Exactly nine months since his first professional defeat, Nathan Cleverly (27-1, 13KO) returned to the ring and scored a second round stoppage of Trinidad’s Shawn Corbin (17-5, 12KO). It was a hat-trick of firsts for Cleverly; fighting 25lbs heavier at cruiserweight, under the sole guidance of trainer Darren Wilson and on a Matchroom Sport show. The 27-year-old from Cefn Fforest entered the ring to ‘The Contender’ theme tune and it reflected his focused frown throughout the fight. Referee Richie Davies was forced to step in and end the contest as Cleverly unloaded with several flush punches to the head on Corbin who was past the point of defending himself. Cleverly displayed his usual variety, first rocking his opponent with uppercuts on the inside, then sustaining the attack with his straight backhand and applying the finishing touches with wide hooks.

Cleverly’s renown hand speed remained the same but his output had dipped, he instead choose to sit down on selective shots that put Corbin on the back foot and, more importantly, kept him there. Cleverly’s performance acknowledged that he’ll have to adapt his style and increase his punch power, instead of his old fast flurries that hadn’t packed the power to stop opponents in their tracks. The Welshman also had the footwork to force mistakes from his opponent, manoeuvring Corbin to the ropes – no mans land for the visitor who has often been hurt as he backtracks to the edges of the ring. Cleverly has often been criticised for a loose defence but he opted to walk Corbin down behind a high guard, taking nothing for granted and appreciating the difference of power in the cruiserweight. Cleverly returned to the same venue where he lost his WBO world light-heavyweight title to Sergey Kovalev in a fourth round stoppage loss. However, the ghosts of his only defeat were erased and Cleverly’s victory over Sean Corbin was his fourth win of his career at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena. By defeating Corbin, a WBC Caribbean champion, Cleverly collected the lightly regarded WBA Inter-Continental title which will see him gain a world ranking with the governing body. World glory would see Cleverly become the first Welshman to win official world titles in two weight categories and to regain a world title after losing one. First though, Cleverly is likely to be matched against former foe Tony Bellew who he beat by majority decision in October 2011. There’s the option for Cleverly to fight in Scotland in June but promoter Eddie Hearn has stated preliminary plans for the rivals to feature on a double header show at Liverpool’s Echo Arena in July, before rematching each other in November. A series of small injuries had postponed Cleverly’s debut at cruiserweight but it may have allowed the Welshman to grow in to the weight category. Cleverly’s appearance at the weigh-in surprised many as he filled his frame, weighing 14st 5lbs 2oz while Corbin was 13st 13lbs. FULL UNDERCARD REPORT TO FOLLOW

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