By Tom Terzulli
Excitement and interest were hard to come by going into the Nathan Cleverly vs. Jurgen Brähmer bout for the German’s WBA “world” light heavyweight title on Saturday night. Brähmer had been undefeated since 2009, but had yet to fight anyone of significance. While Cleverly, the one time WBO title holder, had hit a wall after getting destroyed by Sergey Kovalev back in 2013 and equally mangled in his last fight against Andrzej Fonfara. Both men were simply aiming to keep their career relevance afloat.
However, Cleverly’s strategy right from the opening bell, never allowed the bout to become an uninteresting encounter. The Wales native pressured Brähmer from the get go, keeping the fight in close space. That’s not the type of the fight the champion is used to. At 37 years old, he prefers to keep his distance and box his opponents at a slower pace. Unfortunately for him, he was never able to dictate the pace on Saturday.
Cleverly forced Brähmer to fight HIS fight. The two traded shot after shot in close. Particularly in the 5th round, where the pair really let their hands go, landing heavy shots on each other.
What separated the two, was Brähmer’s superior defense. In trading punches, the German would land the cleaner punches because the younger Cleverly’s head movement was simply not up to par. The challenger no doubt outworked his older counterpart, but could not keep up with Brähmer’s evasiveness, and his lack thereof.
However, Cleverly’s hope was that as the bout went on, Brähmer would not be able to keep up with the pace. That began to ring true in the 6th when both men, particularly Brähmer, slowed down considerably.
We’ll never know how the strategy would have panned out though, as the fight was stopped and awarded to Cleverly before the start of the seventh round. There was initially no indication of the reason for the stoppage, until Brähmer began icing his right elbow. Later on, shortly before the official decision was announced, the Sky Sports broadcast disclosed that it was a dislocated right shoulder.
It was an odd night to say the least at the Jahnsportforum in Neubrandenburg, Germany. A fight that did little to muster up any interest, actually turned out to be a solid bout. Certainly more entreating than Canelo Alverez and Liam Smith, a few weeks ago. Unfortunately nothing seems to go perfectly in the sport of boxing nowadays, as an ill-timed injury took the real conclusion away from us. Would the furious pace have continued? Or, would the two slow down as the 6th round indicated. We’ll never know, but by hook or by crook Nathan Cleverly is the champion of the world.