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Cleverly vs Jack: An Overlooked Barnburner?

24th Aug 2017

by Steve Fearon

With all of the hyperbole and general madness surrounding the Mayweather versus McGregor fight, you could be forgiven for missing some of the other forthcoming contests, many of which are genuinely much more significant to the boxing landscape.

Miguel Cotto returns to the ring on Saturday to fight for a world title, the massive clash between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin comes ever closer, Billy Joe Saunders is returning at last against Willy Munroe Jr in a few weeks… but many seem to have overlooked a fascinating clash on the Mayweather undercard this weekend.

Nathan Cleverly’s WBA World Light-Heavyweight Title is on the line as he faces off against perennially underestimated Badou Jack. With two prime fighters of the highest level facing off against each other as a support bout to of the biggest events in boxing history. It could be an epic battle, but what does the tape suggest?

Badou Jack has moved up from Super-Middleweight after his high profile draw with James DeGale and has seemingly made a career from upsetting the big names, with wins against George Groves, Andre Dirrell, Lucian Bute and Paul Smith on his resume.

The move up is not expected to be an issue for Badou, as we has seemingly been struggling with the 168 limit at Super-Middleweight for some time now, and is a decent sized Light Heavyweight.

People have been questioning Cleverly’s quality ever since his 2013 loss to Sergei Kovalev, and with him winning the WBA title in less than imperious fashion against Jurgen Braehmer, doubts remain over whether he belongs with the elite fighters of the division; despite being a two time world champion.

The Split Decision loss to Tony Bellew, in an ill advised move up to cruiserweight, and the UD to Andrei Fonfara have muddied Cleverly's record, and left some doubt as to how to value his wins.

One thing is for sure, Cleverly is now on the biggest stage he could ask for, is facing a legitimate challenge in Jack, and this is a big opportunity for him to get a big name win on his record. It would answer a lot of questions about his legitimacy as a champion.

Let’s take a look at their records.

Jack has had 24 bouts, with 21 wins (12 by KO), 1 loss (by KO) and 2 draws.

His loss came against Derek Edwards in 2014, but since then he has secured big wins against the likes of Dirrell, Groves and that debateable draw with DeGale.

Cleverly’s record is 33 fights, 30 wins (16 by KO), 3 losses (1 by KO) and no draws.

Cleverly’s losses have come against Bellew, Fonfara and most strikingly Kovalev who stopped him for the only time in his career.

So if we break down their records, it looks like this:

Records

We can see here that their career averages largely converge, with similar stats for their Win %, Wins by KO%, Average Opposition Win % and % of opponents with a winning record, but the big divergence comes from how they have lost.

Now it is important to note that because Jack has only lost once, this does mean that we have to treat it as an outlier, as it is only a single point of data, but we can say that Jack has only lost by stoppage, though we can’t draw that conclusion much further.

In comparison, Cleverly has only lost by stoppage in one of his 3 losses, so I guess all we can really draw from that is that theoretically Cleverly may have to stop Jack if he wants to beat him.

If we look at their more recent fights, Jack has 4 wins and a draw, against an average opposition win% of 90%, fighting big names in the Super-Middleweight Division such as the aforementioned Dirrell, Groves, Bute and DeGale.

Interestingly, there was only one legitimate stoppage, against Francisco Sierra, who holds the weakest record of the recent 5 fights, a DQ against Bute, and 3 Points decisions, which would suggest that Jack doesn’t carry huge power, and theoretically the move up in weight may further negate what power he carries, though he seems to do well at scraping decision wins, so one would speculate that if the fight goes the distance, Jack would be the favourite, particularly as the home fighter.

Cleverly’s last 5 include 3 wins and 2 losses, the losses coming against Bellew and Fonfara, and the wins against Alejandro Emilio Valori, Tomas Man and Juergen Braehmer, though the Braehmer win was perhaps fortunate after the retirement of the German due to injury.

However, regardless of how they were achieved, this means that Cleverly has won all 3 of those wins inside the distance.

So what do we conclude from this?

It actually seems fairly straightforward, Badou Jack tends to win (Or draw) if the fight goes the distance, particularly recently, whereas Cleverly in recent times has only won if the fight has stopped early.

Badou Jack’s record is, I would argue, superior and you would have to favour him if they were fighting at SMW, but they aren’t, so although the weight difference is small, this brings the balance of the fight back towards Cleverly.

I think we also have to acknowledge that Jack will be the home fighter, and when we add this small advantage to the fact that he tends towards points wins, and I think I am happy to settle on a Badou Jack UD.

Cleverly has a lot to prove, and if he can come into the fight fired up and at his best, this could be one hell of a fight, a potentially card stealing barnburner. But I think the numbers and the records of the two fighters tell a story, and I think the script is written for Jack to fight his way to a Unanimous Decision victory, and claim the belt for himself.

Posted: 25th Aug 2017

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