Three years after dropping an equally tight decision in a bid for Cleverly’s WBO light-heavyweight title, the home favourite outworked the Welshman over the final rounds to gain the verdict 116-112 and 115-113 on two judges’ cards, with a third voting 115-114 to Cleverly.
Bellew, who moved into world cruiserweight title contention in the process, revealed there was still no love lost between the pair after an acrimonious build-up to the bout.
He said: “I don’t like him but I respect him and I’ve over-worked a great athlete over 12 rounds.”
Anthony Joshua is set for a significant step up in class after taking just one minute and 26 seconds to dispatch veteran Michael Sprott.
The Olympic champion caught Sprott with a series of 17 unanswered blows to prompt the intevention of referee Terry O’Connor and earn his 10th professional win.