In the biggest fight card this year to take place on British soil, the 12,000 seat Echo Arena in Liverpool tonight hosts two world title contests and several major divisional pairings capped off by the bad blood rematch between cruiserweights Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew.
Cleverly, 28-1 (14),and Bellew, 22-2-1 (14), tangled initially at light heavy in 2011 when Cleverly retained his WBO belt in this very same arena but now both men are campaigning in the cruiser class.
Both had flamed out at light heavy in 2013 against the biggest punchers in the division as Cleverly was halted by Sergey Kovalev and Bellew by Adonis Stevenson and both have won two bouts this year in the higher weight division.
Bellew has faced the better competition this year, stopping respected Russian Valery Brudov in March, and seems to have the momentum going into tonight’s rematch.
But Cleverly will have the confidence of winning the first bout, and that could be the deciding factor in what is sure to be a gruelling contest of attrition for as long as it lasts.
Both fighters showed in their losses at light heavyweight that they can’t adjust when they lose control of a fight so expect a toe-to-toe slugfest from beginning to end without much deviation.
Thus it likely comes down to the fighter with the better conditioning, who will be able to keep going through the effort and punishment, that will have his hand raised in victory.
The undercard sees Scott Quigg and Jamie McDonnell put WBA title belts at risk.
Super bantam Quigg, 29-0-2 (22), faces Hidenori Othake, 22-1-3 (9), of Japan, who may be the most dangerous opponent of the Manchester man’s career.
Othake has won 17 straight, including four defenses of the Japanese title, but has previously never boxed outside his homeland and will be making his debut at world class.
Quigg, despite four WBA title defenses, has also yet to face world class competition and could have his hands full with his taller foe.
Othake is very durable and likes to stand right in front of opponents, trading short hooks, uppercuts and body punches. Quigg will likely look to maintain distance while slipping in to score body punches and hooks.
Expect Othake to force a close quarters brawl upon Quigg and at that point it becomes a contest of durability, with the champion holding the advantage of punching power.
But the challenger has had five of his previous six bouts go the ten round Japanese title distance while heavy-handed Quigg has only gone past eight rounds once in the last four years.
Quigg is the favorite to win here and if he does so, it will be behind his adoption of former trainer Ricky Hatton’s highly effective body-punching strategy.
WBA bantam king McDonnell, 24-2 (11), will be making his first title defense as he meets Javier Nicolas Chacon, 20-3 (5), a late replacement opponent.