Wednesday, October 7, 2009

British Scene: Nathan Cleverly vs Courtney Fry Preview

Matt Chudley previews Friday's Sky sports show featuring Nathan Cleverly against Courtney Fry.

Photo © Justin McKie

This Friday night at the York Hall in Bethnal Green, Nathan Cleverly (pictured right against Danny McIntosh) defends both his British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight titles against 2000 Sydney Olympian, Courtney Fry. Though tipped as heavy underdog, Fry will be the most skilled opponent Cleverly has faced to date, and should provide a good gauge to evaluate the development of one of Britain’s brightest prospects.

This will be the first defense of the Lonsdale belt for Cleverly, having claimed the British title back in July with an exciting one sided victory over previously unbeaten Danny McIntosh. Along with having 2 belts on the line, a European title shot is also at stake for the fast rising star, as he’s been promised a chance to compete for the vacant European crown on the under-card of Amir Khan’s WBA title defense in Newcastle later this year.

Now 17-0, the young Welshman enters the bout ranked by all four major sanctioning bodies, and is ranked in the top 10 by the IBF and WBO. Tall at almost 6’4, with fast hands and cultured boxing skills, Cleverly’s recent performances have offered little opportunity for criticism. It must be said though, that having faced a lack of quality opponents on the domestic scene, his chin and big fight temperament have yet to be tested.

With five of his thirteen wins coming inside the scheduled distance against even more modest opposition, the 13-2 Courtney Fry likely doesn’t have the power to ask questions of Cleverly's chin. However, the highly decorated amateur, with many more years in the sport, may possess the skills to frustrate the young fighter and will likely present him with problems he hasn't encountered before.

Traditionally the biggest weapon to offset the speed of a quick opponent has been the jab and the 34 year old scouser has an educated and effective one which helped him to gain a berth as one of only two British competitors in the 2000 Olympics as well as a silver medal at the European Championships and Gold in the Commonwealth games.

A late start to the pros combined with injuries and promotional issues have seen Fry unable to recapture the same form in the paid ranks and a 2005 loss to upset specialist Ovil McKenzie almost saw him quit the sport for good. Fry did rekindle his career with a solid win over unbeaten Nigerian prospect Tony Salam and looked ready to make a run at the British title under Frank Maloney but then opted to enter the light heavyweight edition of Prizefighter.

Though the Prizefighter competition style is not all that dissimilar to the amateur game, Fry had become a notorious slow starter in the pros and was outworked in the semis by Tony Oakey and once again found himself at a loose end. Backed into the same corner as Olympic team-mate Audley Harrison was last week, Fry will need a special performance Friday night to give his career a much needed boost.

On the undercard...

Derek Chisora will be returning to the ring after serving a four month ban for biting the ear of journeyman Paul Butlin back in May. Tyson Fury's main verbal sparring partner, the 10-0 Chisora could find himself in the picture to face Audley Harrison for the vacant British title with an impressive win over 12-6-1 Georgian Zurab Noniashvili.

2008 Olympian Billy Joe Saunders will also be back out, going against 6-15 Latvian trial horse Alex Spitko. View by many as the best pro prospect of the UK Olympians, the 20 year from Hertfordshire will be looking to make it four stoppage wins from four in his first appearance at the storied York Hall.

Also appearing will be the three Walsh brothers Michael, Ryan and Liam. Former ABA champ Michael and younger twins Ryan and Liam bring a large following from East Anglia and will be looking to add to the unbeaten records against limited opposition.

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