How are you feeling after losing to your rival, Tony Bellew?
I’m okay, to be honest. Mentally I’m okay after the fight. It’s something that happens in boxing. You win. You lose. Life goes on. Obviously I’m disappointed at losing. Especially in the type of grudge match it was. I was gutted. But when I reflect and am realistic about it, I think fighting in the cruiserweight division was the problem. Bellew is a cruiserweight, he’s naturally bigger. It just took its toll. I felt good early on in the fight. It felt nice and comfortable. I was just flicking that jab out. Chipping away. Peppering away with the jab and winning early rounds. I was staying light on my feet, not exchanging, not getting drawn in, keeping it long and it was quite comfortable. But it took its toll. By the middle rounds because of all the movement and carrying the extra pounds, I just gassed. I had a slight problem with my right hand early on, but I haven’t made a big issue of it because I was chipping away with my jab, winning a few of the early rounds, and I just thought although my right hand was hurting I didn’t want to make a big issue of it because I thought I was winning the rounds anyway.
Have you had the hand checked out?
I’m going to have the hand looked at this week. It’s not broken or anything but they will check out the little bones in the hand. I was wearing the Grant gloves and on the knuckle area there’s very minimum padding so there was not much support on the hand. In the middle stages of the fight I could start feeling the weight advantage of Bellew then. He started pressing forwards. He kept plugging away, coming forwards. By round seven or eight on I just couldn’t keep him off anymore. I had lost the energy in my legs and I gassed. I couldn’t keep him at bay. He kept pressing forward and I just sat on the ropes. I was defending okay, I was dodging a lot of shots. A few got through but I had no issue taking his shots. At no time in the fight was I shaken or in trouble. It was just a matter of I couldn’t carry the weight for the second half of the fight and for someone who is known for his engine and stamina it was a bit surprising that I blew up that way.
How hard were those last few rounds?
It was difficult, and because I put on so much muscle in such a short space of time, I put on 25lbs of muscle over the last 18 months, and I haven’t given my body long enough in the cruiserweight division. I’ve come up from welterweight. It burnt oxygen and in the last few rounds I sat on the ropes, rolling. He was going for the finish, I just didn’t have the energy to spin off and get back on the jab. I was sapped and he kept pressing away and he took over the fight and well done to him. It was my night the first night in Liverpool. It was his night the second time in Liverpool at cruiserweight. I’ll take nothing away from him. Well done to him, he won the fight. He done the job.
If you could do anything differently, what would you do?
I think, as Tony Bellew said in the interview after when he said I was not a cruiserweight, if he wanted to do the fight at catchweight then we could. That’s the only thing, that we would do a fight at catchweight between light-heavyweight and cruiser. In an ideal world, I would be 13-and-half stone. Maybe lower. That would be an ideal weight. Because I’m trying to be 14st 3 at the weigh in I’m pumping up to that weight, I’m doing weights and it’s taking away my strengths, my speed, my stamina, so it’s a big issue for me at the moment. At the back of my mind I’m going to have a couple of months off and a break from boxing, then, I may return at light-heavy. I can still do light-heavy, I may come back to that. I think that’s the best move for me.
Have you watched it back?
No I haven’t watched it back. I will probably record it on the weekend when it’s shown on a repeat.
What did you weigh come fight time? [Bellew says he was 210lbs/15st]
I was 14 stone. I jumped on the scales in the hotel bathroom before I left for the arena and I was 14 stone. I weighed 14.3 at the weigh in but that’s trying to be 14.3 for my state of mind and to show my opponent, ‘Look, I’m a cruiserweight.’ It’s difficult for me to hold my weight up there and it’s hard to carry that weight for 12 rounds. And I’ve got to be honest with you, I knew it would have been an issue because when I fought the Argentinean guy [Alejandro Emilio] Valori the fight before the fight only went four rounds and I got him out of there but I was feeling it then and that was against a C class fighter. It was easy and I could have done what I wanted but in the first four rounds of that fight I thought ‘I’m feeling this.’
Bellew had two decent fights at cruiser. You had not had a gutcheck at the weight…
You’ve got it. I think overall it was a calculated gamble. I didn’t have an acid test at cruiserweight. I had two straightforward warm-up fights so it was unknown territory for me in the second half of the fight. I think a lot of people in boxing knew that and deep down I knew that but I thought maybe with my speed I could just get away with it. But at this level, when you and your opponent are at a similar level, you neutralise one another and I just couldn’t find that energy in the second half of the fight.
Enzo Calzaghe tweeted to say things would have been different had he been in your corner. What do you make of that?
[Enzo Calzaghe: Peeps asking me if it would have been different if I was in Cleverly’s corner – a big YES!!! 100% and I think he believes that too ciao Enzo].
I’m still in touch with Enzo. He phones me and gives me bits of advice and he swears I’m not a cruiserweight. He swears I’m fighting at the wrong weight and he’s probably right but I’ve done the best I could with the situation at the moment.
Would you go back to Enzo?
It’s an option. He doesn’t live too far away really. He’s only down the road. He knows me. He’s got a good boxing brain and he knows what suits me because he’s been with me since a young age. It’s an option. Darren [Wilson], I’ve been happy with the way things have gone – we’re friends as well. But I take responsibility. In no way would I blame a trainer or anything. I will take responsibility for the way I perform and it’s down to me. I just think it was me on the night. At this level I know what I should be doing in that ring to be honest, but it was being sapped of energy I couldn’t let the shots go.
You were enormously down after the loss to Sergey Kovalev, but you seem more analytical and less disappointed this time…
It’s different now. It’s about being mature about the situation and being realistic. It was a calculated risk and it didn’t quite pay off. And yet it nearly did. One judge had me winning. It was a split decision fight. It hasn’t paid off. Life goes on. I’m in a good place mentally. I’m feeling quite positive actually because of what I’ve done at cruiserweight against the odds really. It reminds me a bit of Marco Huck going up to fight Povetkin, calculated gamble, didn’t quite pay off – lost a close decision on points – came back down to cruiserweight and won a world title. I think it’s a similar thing with me. People said Tony Bellew had found his power again at cruiserweight and I wasn’t hurt once in the fight.
At the pre-fight press conference, Bellew asked whether you had ever been to an AA meeting?
A lot of people have asked me about that. He obviously feels I’m a big drinker and I’ve got a problem but I haven’t had a drop of alcohol for 14 months now. I’ve had a good dry patch. I’ve got no issue there.
Did you have an issue?
No. I never had an issue with drink but sometimes maybe I’ve been a little bit reckless after fights and when I went to university I had that little bit of lifestyle in me but I’ve never had a problem. It’s not an addiction or anything. It’s just I’ve maybe gone a little bit reckless after fights sometimes when I’ve had too much but I’ve not had a drop in 14 months and it’s not an issue for me.
What are your feelings towards Tony Bellew now?
After the fight we did the right thing. As fighters, we showed a little respect. We did the interview together and we did the right thing. That was that.
You did walk off before the post-fight interview, what was that about?
After all that was said in the build-up, about the handshakes and no handshakes, I thought, ‘Okay.’ It was my night the first night, this was his moment and I was leaving for him to have his moment. I was leaving him to it. With all the fuss in the build-up, I’d had enough spotlight and it was a matter of he won the fight so leave him to have his moment and enjoy the spotlight. As a fighter, we work hard so we deserve to enjoy the glory sometimes and it was his moment.
You will definitely be back?
I’m 27 years of age. It’s still young. I’ve done everything so early in my career. It’s still early days for me. I’ve got a lot left in the tank. It would be a shame to a throw it away now. The questions I have to ask myself are have I got the desire anymore to reach the top in boxing? Am I good enough? And do I want to? Do I want to come back and give it a go? Those are the questions. I’ll have a break and I’ll answer all those questions. I believe I will come back. At light-heavy.