NATHAN CLEVERLY admitted he is finding making the light-heavyweight limit “intense” with just over one day remaining before he defends his secondary WBA light-heavyweight strap against Badou Jack on the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor undercard. Today, in one of the cruellest events of an American fight week, the press were fed slap-up lunches while the undercard fighters – each of them under pressure to make weight – sat around waiting to be interviewed.
“It’s getting intense now,” Cleverly told Boxing News. “The media starts to step up, the weight-making gets intense, losing those final pounds of weight. We’re in the real business end of boxing now, and all the talking pretty much stops now after the press conference. We’ve just got to get through the weigh-in and then we’re ready to rock and that’s when it gets serious.
“Listen, it’s a tough sport boxing, and to keep doing this, fight after fight, dealing with the media and dealing with being a world champion. But I wouldn’t change this, this is what I’ve asked for and I love it.”
Should Cleverly turn back the challenge of the rising former WBC super-middleweight champion, he hopes to challenge division king, Andre Ward. The American has been reported to be in negotiations with Tony Bellew, but Cleverly believes his old rival would prove too big for Ward should they fight. A bout with Cleverly could be ordered by the WBA and for the Welshman, it would be the ultimate test and one he would savour.
“Andre Ward is the elite fighter in the division and he comes along once in every generation,” Cleverly explained. “Pound-for-pound one of the best. Myself and Jack is a solid world title fight – I wouldn’t say it’s an elite fight, but it’s a solid fight. And Jack, he’s not elite but he’s solid. Like me, right now, I’m a solid fighter in the division, a two-time world champion. But Ward is the man, he’s the elite one in the division. I need to get to that level, and to do that I must beat Jack to set up a shot at the [WBA] Super title [owned by Ward] and yes, it’s a possibility.”
For now, though, the focus is Jack. The Mayweather Promotions fighter has cut a confident figure in the build-up and is a significant favourite with the bookmakers to triumph. This is a fight that Cleverly has wanted for a long time, and nothing he’s seen this week has altered his belief that he has the beating of the Sweden-born Las Vegas resident.
“He’s got a big entourage and that’s the first thing I noticed, and I was surprised by that but he’s a Mayweather [Promotions] fighter,” Cleverly observed. “He’s been brought up around the hype and that’s what makes him tick. He seems like a laid back type of guy who’s respectful enough.
“He’s a good fighter who’s been consistent at world level. He does the basics very well and I know it’s going to be a tough fight. But we’re ready and I’m ready to take him on. Let’s get this great fight on.
Cleverly is staying in New York, New York, a hotel and casino situated on the famous Las Vegas strip and he has spent most mornings running in the “f***king hot” heat in a sweat suit. While pounding the streets the Brit has encountered the “odd few” fans but largely he’s been happy to stay away from the limelight that has been shining on the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor contest.
“It’s nice to be appreciated but it’s nice to not have the hype of the Mayweathers and the McGregors. It’s been nice to go under the radar and keep myself to myself and stay focused. It’s a nice balance.
“We’re staying on the strip [New York New York] so we’re in the heart of it, and I prefer it. That’s the way I like it. I’m avoiding all the distractions but I’m soaking up the atmosphere. In regards to distractions, I’m staying focused, I’m staying in my own zone. I’m enjoying it.”