Is Bellew’s hate for Cleverly based on a cynical lie or innocent inaccuracy?

Is Bellew’s hate for Cleverly based on a cynical lie or innocent inaccuracy?

When two fighters have recently been knocked out and move up to a weight category where they are yet to prove themselves, it takes something extra special for the contest to sell out a venue in a record 48 hours and be granted Sky Sports Box Office status.

In the case of Cefn Fforest’s Nathan Cleverly (28-1, 14KO) and Tony Bellew (22-2-1, 14KO), the factor that has sold their rematch at Liverpool’s Echo Arena in eight days time is a genuine, ugly rivalry where both boxers have brought out the best of each other in the ring and, at times, the worst outside of it.

Cleverly insists that while his dislike of Bellew doesn’t border on obsession, he’s not shy to admit he finds absolutely nothing to respect about his arch enemy’s character. However, the Liverpudlian is more forthright in swearing that he hates the Welshman, who gave him his first professional defeat courtesy of a Majority Decision in defence of his then WBO light-heavyweight title in 2011.

The Cleverly and Bellew saga has gone on long enough to prove it’s genuine but while the animosity is authentic, observers are confused about the origins of it’s rebirth shortly after Cleverly originally defeated Bellew.

In July, Cleverly and Bellew shared a show in Liverpool that was aptly named ‘Collision Course’ and then engaged in another interesting episode of heated verbals that included a flying advertising-toblerone and a scratching spouse. It served to remind observers that the rivalry had far from run it’s course and suggested that the most dramatic chapters were yet to come.

Soon after sparking the twice beaten Brazilan Julio Cesar Dos Santos in five anxious rounds on that Scouse summer night, Bellew used the platform of his post fight press conference to clarify a few things. In an uninterrupted nine minute monologue, the 31-year-old attempted to justify his hate and it didn’t include bandanas, losing or police being called to press conferences.

Bellew recalled the scene of the post fight press conference after his unsuccessful challenge to Cleverly. Bellew was late and Cleverly had been talking to the media for seven minutes by the time his rival sat down, gave his blood riddled red urine to the drug testers and got going with his side of the story. It’s in that crucial seven minute period, when Bellew was absent, that he says his new level of hate for Cleverly manifested and inspired his latest smear campaign.

Bellew said, “It wasn’t until the next day, when I look back at that after fight press conference and I see the words that got said. My own team and the close people that are close to me, I don’t have many – two or three, maybe four at the most – comes to see me and says to me, ‘Ant, I can’t believe you showed him respect in the after fight press conference’. I said, ‘well, y’know listen, we’ve just shared something that very few share and we’re fighters’. They said, ‘do us a favour, go back and look at that after fight press conference at his comments’.

“I goes back, and the comments out of his mouth was, ‘I never got out of second gear, it was an easy fight, I done it with two cracked ribs and he’s not all that. Now that just infuriates me and winds me up to the point where I could kick his f*cking head in right now.

“Why would you say something to my face and go in a press conference and basically tell a lie? If you’re going to say something, if he said it to me in the ring, ‘that was easy, y’know mate, I did it with broken ribs’, I’d have gone, ‘you cheeky c*nt but y’know, fair play, said it to my face’. Why say one thing to my face and go in a press conference and say something totally different? He’s a liar, a born liar and he cons everybody with his bullsh*t, ‘I’ve got a degree, I’m a nice person, a nice fella’. He’s a lying scumbag.”

Having claimed to have watched back what happened in the press conference during his absence, Bellew’s rant should be trustworthy, especially since he’s stated his stance on only talking facts on more than occasion in the past. However, the comments Cleverly made regarding his then beaten opponent included no mention of a ‘second gear’ or ‘cracked ribs’. What the Welshman actually said was the polar opposite and he couldn’t have reasonably been more respectful.

In the press conference in question that nobody, maybe even Team Clev included, has cared to watch back, the Welshman said, “I think ultimately, you know, I knew this was going to be one of my hardest fights because even though all the hype in the press conferences and what’s been said, the thing is you got Tony is one of the hungriest fighters in boxing really. Definitely in British boxing, he’s probably one of the best trainers out there, trains his heart off and as you saw tonight, he puts everything on the line.

“He had a massive crowd behind him, they were cheering every shot that he threw but ultimately, I wanted to prove that I was a worthy world champion and come in to a dangerous opponent’s back yard and win.

“I think obviously Tony underestimated how good I was really. I think he thought I was going to crumble under his power punches, I really think he thought that, whereas I knew otherwise. Obviously, I said a few things back, I bit and said a few things back to Tony but ultimately I knew it was going to be a tough fight, that’s why I trained hard and obviously got the victory. [I] dug deep because Tony threw everything at me, had a great following, they got behind him and no way was he going to give in. I think at times he felt like [giving in] but he kept pushing out and made it a hard nights work for me but y’know, deep down I was enjoying it, enjoying slugging it out and putting on a true fighting display.”

The blatant contrast between Bellew’s claims and Cleverly’s comments open up a chest of questions. While nobody doubts Bellew does hates Cleverly, many may wonder whether one of British boxing’s most fierce rivalries based on a cynical lie or just an innocent inaccuracy.

Does it even matter? While pre-fight talk rarely affects a fight, this isn’t a standard fight. The Scouser has already shown several stress signs when questioned in the build up to next weekend, having ranted about sports psychologist Sean Ryder on the Ringside magazine show, walked off the set of The Gloves Are Off programme and then refused to speak to Talk Sport’s Steve Bunce while live on the radio. Undoubtedly, Bellew’s a boxer who pays a lot of attention to the build up of his fights but it appears to have backfired on him, so far.

The rivalry will remain legitimate but with Bellew’s raging and almost uncontrollable hate for Cleverly being based on something that never happened, the real reasons behind the revenge mission remain a mystery to everyone except Bellew himself.



#CleverlyBellew2 will take place at Liverpool’s Echo Arena on Saturday 22nd November, live on Sky Sports Box Office (Channel 731) and Sky Sports HD Box Office (Channel 752). The event broadcast will start at 6:00pm and there are repeat viewings on Sunday 23rd November at 9:00am and 4:00pm. Up until Midnight on Friday 21st November, the event is priced at £16.95/€21.95 across all forms of booking.

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