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Nathan Cleverly vs. Alejandro Valori: Preview, Prediction for Upcoming Bout

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2014

Nathan Cleverly vs. Alejandro Valori: Preview, Prediction for Upcoming Bout

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    On Saturday night in Liverpool, former WBO light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly continues his campaign to capture a world title in the cruiserweight division when he faces Alejandro Valori of Argentina. Cleverly's WBA intercontinental belt will be on the line, but this fight is really all about keeping the former champion active and visible.

    The Welshman achieved a high level of stardom in the United Kingdom at a relatively young age before suffering a brutal setback against Sergey Kovalev when he dropped his title to the Russian last August. At 27, Cleverly should have plenty of time to rebuild his career.

Tale of the Tape

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images
    Per Boxrec     Nathan Cleverly     Alejandro Valori
    Record:     27-1, 13 KOs     15-4, 11 KOs
    Height:     6'1.5"     6'0"
    Reach:     74"     Unlisted
    Weight:     200 lbs     200 lbs
    Age:     27     31
    Stance:     Orthodox     Orthodox
    Hometown:     Cefn Fforest, Wales     Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Rounds:     177     78

    Nathan Cleverly is four years younger than Alejandro Valori, but he's the far more experienced fighter, both in terms of time in the ring and level of competition. He has held a world title and fought and beaten some high-level fighters on the domestic scene.

    The Welsh native has built up a lot of popularity in the U.K. and should be treated as a local hero in Liverpool. He has a decent frame for carrying 200 pounds and will even enjoy a length advantage against Valori.

Main Storylines

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    Nathan Cleverly was brutally dispatched by Sergey Kovalev in August of last year, suffering his first professional loss and dropping his WBO belt. But Kovalev is a wrecking machine, one of the sport's most dangerous punchers, and I believe that fight told us more about Kovalev than it did about Cleverly.

    Still just 27, Cleverly could have a chance to develop to his fullest ability at 200 pounds. He has always been an active, skilled fighter with a lot of grit and heart. There's a chance he'll bring more speed to the table fighting at cruiserweight.

    He seems to be moving rapidly toward a title shot in his new division. Cleverly's debut at 200 pounds was for a minor WBA belt in May, and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, was already talking about rematching him with old rival Tony Bellew, even before that fight.

    The winner of Cleverly vs. Bellew would be riding high in the United Kingdom's domestic scene and well-positioned for a shot at one of the 200-pound champions.

    Alejandro Valori is journeyman/club-level fighter from Argentina with limited experience and skill. He very much appears to be a hand-picked, stay-busy opponent.

    Still, this is a golden opportunity for Valori if he can pull off the upset.

Strengths

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Nathan Cleverly is a busy, combination puncher with some skill. He works well from behind his jab and always has the conditioning to maintain a high work rate throughout a fight.

    He is at an age where he could be entering his athletic prime, after already gaining a solid body of experience at a high level in the sport. He's always been a good fighter, and he should get better.

    Alejandro Valori is a rugged and aggressive fighter. He's physically strong and hits with some authority.

Weaknesses

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    Nathan Cleverly enjoys entertaining the fans with a good scrap and has often been hit with punches he probably didn't need to get hit with. Against a destroyer like Kovalev, his gritty aggression spelled disaster.

    It's a habit he'll need to watch as he grows older and moves up in weight.

    Alejandro Valori is a sloppy fighter who looks completely amateurish at times. He fails to return his hands to good defensive position in exchanges, has poor balance and lunges. While he's tough and relatively durable, his chin is hardly forged from granite.

Nathan Cleverly Will Win If...

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Nathan Cleverly should have success in this fight following his usual game plan of active and aggressive combination punching. But he should mix in an ounce or two of caution, especially in the early going, to make sure he doesn't get caught with any big punches.

    Cleverly should be able to string together combinations from behind his jab while working on the outside. He should let his hands go and then shift angles before letting his hands go again.

    By controlling and shifting the range and angles between him and Alejandro Valori, Cleverly should be able to sting his opponent with punches, frustrate him and get him to lunge. Once the Argentine compromises his balance, Cleverly will be able to maneuver him into vulnerable positions and score big.

    Cleverly should attack steadily but stay patient. He should have more than enough talent to work away at Valori and finish him inside of the distance.

Alejandro Valori Will Win If...

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    To have any chance at all, Alejandro Valori is going to need to fight with more defensive skill than he has previously shown. But elevating his game against a former world champion is a tough order to fill.

    Valori should slow up his punch rate and focus on staying covered up when Cleverly is attacking. The Argentine will no doubt lose rounds that way, but it might give him a chance to land a big punch when Cleverly opens up his own attack.

    His only real chance to beat Cleverly is to hurt him and finish him. To do that Valori will need to pick his spot and minimize the punishment he takes while waiting for that opportunity to open up.

Prediction

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    There's no way Nathan Cleverly should lose this fight. His loss to Sergey Kovalev last August was devastating, but he really looked to have put it behind him when he debuted at cruiserweight in May.

    He should steamroll Alejandro Valori while continuing to advance his career. I expect Cleverly to win by TKO within eight rounds.

    That should set up a rematch for him with Tony Bellew for the end of the year. That should be a very proper scrap, as there is genuine animosity between the two.

    I have my doubts about Cleverly becoming a dominant force at cruiserweight. But he should continue to be what he was at light heavyweight: an entertaining fighter with enough talent to hold an alphabet soup belt.  

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