One night in Neubrandenburg: Nathan Cleverly creates history with career best win

One night in Neubrandenburg: Nathan Cleverly creates history with career best win

On Saturday, Cefn Fforest’s Nathan Cleverly (30-3, 16KO) made history with a career best win.

The light-heavyweight forced Juergen Braehmer (48-3, 35KO) to quit at the start of the seventh round and he became the WBA Regular world champion.

It meant that 29-year-old Cleverly became the first Welshman to lose a world title [WBO, 2013] and regain another version of the crown.

Many observers, including Matchroom Sport’s promoter Eddie Hearn, believed it would realistically be Cleverly’s final chance to break back in to world level and his win stunned the home fans in Neubrandenburg, Germany.

Cleverly set a high output and pressed the action from the opening bell. The positive body language was coming from the red corner and it was clearly the challenger’s type of fight.

After a solid opener, when Cleverly settled very quickly and landed straight shots from range, Braehmer’s precise punching came in to effect in the following rounds. Braehmer found gaps in Cleverly’s defence but it wasn’t enough to deter his opponent, who was more suited to proceedings over a longer distance – losing a round but winning the fight.

Surprisingly, Braehmer elected to meet Cleverly head on and he stood shoulder-to-shoulder. It wasn’t his usual fight pattern and though he could argue to landing the harder shots in rounds two, three and four, his gas tank appeared more affected by the exchanges.

By the fifth and sixth rounds, Braehmer’s legs had deserted him and attempts to change tactics and utilise the large ring space were failing. The reigning champion, who hadn’t lost since 2008, was struggling for energy to move away from Cleverly. Braehmer found himself stuck against the ropes, in retreat on the edges of the ring with greater and greater frequency.

A lot of Cleverly’s blows, with the exception of a series of sickening left hooks to the body, were arm punches but it was still effective enough to unnerve Braehmer. It was the German’s hardest fight of his title reign and he spent the sixth round trying to escape constant advances from Cleverly, who stood taller and reestablished straight shots to march him backwards.

Braehmer was leading all three of the judges’ scorecards by unanimous 58-56 margins at the halfway point. However, the southpaw was uncomfortable with the pace and pattern of the action. Braehmer’s fatigue showed when he would square up as Cleverly closed the distance and the intensity was only increasing throughout the 18 minutes.

After the bell sounded to start the seventh round, Braehmer took longer to get off his stool and when he did, he casually strolled toward the referee, tapping his right elbow to signal to Rafael Ramos that the fight was over due to an injury. Cleverly was briefly congratulated by Braehmer, before raising his hands in realisation and celebrating with coach Darren Wilson.

The tactics from the corner were premeditated and planned to physically match Braehmer with inside fighting in the first half of the fight, where he often banks so many rounds before fading late on – a common theme when he’s faced live opposition. It would then force Braehmer to win rounds in the second half of the fight, by which point Cleverly would have tired him out enough to find the gaps with work from longer range – similar to what happened against another German, Karo Murat in 2010. It’s just that the latter part of the plan was unnecessary as Braehmer bailed before it got to that point.

Braehmer could be seen using his right arm to take his glove off in the moments after it ended and appeared to do it without a grimace of pain. It later transpired in the post-fight press conference that he didn’t even inform his corner that he was going to pull out of the fight. Sauerland Events, who promote Braehmer, will undoubtedly hold an internal inquest to find out what happened.

The fight was five years in the making and the ending wasn’t in the circumstances Cleverly would’ve chosen. That said, the result is a career best for Cleverly, proving many wrong who questioned his hunger and can rightfully claim to be a top five light-heavyweight.

It is the third major title fight to take place at the Jahnsportforum in Neubrandenburg that has seen the champion dethroned. The IBF middleweight belt switched hands from Sebastian Sylvester in 2011 and Steve Cunningham’s cruiserweight strap was lost to Yoan Pablo Hernandez five months later.

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