By: Eric Lunger
Lost amid the cacophony of coverage surrounding the Mayweather vs. McGregor “crossover” fight this weekend in Las Vegas is an intriguing undercard clash in the light heavyweight division between Sweden’s Badou Jack (21-1-2, 2 KOs) and Nathan Cleverly (30-3-0, 16 KOs) of the UK. While Cleverly picked up the WBA “regular” light heavyweight belt by stopping Germany’s Juergen Braehmer in six rounds last November, the Welsh fighter knows that the Jack fight might be his last shot at reaching the championship heights of the division. In statements to the UK media this week, Cleverly admitted as much. With two close decision losses to Tony Bellew and Andrzej Fonfara on his record, as well as a fourth round TKO loss to Sergei Kovalev in 2013, Cleverly can’t afford anything but a win on Saturday night.
Badou Jack, on the other hand, is moving up in weight class, having held the WBC super middleweight title since defeating Anthony Dirrell in 2015. Most recently, Jack fought IBF title holder James DeGale to a rare split decision draw in Brooklyn in January of 2017. I was at the Barclays Center that night, and I was extremely impressed with Jack. He is a tight, controlled fighter with superb defensive skills. But his offense is accurate, explosive, and he can really generate power on a short throw. How DeGale weathered the twelfth round storm unleashed by Jack is still incomprehensible to me.
So you have a hungry, proud, and perhaps desperate Nathan Cleverly facing off against Badou Jack, a technically sound but underrated power puncher who is stepping up in weight. This is a story line that should produce a riveting bout.
Most likely, you have already decided whether or not to shell out for the Mayweather vs. McGregor PPV, and it is understandable that some fans are not turned off by this cynical novelty show, but – should you decide to buy it – feel free to console yourself with the notion that Jack vs. Cleverly might turn out to be a real diamond.