Boxing: Brutal test for Cleverly as Bellew turns on the power

Welshman retains crown before hostile crowd as DeGale holds nerve to boost world title hopes

In a bout of savage intensity, Welshman Nathan Cleverly retained his WBO light-heavyweight title with a majority points decision over hometown challenger Tony Bellew here last night.

It was a fierce, rumbustious scrap, arguably controversial and certainly worthy of a return. The decision was understandably badly received by the Liverpool crowd; of the all-British judging panel, one awarded it to Cleverly 116-113, another 117-112 and the third scored it 114-114.

The assessment seemed generous to Cleverly, who had to struggle at times against an opponent he thought would try and out-fight him. In fact, for the majority of the contest "Bomber" Bellew tried to box him at his own game with considerable success.

It was 24-year-old Cleverly's second defence and certainly the most arduous fight of his career. The action was fast and at times, frenetic with the crowd on their feet. It was a real war from the outset and this clash of the maths graduate from the Valleys and the lippy Liverpudlian with qualifications in accountancy added up to a rare fighting feast.

It was probably the last two rounds that swayed it in Cleverly's favour. Previously, both were unbeaten and as a grudge match, it had been built into a sort of Benn-Eubank scenario. The fight was preceded by unsavoury scenes at the weigh-in and press conferences including head-butting and bad-mouthing which the Board of Control said they would clamp down on. They have not done so.

But the hugs of the fighters at the end showed what a lot of raging bull-shine it all is. "I knew he would be dangerous in the first three rounds but in all honesty I thought he'd tire more," said Cleverly. "But he held in there and showed he is a brilliant challenger."

James DeGale gained the pick-me-up victory he needed to revive his career after his defeat by rival George Groves, by relieving Poland's Piotr Wilczewski of his European super-middleweight title. But he had to come from behind to do so, winning on a majority decision in a contest which tested his nerve and resolve.

In a hard-fought and often untidy contest in which he sustained a cut right eyebrow and cheek, 25-year-old "Chunky" DeGale scraped home by two points, (115-113) on two scorecards while the other marked it a draw (114-114). My own assessment was that DeGale won by three rounds but it was not the most illustrious performance from the Olympic champion, who took a long time to work out how to combat a crafty, experienced opponent.

There were anxious moments for DeGale in the first half of the bout, but his stronger finish brought a conclusion which now elevates him into the world rankings after his 12th fight. On paper at least it is a springboard for him to gazump Groves and earn a world title fight, which he had set his heart on before the next Olympics. The better option might be for DeGale to settle his domestic differences with Groves in the New Year.

The referee seemed concerned about the cut to DeGale's eye but his corner did neat repair work. He had a torrid time in the fourth and fifth rounds but came back strongly in the last three, sending Wilczewski's gum shield spinning at the end of the 10th. The 33-year-old Pole grew visibly tired and DeGale was just about worthy of his triumph.

Billy Joe Saunders, the Beijing Olympian who turned pro at the same time as DeGale, made short work of Hungarian opponent Norbert Sekeres to win his 10th consecutive contest. In what was supposed to be a warm-up for 22-year-old Saunders' first title fight, a Southern Area middleweight belt at Wembley on 5 November, he blasted Sekeres in two minutes 51 seconds of the first round.

After his lay-off with injury the "Caravan Kid", from a travelling community in Hertfordshire, is looking sharper with every fight.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'