Nathan Cleverly’s comeback: Battling history

As Nathan Cleverly tries to recover from another defeat, the former world champion will be fighting to make Welsh boxing history.

Sergey Kovalev celebrates victory over Nathan Cleverly

Sergey Kovalev celebrates victory over Nathan Cleverly

Cleverly lost his WBO light-heavyweight crown at the brutal hands of Sergey Kovalev in September 2013.

The Cefn Fforest man moved up to cruiserweight, but after two low-key victories he dropped a decision against arch-rival Tony Bellew, a man he had beaten at light-heavyweight.

Recognising his limitations in the heavier division, Cleverly has vowed to drop back down a weight.

After a warm-up fight in Leeds on 11 April, he hopes to challenge WBA light-heavyweight champion Juergen Braehmer in September.

But no Welsh world champion has ever won another world title after losing their belt, and no Welshman has ever won world crowns in two different weight classes.

So how did Cleverly’s predecessors fare in their comeback fights after losing world crowns?

Freddie Welsh

Freddie Welsh retired after losing his world lightweight crown to Benny Leonard in the last of their classic trilogy of fights in 1917. After three years, though, financial problems meant that the Pontypridd man made a comeback. He had kept himself in the gym and in shape, but when he stepped back between the professional ropes the ring wizard of old was no more. Welsh stood and brawled in front of his comeback opponent, Willie Green, a tactic that won him a four-round stoppage. But after five more fights that ended with a draw and a defeat the great Welsh realised that the game was up.

Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson took a year out after his crushing defeat to Naseem Hamed, before returning with a low-key eight-round points win over Kelton McKenzie in Tylorstown. ‘The Cinderella Man’ lost his next fight – a European title challenge against Billy Hardy – but his oft-overlooked later career was impressive, as he competed at the highest level for another four years and claimed a European title.

Enzo Maccarinelli

Enzo Maccarinelli struggled to reach his former heights after his shattering 2008 loss to David Haye in their cruiserweight unification battle. He took nine months out before returning with a two-round stoppage of Matthew Ellis, but in his next two bouts ‘Big Macc’ suffered horrible knock-out defeats against Ola Afolabi and Denis Lebedev. Many felt that would be the end for the Swansea man, but he would go on to win British and European cruiserweight titles. A drop to light-heavyweight saw Maccarinelli add a Commonwealth crown to his collection, then secure a shot at Braehmer’s WBA title. A horrible eye injury in the first round ended his chances, but he hopes to secure another title shot at Braehmer… and a future derby showdown with Cleverly should not be ruled out.

Gavin Rees

Gavin Rees took 15 months out after losing his world title to Andriy Kotelnik, dropping a division to lightweight for his return, a four-round stoppage of Johnny Greaves. ‘The Rock’ won the Prizefighter tournament next time out, part of an impressive string of domestic victories that took him to British and European titles plus another shot at a world crown.

Wales’ other world champions

Wales’ first world champion, Percy Jones, never lost his title in the ring, but his inability to make the flyweight limit cost him his crown before injuries sustained by the Porth man in World War I ended his career.

Joe Calzaghe and Nathan Cleverly (Photo: Nathan Cleverly, Twitter)

Joe Calzaghe and Nathan Cleverly (Photo: Nathan Cleverly, Twitter)

Jimmy Wilde never fought again after losing his world title in a brutal showdown against Pancho Villa, nor did Howard Winstone after his defeat against Jose Legra in the Merthyr man’s first title defence.

Medical problems meant that neither Robbie Regan or Barry Jones ever had the chance to defend their hard-earned world titles. Regan never fought again, but Jones was able to return to the ring after 18 months with a six-round points win over Chris Williams. That fight pitched Jones into a world-title shot at Acelino Freitas. The Cardiff man’s brave eight-round defeat was his last fight, and the only defeat of his career.

Joe Calzaghe, of course, never tasted defeat. After giving up his long-held super-middleweight crown he moved up to light-heavyweight for the last two fights of his career. He was recognised by Ring magazine as the world’s leading light-heavyweight, but he never competed for a world title in that division.

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