hard for orthodox fighters. I’ve had experience of a few southpaws in the past and lots of southpaw sparring – I’ll continue with that in this training camp. It can be tricky but it’s what you’ve got to deal with. You’ve got to deal with all styles on the world stage.

“I think it’s a good blend of styles. Braehmer is a good counter-puncher, a good solid left hand with single shots. Then you’ve got myself, whose pretty much the opposite of Braehmer. I let my hands go and I like to fight, so it’s a good mix of styles. Opposites can blend nicely sometimes in fights and it will be a very interesting battle. My prediction, I believe I will become two-time champion of the world.”

When Cleverly was first scheduled to tackle Braehmer, he prepared by sparring native London slick trickster James DeGale – then an Olympic gold medallist and British champion after just 10 outings. Since then, Essex-based ‘Chunky’ has established himself as one of the world’s best southpaws to hold the IBF belt and Cleverly is keen to link-up again.

He said: “We’ve made enquiries and it looks like me and James DeGale will be doing a bit of sparring in mid-August. He’s one of the best southpaws in the world and only in the weight below, so it makes sense. We’ve worked together in the past, too.

“I’ll apply similar tactics to what I was going to in the first [cancelled] fight. I’m preparing for the best Juergen Braehmer possible. His pedigree speaks for itself, he can box and punch, he has a good knockout ratio, too. He’s looking okay of late and his performances are relatively good. I’m not expecting, because he’s 37, a poor Juergen Braehmer – I’m expecting an experienced, mature, strong fighter.”

The fight will be another where Cleverly gives up home advantage and travels to the territory of his opponent, having recently accommodated away corners in Liverpool and Chicago. Always unfazed, Cleverly is aware of the possible circumstances in Germany, where Brits have occasionally been unfairly treated in the past.

He said: “Being on the road is not an issue for me. It’s a fight, we both fight in the ring. Whether it’s home or away, I thrive on it and I will do in this fight in Germany. It’s a tough challenge but I’m looking forward to the adventure. I’m going to pull this off.

“It’s been mentioned in the past about the judging and the favoritism towards German fighters. It’s been very evident in the past, I’ve seen it for myself and people who know boxing, know it can be tough in Germany. You can be against the fighter, judges and referee a lot of the time. So, I’ll have this in my mind and I’m going to make doubly sure that I’ll take it out of their hands and win this fight conclusively.”

A deal was verbally agreed in principal last summer but Cleverly instead chose to travel to America to fight Andrzej Fonfara in October. It was on a bigger platform and gave bigger rewards but Cleverly was beaten on points in a Fight of the Year candidate. By the time Cleverly’s next fight comes around, it will be 50 weeks since he last fought but he thinks the break will be a blessing in disguise for his Braehmer barrier.

He said: “It’s not been a frustrating period really because I’ve kept ticking over in the gym, fresh and kept my body moving. At the same time, I’ve allowed my body to heal, rest and recover. Mentally and physically, I feel refreshed. My injuries – I’ve had a few niggling problems, different things – we’ve healed now.

“Maybe it’s been a blessing to have that rest and downtime. It’s been an okay period for me, I’ve got on with it, got my head down and stayed patient. We’re here with the big world title fight.”

Cleverly’s first go as world champion came to an end in 2013 when he ran in to the heavy hands of Russia’s Sergey Kovalev. Since then, the nuclear force has established himself as a borderline all-time great light-heavyweight and now holds the WBA’s Super title, along with the IBF and Cleverly’s old WBO strap.

The WBA operate a confusing three tier system that increases the amounts of sanctioning fees they receive and it has been criticised as a money making set up. In an effort to reduce their number of champions, earlier this week the WBA ordered Kovalev to fight Braehmer. By winning, Cleverly could become the mandatory challenger for his old foe, who handed him a first career defeat.

Cleverly said: “I didn’t think of that, to be honest. That didn’t cross my mind, this is the first I’ve thought of that. I’ve got no opinion on it as of yet because I’m all in on the Braehmer fight and that’s all I can see – becoming two-time world champion. This is massive for me, a big chance to get back and kick start my career again. Lets make this chapter the best one yet.

“Braehmer has a voluntary defence of his world title and the biggest fight out there for him is against me. We’re finally making it happen and it’s the biggest fight out there for Juergen Braehmer apart form Kovalev, who has gone his route. I’m the next biggest fight, I’ve no worries there, I knew it would happen. I’m just glad we’re here now.”

First for Kovalev, who many consider the division’s premier pugilist, he will defend his titles in November against Andre Ward, who was once recognised as the best super-middleweight of his era until inactivity derailed momentum. Cleverly has also been inactive in 2016 and accepted an offer to challenge Ward in April, only for the ‘Son of God’ to backtrack and settle for the unknown Columbian Alexander Brand.

Analysing the American’s antics, Cleverly said: “I’m not too sure about Andre Ward’s next opponent. I’ve never seen him, I’ve not really heard of him to be honest. I think it’s a smart move by Andre Ward, y’know? His big super fight is in November against Kovalev, so he needs no slip-ups now.

“He doesn’t need anybody whose going to chuck it on him and make him work for every second and be high risk. He doesn’t need that at this stage, he needs another warm up to keep his timing sharp. He’s still got to keep his eye on the ball – the guy he’s fighting, Brand, it’s his big opportunity.”

Should Ward win as almost all expect he will, it will set up an already agreed meeting with Kovalev that will generate millions of dollars on HBO pay-per-view. Having shared 10 minutes of madness with Kovalev, Cleverly is very qualified to offer an opinion on what is potentially boxing’s highest quality fight of 2016.

He said: “I’m going to stick with Kovalev to win… on points. I think it’s going to be a very, very close points win. I think a lot of people would say either Kovalev by KO or Ward by points but I think Kovalev by points because his pressure and hard hitting style will put Ward in to a more defensive mode. Kovalev will edge it then, edge the rounds with his power.”