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Bellew: I'm out to retire Cleverly

Nick Parkinson
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Tony Bellew believes he can fulfil his potential now he is operating at his natural weight division as he looks to set up a rematch with Nathan Cleverly for later this year.

Both Bellew and Cleverly stepped up to cruiserweight earlier this year after losing in world light-heavyweight title bouts in 2013 and are on the same bill in different fights in Liverpool on Saturday.

Bellew was stopped by WBC light-heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson in November after Cleverly lost his WBO belt to Sergey Kovalev a year ago.

Bellew, 31, and Welshman Cleverly, who narrowly won their 2011 fight on points, have had one cruiserweight bout each since their setbacks and are being lined up to fight again on November 29 after final warm-ups this weekend.

Bellew faces Brazilian Julio Cesar Dos Santos in front of his home crowd in Liverpool and believes his preparation for a rematch will be better than Welshman Cleverly, who takes on Argentina's Alezandro Valori also in Liverpool.

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"I'm fighting a proven cruiserweight and he has never been stopped," Bellew told ESPN. "I'm in the game for tests and he will give me that.

"I don't see the point in going to camp and then facing an absolute patsy like Cleverly did in his last fight.

"The guy I fought in March was a stiff test, a two-time world title challenger and Santos has more knockouts than I've had fights.

"People say how did you make light-heavyweight for so long? Joe Calzaghe couldn't believe it when he met me. Neither could David Haye and his trainer Adam Booth said I shouldn't have done it.

"But I did light-heavyweight and I beat some good fighters, fought the best guy in the world for the world title and in the end lost to the best guy in the world.

"When I turned professional I was 26 and it was easier to make light-heavyweight. I always carried a bit of puppy weight as a heavyweight in the amateurs.

"It was when I was around the likes of Ricky Hatton in the gym and seeing how they made weight and I thought I could do that.

"But I paid a heavy price with severe knockdowns and defeats. I don't have those weight worries anymore and I'm healthier for it. I'm performing in the gym and day to day living I'm happy."

Bellew's plans consist of getting revenge of Cleverly later this year and then targeting one of the world cruiserweight champions in 2015.

Bellew faces Santos for the fringe WBO International belt on Saturday and is currently ranked seventh by that world governing body and is at No 5 with the WBC.

A clash against Germany's Marco Huck, the crowd-pleasing WBO champion, appeals to Bellew for next year.

"The Marco Hucko fight is possible for the future," Bellew told ESPN. "He's one of the best fighters in the division, don't get me wrong, but I'm ready to face him as soon as possible.

"I want to win this next fight, then retire Cleverly, and then maybe fight Marco Huck for the world title, which could be the hardest fight of my career.

"I will hit him with the kitchen sink and he will probably still be coming back strong.

"I'm confidence I can become a world champion at this weight division. Yoan Pablo Hernandez, the IBF champion, is the only one who is technically better than me but I'm willing to fight anyone, anytime."

Tony Bellew will defend the WBO International Cruiserweight title he won against Valery Brudov in March © Getty Images
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