HEATED rivals Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly met for the penultimate time before their clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
They took a further chance to antagonise one another just two days before their rematch during a heated head-to-head during which Cleverly lifted his hand to gesture 2-0 and Bellew slapped his paw away.
Honours were just about even, and it failed to explode as some feared it might.
The fighters muttered exchanges while others at the top table spoke and both sounded confident.
“I’ve beat him once, it’s just a matter of pressing the repeat button in that Echo Arena, making it 2-0 and silencing this guy once and for all,” said Cleverly.
“I think it’s going to be an excellent fight, a replica of the first fight but more explosive. It’s not going 12 rounds. I’m going to break this guy up and get him out of there late and that’s what’s going to happen. We can say this is the acid test against a proper cruiserweight, apparently a big-punching cruiserweight so let’s see. All round I’m a better fighter than him.”
Bellew countered saying he was not under any pressure, despite fighting at home.
“It’s a fight, something I have done my whole life,” he said. “The pressure is to hurt him as fast as I possibly can. He comes to fight every single time. I predict a nice win, a devastating win and I will look good doing it.”
As things threatened to disintergrate, Bellew added about Cleverly’s confidence: “I don’t know why I’m showing up. I’m just a fat heavyweight. Have you been to any AA meetings lately? We will find out who is mentally strong and who will break who on Saturday night. The main thing is your back here, where I want you and there’s nowhere else to go on Saturday. It’s getting close and it’s getting very, very real.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do when the referee saves him, I just know I’m going to go [celebrate] like a maniac.”
Cleverly said he has not contemplated defeat.
“I can’t see it, not the way I’ve prepared for this fight,” he fired back. “I’m a better fighter. I’m winning this fight. Again.”
They tossed a coin to decide who would enter the ring first. Bellew won, calling heads, and made Cleverly, who will be announced in the ring second, walk to the battlefield first.
All 10,000 tickets were sold in two days when they went on sale, making it the fastest selling sporting event in the venue’s history.
“I wish we had 30,000 tickets,” said promoter Eddie Hearn.
“The beautiful thing is,” said Sky Sports head of boxing Adam Smith, “Nobody knows who is going to win.”
Fellow cruiserweights Marco Huck and BJ Flores are flying in to take seats ringside.