FORMER world champion Nathan Cleverly needs a red hot debut at cruiserweight tonight and he must keep his cool afterwards to set up a rematch with bitter rival Tony Bellew.
The Cefn Fforest ace returns to the ring against Caribbean veteran Shawn Corbin tonight – nine months to the day after losing his WBO light-heavyweight crown in brutal style to Sergey Kovalev.
A showdown with Bellew, who Cleverly beat in Liverpool to retain his world title in 2011, is already pencilled in for Liverpool in November.
But Eddie Hearn, the promoter for both men, says Clev needs to impress against Corbin and avoid any post-match confrontation with Bellew, who will be working at ringside for Sky Sports.
“I don't want to make out it Is a one-way street to Tony Bellew but it is my job to deliver the biggest fights for my fighters and the fans, and that is the biggest fight in the division,” said Hearn.
“If Nathan or Tony came to me and said they did not care about the money or the size of the crowd and just wanted a title shot I could get them one tomorrow.
“But financially you want the biggest fight from that point and a profile perspective. The build-up to that would be unbelievable.
“And it starts tonight,” he added. “I will tell Tony he has to behave but Nathan is cool about it.
“It comes more from Tony's side of it. But that creates a nice blend as Tony does not like Nathan while Nathan winds him up without knowing it.
“But what I drill in to our guys is they are ambassadors for the sport, they are role models.
“These guys fight for a living and if they get too close together and it goes off it can spoil everything, so Tony has to calm down. He can tell Nathan he wants to knock him out in the ring, but we do not want anything else.”
Hearn plans to have Cleverly and Bellew on the same bill on July 12 before a November showdown but both need to avoid defeat before then.
“They both have to keep winning,” said the Matchroom Sport chief.
“On paper Nathan should deal with Corbin. He knows he will not be able to handle Nathan's speed, which means he will go for it and Nathan should knock him out in sensational fashion.
“But Corbin is a big lump and Nathan is coming off a knockout defeat.
“The first time you go in after being stopped you can be a bit gun-shy and that is the fascinating part.
“There is a lot on the line but if I am not excited or nervous the fans can't be either so it would not be the right show.”