- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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The plan is clear for former light heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly and former two-time title challenger Tony Bellew: If they both win fights on the same card next week they are headed for a fall rematch.
Promoter Eddie Hearn is even billing the show on July 12 (Sky Sports in the United Kingdom) at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England as “Collision Course.”
The main event matches are England’s Bellew against Julio Cesar Dos Santos (26-2, 23 KOs) of Brazil and Wales’ Cleverly facing Alejandro Valori (15-4, 11 KOs) of Argentina in the co-feature. Both cruiserweight bouts are scheduled for 12 rounds.
In October 2011 at the Echo Arena, Cleverly retained his light heavyweight belt against Bellew by majority decision in a hard-fought, ultracompetitive fight. There has been talk of a rematch since then, although it has taken time for their paths to converge again.
Cleverly (27-1, 13 KOs) made three more title defenses before getting blitzed by Sergey Kovalev and losing his belt last August. Cleverly then moved up to cruiserweight and stopped Shawn Corbin in the second round in May.
Bellew (21-2-1, 13 KOs) got a second world title shot in November, but got crushed by Adonis Stevenson in a sixth-round knockout loss. Bellew also moved up to cruiserweight and knocked out Valery Brudov in the 12th round in March.
Now they are one step away from a rematch, but Bellew said his main goal is not necessarily revenge against Cleverly. More important to him is moving into position to fight for a world title again.
“It's all about July 12, not about Nathan,” Bellew said. “I cannot think about anything other than Julio Santos. He's a very, very durable and hard-punching Brazilian. I know he is strong, he has never been stopped and he does a little of everything. Fans come to see me because I stop people, and this guy is a solid proven cruiserweight, so we'll see what I can do with him. I've already fought a former world cruiserweight title challenger in Valery Brudov. This is a similar fight.
“Brudov is a tried and tested cruiserweight on my debut at the weight and Cleverly fought a light heavyweight on his. Shawn Corbin had been smashed in two rounds by Karo Murat. He's not a cruiserweight. Fighters know that there are some fights we call 'gimmes.' You don't get many of them. I've only had a couple in my career. Atoli Moore for the Commonwealth title was the biggest gimme I've ever had, and I hope every morning when I wake up that I am facing Atoli again. I got in the ring that night and thought this isn't happening, he cannot throw punches that slow and expect to not get KO'd. You don't get many of them in your career and that night I got one, and Nathan got one in his last fight.”
Bellew said he is comfortable at cruiserweight and aiming for a knockout victory.
“I’ve settled into the weight perfectly and you’ll see a destructive performance on July 12,” he said. “I want to close the season in style and push towards another world title shot. All I have ever been interested in is fighting the best in the business for the big belts and if I have to beat Nathan to get to the top, then that will be the icing on the cake.”