However, after two years of working his way back up the world rankings, Bellew will get his second chance to compete for world honours when he faces WBC light-heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson in Canada on Saturday night.
Bellew has moved himself into a position to become a mandatory challenger for Stevenson's belt, but can the 31-year-old cause a huge surprise by defeating the knockout specialist in his own backyard?
When the brash, outspoken Liverpudlian was thrown into the limelight in the autumn of 2011, he hadn't stepped into the ring with anyone who could be deemed world class. Cleverly had opted for a voluntary defence based on the clamour from the public for the two Brits to lock horns and settle their rivalry.
Despite holding home advantage, Bellew was stepping into unknown territory with the unbeaten Welshman and little gave him a chance of causing an upset, but Bellew produced a performance of heart and determination that not only proved that he deserved to be regarded at a similar level as Cleverly, but it also won him a growing legion of supporters.
'The Bomber' returned in 2012 with three professional performances and he ended the year with the WBC silver light-heavyweight title, which he defended successfully in two encounters with the awkward Isaac Chilemba.
But regardless of the experience earned in his previous world title assault and subsequent revival at 175lbs, nothing can prepare Bellew for the task that he faces in Quebec, with Stevenson proving over the past six months that he has become a force to be reckoned with in the light-heavyweight division.
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'Superman' had long been a contender at super-middleweight before making the step up to challenge the classy Chad Dawson in June, with the American the clear favourite to out-point Stevenson over 12 rounds. However, the Haiti-born Canadian representative shocked the world with a thunderous stoppage inside the first round.
The triumph was deemed to be a fluke in some quarters, but Stevenson displayed his boxing ability in a seven-round demolition of Tavoris Cloud in September to firmly establish himself alongside Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev at the top of the weight class.
The punch power of Stevenson has never been in question, but his dismantling of Cloud suggested that he is more than just a knockout specialist. The 36-year-old's superior speed and movement was far too much for an opponent who had only suffered one loss in his professional career before being torn apart by the Canadian.
Stevenson isn't as explosive as Kovalev or heavyweight Deontay Wilder, but he has stopped five of his last nine opponents inside three rounds, and his credentials were enough to see Carl Froch take a different route as super-middleweight champion rather than defending his title against the powerful southpaw.
In the pre-fight build-up, Bellew has latched on to the fact that Stevenson has previously been knocked out in his career, but after his meteoric rise in the past six months and the feeling of invincibility that he now possesses, that defeat is almost irrelevant and the British fighter has a tough task in front of him to capture Stevenson's belts.
The heated confrontation at yesterday's weigh-in is also unlikely to help Bellew as he looks to get under the skin of the champion, and while there may be a method to his madness, he is only giving motivation to Stevenson when there could originally have been a lack of desire in a man who has eyes on more lucrative fights in the future.
Bellew has proven in the past that he has the technical brain to negotiate himself through a fight, but he has never faced someone of Stevenson's brutality in his 22-fight career, and it would be deemed an impressive feat if the Brit can make the final bell in Quebec.