Nathan Cleverly Adds European Crown To His British And Commonwealth - Next A World Title?
by James Slater - Welshman Nathan Cleverly looked sensational once again last night, as he claimed the vacant European light-heavyweight title with a 5th-round stoppage of experienced former champ Antonio Brancalion of Italy. A big right hand smashed the 34-year-old visitor's head back as he was under fire along the ropes, prompting referee Jean-Louis Legend to dive in and halt the fight at the one-minute and 15-second mark.
22-year-old Cleverly is now 19-0(9). Brancalion is now 32-8-2(8)..
Frank Warren's Wembley show of last night was a good one, and it's debatable who stole the show - Cleverly or lightweight talent Kevin Mitchell. One thing is sure, both undefeated fighters have ultra-promising futures.
When he began his pro career, brainy maths student Cleverly was labelled as a relative non-puncher, yet this very idea has been swept aside by the gifted 6.3.5" triple belt-holding boxer. Now having stopped his last six foes in a row, the new European champ at 175-pounds is putting his punches together extremely well. His right hand was especially potent against the tough Italian who had come to London to win.
Okay, Cleverly, as he admitted himself post-fight, was hit with a few "silly punches" in the first couple of rounds, but despite this, the fight was one-way traffic in the Welshman's favour. Never losing a round on my card, Cleverly really began to dominate in the 4th-round, when he decked Brancalion at the end of the session. The stoppage win was just a matter of time now.
Showing he is a good finisher, the 22-year-old ("Clev" turns 23 on Wednesday) refused to let the Italian off the hook, raking him with his big right hand to the head once again. No-one complained abut the referee's stoppage; certainly not the shell-shocked Brancalion.
The question now is, what next for Cleverly? In a previous piece for this website, I wrote how I felt Cleverly is ready right now for reigning IBF light-heavyweight ruler Tavoris Cloud. No disrespect to the hard-hitting, all-action Cloud, but I feel Cleverly really is something special - perhaps even a fighter who is on his way to greatness. Sure, there is still a lot of work to be done by the man some have already called "the new Joe Calzaghe," but the level-headed Cleverly seems more than willing to do this work.
Promoter Frank Warren said he will look at getting his man a world title shot, perhaps in one or two further fight's time. Again, though he's had just 19 pro outings, I feel the modest Cleverly is ready for the elite right now.