Nathan Cleverly (26-1, 12 KO) is back in the sport of boxing. After a crushing fourth-round TKO defeat at the hands of Sergey Kovalev in Aug. 2013, Cleverly took time away.
He's moving up to cruiserweight to take on Guyana's Sean Corbin (17-4, 12 KO) for the vacant WBC intercontinental title on Saturday from the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales.
Like Cleverly, Corbin has spent the majority of his career at light heavyweight, but this will be his sixth fight at cruiserweight.
The bout is part of an exciting card filled with British boxing stars. Lee Selby, Gavin Rees and Gary Buckland will also be in action on Saturday night.
Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn is pushing the comeback story of Cleverly as one of the primary draws for the card.
It's the big comeback for Wales former World Champ @NathanClev returning at Cruiserweight taking on Sean Corbin for the WBA inter-cont title— Eddie Hearn (@EddieHearn) May 12, 2014
Here's how you can watch.
When: Saturday, May 17 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales
TV: Sky Sports
Live Stream: AWE
The Book on Cleverly
Once looked at as a future superstar in the sport at light heavyweight, Cleverly was humbled by Kovalev in his last bout. From the opening bell, Kovalev not only proved to be the superior fighter, but he also seemed to be hungrier, more aggressive and better equipped with a fighter's mentality.
Cleverly had never faced such adversity in the ring before, and quite honestly, he didn't handle it well.
The loss nearly broke him. Per BBC Sport, Cleverly pondered retirement afterward. The cruiserweight division is a bit more mild than light heavyweight, where fighters like Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson and Bernard Hopkins hold titles.
It could symbolize an easier route to stardom for Cleverly.
Tony Bellew, a previous Cleverly rival, has already taken his talents to the division. The two Brits had an entertaining and spirited scrap back in 2011. There's seemingly always been a market for a rematch.
Per Hearn's column in the Daily Mail, Cleverly simply needs to beat Corbin and win again in July to secure that bout.
Phil Kirkbride of the Liverpool Echo even has the date for the rematch with Bellew.
Plans in place for Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly to rematch on November 29 in Liverpool— Phil Kirkbride (@philkecho) May 14, 2014
Cleverly is beaming with confidence about that potential second meeting with Bellew, per Behind the Gloves:
Nathan Cleverly: “I’ll make it 2-0 against Tony Bellew” http://t.co/5lKKAJGqgW— BTG (@BehindTheGloves) May 14, 2014
One could accuse Cleverly of looking beyond Corbin. While it's great to allow fans to know what bouts are lined up for popular fighters, there's a concern as to whether that prompts guys to get complacent with the task at hand.
Coming off the loss Cleverly suffered to Kovalev, complacency is the last thing he needs.
The Book on Corbin
The biggest issue for Corbin has been his weak chin. He's been stopped four times in his relatively short career. Is it a physical weakness, a stamina problem or a lack of experience?
At 39 years old, you'd think he would have more than 21 fights, but he didn't begin his professional career until he was 26. He also had a three-year layoff after his first professional bout.
Corbin has great height at 6'3", but he tends to square up too often. He presents too big of a target to hit and doesn't employ enough head movement. You can almost bet these deficiencies were seen in the tape of Corbin by Cleverly and his team.
It looks as if Corbin could be easy pickings for a man looking to re-establish his confidence and momentum. Corbin's manager Lystra Cudjoe insists her fighter is prepared for the challenge. Per Mark Pouchet of the Trinidad Express Newspapers, Cudjoe said:
We have been monitoring the press releases from the Cleverly camp and he is struggling to get up to the cruiserweight level (200 lbs) as we all know he used to fight at 175 pounds and he is barely getting to the 200. Sean is already at 200 and staying steady. He (Corbin ) is a lot stronger and prepared for this fight.
Corbin should be more comfortable at the weight considering he's been competing there since 2012. But will that be enough to help him pull off an upset?
Who wins Cleverly-Corbin, and how?
Corbin's length and athleticism could pose Cleverly some issues early. Also, Cleverly isn't the type of devastating puncher that should be able to expose Corbin's chin. That's especially the case with Clev coming up from 175 pounds.
That said, Corbin is still too easy to hit. While Cleverly may not have the pop to stop Corbin, he does have the boxing skills to hit him at will.
Look for the lead left hook to do some damage for Cleverly. He should win a comfortable decision in his return to the ring.
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