Tony Bellew gained sweet revenge over Nathan Cleverly with a split decision win at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
The bitter rivals looked neck and neck over the first eight rounds, but Bellew crucially found the extra gears and pinned Cleverly against the ropes in the final rounds, and although the Welshman was able to withstand the onslaught bravely, Bellew took over the fight and appeared to have done enough to win the fight.
Cleverly was awarded the fight 115-114 on one card but Bellew was the victor 116-112 and 115-113 – as the pair showed mutual respect at the end.
“I’m over the moon, it’s put to bed,” said Bellew. “I’ve said a lot of things, I don’t like him but I’ve outworked a great athlete and it’s over. I’ll fight anywhere, he’s not a Cruiserweight. It’s been a long camp, 12 weeks, he was pacing himself and he looked at the belly and thought he woud tire – I don’t tire at Cruiserweight.”
“I said it would be a replica of the first,” said Cleverly. “A split decision shows my character, he was using his natural strength – maybe we’ll have a third fight one day, this is the second time I’ve come to Liverpool, maybe we have a third fight in Wales.”
Eddie Hearn: “It took time to catch fire, I felt Tony won the fight but fair play to Nathan. If there’s a demand for the third we’ll get it on. Marco Huck wants to fight Tony for the title, and so do a lot of other champs.”
Anthony Joshua MBE produced scintillating fireworks to stop Michael Sprott inside 90 seconds.
Joshua hurt Sprott with a big right hand and sensing the Reading man was in trouble he poured the pressure on and with nothing coming back, Joshua made it ten wins and ten KOs in the paid ranks.
Promoter Eddie Hearn revealed that the Olympic gold medal hero will face Kevin ‘Kingpin’ Johnson on January 31 at The O2, and for Joshua, it was a satisfying end to 2014.
“I’m glad to get the year out of the way, it’s been a busy one,” said Joshua. “He wanted to carry on and so did I. I love this city, these fans are amazing. Kevin Johnson is durable and he’s got a lot of experience and quite a lot of mouth, so it should be a fun one.”
Eddie Hearn: “He’s had nine fights but when he backs you onto the ropes he’s ruthless. We’ll take on Kevin Johnson in January and he will be ready to face anyone in the country next summer.”
Carl Froch: “I know Anthony very well, he’ll go on to win World titles. Michael is nearing the end of his career, but when’s the last time you saw such a specimen in the Heavyweight division as Anthony? He unloads so impressively and tenaciously, it’s perfect. Matching him up is a nightmare. Everyone loves him and rightly so, what a fine fighter and person he is, he’s the full package.”
George Groves held onto his mandatory position for a title with a seventh round stoppage of Denis Douglin.
Groves found the American a tricky customer and Douglin had early success, a cut on the bridge of the nose in the third round to Groves appeared to be a cause for concern, but Groves wore Douglin down as the ‘Momma’s Boy’ visibly tired.
A body shot hurt Douglin in the seventh and then a big right hand floored the American with 30 seconds of the round to go and referee Victor Loughlin stepped in with seconds of the round to go.
George Groves: “Paddy gave me 5 out of 10 and I will agree. Fighting a southpaw was different and was what I needed, he was a good fighter, he was good inside and I didn’t want to scrap with him inside.
“Good to get another stoppage and it roll on the big one now. I want to take the quickest route to a World title and that’s the Dirrell fight. I want to be a WC and bring a WT belt to Britain. I’ll be a World champion next year.”
Carl Froch, who stopped Groves in Manchester last November before brutally knocking him out in May at Wembley Stadium, dismissed the Londoner’s performance.
“I think he’s been Cobra’d,” said Froch. “It’s the same with Lucian Bute. He was in there struggling with a Light Middleweight, he was getting caught by shots that at World level would knock him out.
“Let DeGale and Groves fight each other and maybe I will fight the winner, but it’s a mismatch, DeGale beats Groves every day of the week.”
James DeGale MBE produced an explosive third round stoppage over Marco Antonio Periban.
DeGale was ferocious from the office and after 30 seconds of the third round he had made the statement he promised, landing two huge lefts to render Periban unable to continue.
The Olympic gold medal winner risked his IBF mandatory spot in the bout but with champion Carl Froch watching on – and bitter rival George Groves in the ring next – the Londoner showed he has destructive power at World level.
James DeGale: “He’s never been stopped, Sakio Bika couldn’t stop him and I was only getting warmed up. That left hand is my shot at the moment. I hit him and he was stumbling around, he wasn’t in a position to carry on.
“I’ll come out and watch George Groves but don’t worry about him, I am the mandatory for the IBF title – I want to make history.
“I like Carl but it feels like he doesn’t want to fight me, I respect him but I think he’s being a bit of a coward not fighting me – fight me or vacate the title.”
Eddie Hearn: “Carl Froch is up there for Sky Sports Box Office tonight and he’s got to make a decision. The Froch fight is a great fight, the Groves fight is a great fight, but James will fight for a World title in his next fight whomever there is.”
Carl Froch: “It was a great performance by James, he was landing a lot of big shots and switching and he did the job with what was in front of him. Boxing is a business, I have a promoter and if the fight makes financial sense, it will happen. I want to fight in Las Vegas and if anyone has the right to pick and choose where they fight, it’s me.”
Scott Quigg defended his WBA Super Bantamweight title for the fifth time with a wide points win over Hidenori Othake.
Quigg peppered the Japanese champion from start to finish, but the courageous visitor would not be removed despite a nasty cut over the right eye that the doctors had several looks at in the last few rounds.
Othake deserved to hear the final bell after his determined effort, and the judges awarded the fight 119-109, 119-109 and 118-110 in favor of Quigg, who praised his opponent at the bell.
Quigg said: “I tell you what, I know his head is tough, I tried to pour on the gas at the end and landed some great combinations but he wasn’t going nowhere and fair play to him, but 12 rounds is never a bad thing to get under your belt.”
Eddie Hearn added: “Scott has earned a holiday over Christmas but we’re looking at March 28 in Manchester. It takes two to tango, we want those big fight and we’re pushing for them all the time.”