GUEST COL­UMN

The stakes are at their high­est for me in Las Ve­gas

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It’s all on the line for Nathan Clev­erly

ILOVE Las Ve­gas – the vi­brancy, the bright lights and the poker. For me it’s the best city in the world. I first came out here in 2008 when I boxed on the un­der­card of Joe Calza­ghe­bernard Hop­kins, and I’ve loved it ever since. I think this is my sev­enth visit since. But it’s very dif­fer­ent this time. Back then I was out here for just un­der two weeks and it was all fo­cus be­fore the fight. I stayed away from the vi­brancy of the Strip. I stayed on the out­skirts. We were mainly spar­ring, my­self and Joe. I didn’t re­ally get a feel for the en­joy­ment side of Ve­gas un­til the day af­ter the fight. I was stay­ing in the Planet Hol­ly­wood ho­tel, I won my fight and I was on a high. I re­mem­ber just be­ing on my own and lov­ing it. I en­tered a few poker tour­na­ments that night. I didn’t make the fi­nal ta­ble but I was en­joy­ing the mo­ment re­gard­less. I didn’t care where I came.

This time I’m right on the Strip at New York New York. We’ve been do­ing a few runs around here. To­day we ran lit­er­ally up the Strip, dodg­ing past peo­ple as we went. We also went for a run around the back of the block. It’s not ideal but it will do. This fight against Badou

COULD BADOU JACK BE ELITE? I DON’T THINK HE’S POUND-FOR-POUND MA­TE­RIAL

Jack took a long time to make. I had to stay pa­tient for this fight. When you want a big fight you are go­ing to have to stay pa­tient at some point be­cause it takes a long time to make them. I last fought in Oc­to­ber and it’s now Au­gust, so it has been a long time but I stayed con­fi­dent, men­tally strong and fo­cused.

I felt like this fight was meant to be. Jack beat Ge­orge Groves and could have beaten James Degale but got a draw. When he an­nounced he was mov­ing up to light heavy­weight I thought it’s the per­fect op­po­nent for us. He’s a big name, he’s es­tab­lished and I’m es­tab­lished. I told [pro­moter] Ed­die Hearn I wanted it and he worked hard to go out and make it hap­pen, and it’s an ab­so­lute bonus that it’s fallen on the Floyd May­weath­er­conor Mcgre­gor show.

It’s tough to stay fo­cused when you’re wait­ing, but you have to act as a pro­fes­sional fighter. I took a ma­ture mind­set to­wards it and it has paid off be­cause here we are at a his­tory-mak­ing event. Pa­tience was a virtue there.

As for Jack, he’s a con­sis­tent, world-class, solid fighter. He has fought four world-class fight­ers in his last four fights. He has es­tab­lished him­self as a top-class fighter, but I wouldn’t say he’s elite – not yet. Could he po­ten­tially be elite? I don’t know. I don’t think he’s pound-for-pound ma­te­rial. He does the ba­sics very well, Badou Jack, he’s very solid in ev­ery de­part­ment. Noth­ing spe­cial but very solid in ev­ery de­part­ment, well schooled, good tech­nique and does the ba­sics well.

I know all about gam­bling in Las Ve­gas and the stakes are high here. To use a poker phrase, I’m all in with this fight be­cause if you win you’re in the big time. To break through to that elite hi­er­ar­chy, which is what the top fight­ers love, then I have to win this fight.

I prob­a­bly won’t reach this level again if I lose. It’s now or never for me. Be­fore I get out of box­ing I want to reach that elite level.

Could one de­feat end my ca­reer? Yes, I would say it’s that cru­cial now. We are at the stage of my ca­reer that any de­feat could be the end. It’s such a way to climb back up to get another world ti­tle op­por­tu­nity. I’ve been here, I’ve done it. Would I have the pa­tience and char­ac­ter to do my lit­tle fights and get my way back up? I’ve al­ready done that.

I’m at the high­est level and I’m here to stay. De­feat is not an op­tion for me.

Photo: AC­TION IMAGES/REUTERS

BIG WIN: Clev­erly [left] out­lasts Braehmer to set up his clash with Jack

Nathan Clev­erly

Top lightheavy­weight

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