West Yorkshire Police have denied they requested Nathan Cleverly’s fight be taken off the bill in Leeds on April 11 due to a football match, despite the promoter’s claims this was a factor in the decision.
The Welshman, from Cefn Fforest, Caerphilly intended to make a come-back to what he now admits is his more natural weight division at light-heavyweight, after suffering a loss at the hands of his bitter rival, Tony Bellew back in November.
It was announced at the start of January he would fight on the Warrington v Tubieron card at the First Direct Arena, Leeds on April 11. But, Cleverly was suddenly removed from the bill and will now fight at London’s O2 Arena on April 25.
Fans responded on Twitter, asking promoter Matchroom Sports’ managing director Eddie Hearn why the fight had been moved.
Responding to Cleverly fans, Mr Hearn said: “We replaced him with Jenkins vs Limond –police had issue cos [sic] of football that day –contact office we will sort.”
— Eddie Hearn (@EddieHearn) February 15, 2015
Leeds face Cardiff City at Elland Road in Leeds on April 11 at 3pm, a fixture which has seen crowd trouble in the past. Cardiff City’s hooligan firm, the “Soul Crew” are also one of the most notorious firms in the country, and the club has the second highest number of banning orders among clubs in the English leagues.
Anthony Leaver, press officer for Eddie Hearn’s boxing promotion company, Matchroom Boxing, said: “Policing was a consideration for Nathan no longer fighting on the bill but not the sole reason, there are boxing reasons behind it, and Nathan will now be part of a big bill in London on April 25.
“The police did raise concerns about Leeds and Cardiff fans, but I am not privy to those specific discussions,” said Mr Leaver.
But a statement from Inspector Neil Hemingway, of West Yorkshire Police Force Planning Unit, said: “We were aware that Nathan Cleverly was due to box at Leeds Arena on the same day that Leeds United are playing Cardiff City and we discussed the event with the venue’s management.
“We did not make any request of the promoters for him to be withdrawn and any decision to do so has been theirs alone.”
Mr Leaver further explained the boxing reasons behind the decision: “Boxing wise – it gives Nathan more time to prepare, enables us to make a bigger fight and London is a potentially bigger bill. Ticket sales for the entire event are flying too, with nearly 7,000 sold.
When asked whether Cleverly fans would get a refund for tickets they may have already bought, he said: “We had two sales from Cardiff which equate to six tickets – should those fans wish to get a refund on their tickets then we will issue them with one.
“Nathan’s fight has been replaced by Willie Limond’s British Light Welterweight title defence against Swansea’s Chris Jenkins.
“It isn’t unusual for fighters to be switched from shows especially if they are not the main event, nor the major ticket seller.”
When asked about the police’s denial, Mr Leaver said: “I don’t think there is any need for further comment from us.”