MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Cleverly needs someone who is going to tell him when he's wrong
10:04am Tuesday 1st April 2014 in Sport
IF he is a gambling man, it is probably safe to assume that Nathan Cleverly is better than most of us.
Of course, the experienced punters will already be shaking their head at the notion of the words ‘gambling’ and ‘assume’ in the same paragraph, but they will have a grudging acceptance, surely, that a degree in Mathematics from Cardiff University probably doesn’t hurt in addition to a sharp mind and interest in most sports?
And before I express my thoughts on what was an exceptionally newsworthy week for Cleverly – new promoter, trainer and weight category – I think we have to acknowledge that the 26-year old is embarking on the gamble of his career.
I’m not referring to the proposed switch from Frank Warren, who has presided over his entire time in the pro ranks to date, because it is impossible to accurately assess.
Not only am I not in a position to assess the veracity of the legal claims of Mr Warren and Mr Hearn, it is simply impossible to opine as to whether promoter X or Y is better for fighter Z, because the effectiveness of a promoter, the satisfaction at the fights they put together, is entirely subjective in the mind of every individual boxing fan.
All I would say is that I believe Frank Warren has been excellent for Nathan and hope whoever promotes him for the remainder of his tenure in the ring enjoys a similar success and rapport with him as Frank did. Like with Joe Calzaghe before him, the two appeared to have a genuine bond.
However, away from issues of promoters and contracts, legal challenges and accusatory press releases, Cleverly has made two big decisions on his career that could prove to be key.
And they are both worthy of scrutiny.
The first is Cleverly’s decision to turn his back on the light heavyweight division, where he captured British, Commonwealth and European title honours on his way to capturing the WBO world title.
Cleverly was for a long time imperious at light heavy, never better emphasised than in his career best victory over a game Tony Bellew in ‘the Lion’s Den’ as Cleverly went to Liverpool and produced a solid display.
The jump from light heavy to cruiser is monumental; the biggest in professional boxing with a not inconsiderable 25 lbs difference (almost two stone) which means an entirely different type of fighter awaits the Cardiff City fan.
We should remember also that Cleverly’s debut in the sport was initially at welterweight (I covered it alongside my mentor with the boxing, Paul Tully) and he was tipped to succeed his mentor Joe Calzaghe as a super middleweight and only eventually was built up to light heavy.
Many would observe that’s a natural progression, but the jump to cruiserweight seems like it could be viewed as a step too far, an excessive move up that could backfire.
Will Cleverly be able to carry his power into that division? Compared to the Adonis Stevenson’s and Sergey Kovalev’s of this world, he wasn’t a beastly puncher at light heavy.
Similarly, I think Cleverly is making a questionable judgement call in his decision to be trained solely by Darren Wilson, his conditioning coach and general guru when it comes to the physical side of things.
Wilson has a very good reputation within boxing circles and I’ve met him many times and think he’s a good guy. He’s one of those who is often being praised on social media and clearly has a very good work ethic.
And on the one hand, it’s admirable that Cleverly, someone at the elite end of boxing, has such faith in his friend. He believes the two of them can develop a rapport that will lead Cleverly to another world title and I hope he’s on the money. It’s a wonderful opportunity for Wilson. And shouldn’t top coaching prospects, especially from Wales, be getting chances to work with guys like Cleverly?
However, question marks can and will remain.
Nathan’s father Vince isn’t perfect, he’s not Enzo Calzaghe and he’s developed a habit of writing things on social media that really, really wind up others in Welsh boxing, but he unquestionably did a good job coaching his son alongside Alan Davies.
When Nathan decided to move away from that arrangement, I had hoped it would be to something completely different, outside his comfort zone and with someone who had more conventional ‘expertise’ in the coaching arena.
Imagine my joy when Cleverly announced he’d switched to Adam Booth’s gym in London.
Booth is one of the sharpest minds in the sport and Cleverly was getting the clean start he needed after his devastating loss to Kovalev last year.
But, that didn’t stick, Cleverly was homesick and so now he’s returned to the familiar, Wales, Wilson and will he learn enough new tricks for his giant leap in the weight divisions?
We certainly hope so, but I can’t help being concerned that the biggest mistake Cleverly has made is to cut himself off from people who might ever be liable to say no to him, to tell him that their way is better or that he should give something more thought.
One would presume training strategy and regimes will be in Nathan’s hands and I’m not sure that is healthy.
Politics mean he won’t consider Gary Lockett as a trainer – Lockett and Vince Cleverly don’t get on, nor do Lockett’s fighter Enzo Maccarinelli and Vince - nor will Nathan even visit Lockett’s gym for sparring and that is a real shame, but I would opine that there is one man capable of giving Cleverly the assistance and guidance his career might need.
That man is Joe Calzaghe.
He might never be a full-time trainer and he might only be able to act as an advisor, an advocate and a friend, but Calzaghe could be crucial in guiding Cleverly.
Because however well qualified we are, sometimes we all need someone to tell us we are wrong.
At the moment, that person seems to missing from Cleverly’s vision of the future.
But whatever happens, I wish him nothing but the best.
And if he wins another world title at a new weight category, that’s exactly how he’ll be remembered. As one of the best Wales has ever produced.
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