Flashback: Clev’s first world title win

Flashback: Clev’s first world title win

On this day in 2011, Cefn Fforest’s Nathan Cleverly won his first world title fight, eventually taking out his frustration on Poland’s poor Alesky Kuziemski.

It was a week of madness for Wales 11th world champion. There were times of confusion when Cleverly didn’t know what was happening and he entered the fight having watched no footage of his late notice opponent.

On the Wednesday, Frank Warren’s driver was left hanging at Heathrow airport by WBO light-heavyweight champion Juergen Braehmer. It wasn’t the first time the German had pulled a stunt like this, having previously played the same trick on WBA champion Beibut Shumenov. Four months before his arranged meeting with Cleverly, Braehmer left Kazakhstan on the eve of his scheduled unification with Shumenov.

This time, the skilful southpaw filed a false note to say that he had cut himself in sparring but a doctor’s report contradicted the date and the WBO lost patience, stripping him of the title. After months and months of being mandatory, the title was awarded to Cleverly outside of the ring, much to the frustration of the then 24-year-old who had been robbed of his ‘moment’.

The show still went on. Within minutes of the news breaking, Liverpool’s outspoken Tony Bellew had taken to Twitter to pitch his place in the other corner. Warren and Cleverly agreed and the next day, carnage ensued at a press conference. The pair had traded verbals a few times in the past, Bellew keen to knock Cleverly off his perch and Cleverly keen to put his then unproven rival in his place. However, few expected the presser to be as explosive as it was.

Cleverly had been speaking less than twenty seconds and Bellew butted in; prodding, poking and pushing the new champion’s buttons. It worked. The Welshman bit, requesting that Bellew meets him in the car park and it set the Scouser scorching. “Lets do it right now, you f**king rat!” he bellowed, despite the cameras of Sky Sports News broadcasting live to the nation. Security were alert, getting between the pair before blows could be traded. There was pushing, shoving and a lot of fingers dialling the numbers on their phones to order the Pay Per View show to their televisions.

Less than ten hours later, Bellew was ruled out of an appearance at the O2 Arena. Even though Bellew had spent much of his time in London in a sauna, the Commonwealth champion couldn’t make the check weight requirements of the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC). At the time, cynics said he had no intention of making the weight and was instead plotting to create interest in a clash with Cleverly later in the year. If he did, that also worked.

So, Cleverly was left with Poland’s Alesky Kuziemski, a man he knew next to nothing about and by this point, it didn’t matter who he was facing, as long as they had four limbs and weighed 12st 7lbs. Given the notice, Kuziemski was a capable enough contender who had won a world amateur bronze medal in a previous life and challenged Braehmer for the title two years earlier.

For the first two and a half rounds, it was routine for Cleverly, walking down his opponent and landing what he wanted to. Then, the new champion was given a reminder that it’s different at the top level. A moment of laziness, a lapse in concentration… call it what you want, it was definitely more than a slight scare. A careless left body shot and right uppercut combination left Cleverly wide open to a left hook. Kuzeismki swung, hoped and it hit, rocking the university graduate on to his heels, the closest he had been to defeat in 22 professional contests.

The visitor was spurred on for thirty seconds, punching away at the guard of Cleverly who occasionally popped his head out to showboat. It awoke the crowd’s curiosity but it was short lived. In the fourth round, normal service resumed. A series of uppercuts and body shots had left Kuziemski bloodied and battered. Claret covered his face, courtesy of a leaky nose and cuts over both eyes, the doctor later said that Kuziemski had broken ribs too.

It was enough for referee Mark Nelson to wave the contest off. Cleverly, who had just won his first world title fight, put his arms in the air but the elation was over in milliseconds as it sunk to a shrug, summing up all the shenanigans Wales’ 11th world champion had endured during the week that was supposed to be his happiest.


Lewis ‘Rhondda Boy’ Rees made an impressive professional debut, stopping the usually durable Sid Razak in two rounds. Cardiff’s Francis ‘Cool Hand’ Luke Robinson won his second professional contest with a standard 40-36 points victory over Johnny Greaves.

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