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Preview: Nathan Cleverly vs. Tony Bellew II - the undercard

Sports Mole previews the fights that are taking place on the undercard of the rematch between Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew in Liverpool.

Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua will be hoping to record his 10th successive win as a professional when he faces the experienced Michael Sprott on the undercard of the rematch between Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew at the Echo Arena in Liverpool on Saturday night.

That contest is one of six significant bouts that make up a stacked undercard on Merseyside, with super-middleweights James DeGale, George Groves and Callum Smith all looking to confirm major fights for the early months of 2015, while Scott Quigg and Jamie McDonnell will defend their world title belts at super-bantamweight and bantamweight respectively in what could potentially be the toughest matches of their career.

Below, Sports Mole assesses each bout and makes a prediction regarding the outcome at the final bell.

1. Anthony Joshua vs. Michael Sprott

Despite competing on the professional scene for little more than a year, Joshua has advanced to a level where he is already being linked with the biggest names that British boxing has to offer, but with the 25-year-old still lacking experience at the top, he can't afford any complacency when he goes up against Sprott this weekend.

Expectations will be higher than ever after Joshua demolished a usually durable Denis Bakhtov inside three rounds last month, but even though he should realistically make light work of Sprott, he must avoid any gung-ho tactics as he looks to register a 10th successive win inside nine minutes.

Anthony Joshua celebrates his victory over Denis Bakhtov during their Vacant WBC International Heavyweight Championship bout at O2 Arena on October 11, 2014© Getty Images

His opponent is a 64-fight veteran who has lost 22 times but he has fought at a decent level for a long time and won't be overawed by walking out in front of over 10,000 supporters on Merseyside. Sprott is likely to pose similar issues to that of Matt Skelton in July, who fought on the front foot against Joshua before coming unstuck in the second round.

The end result should be the same as that encounter but expect Joshua to be slightly more respectful of Sprott's experience before beginning to land the shots that should ensure that it's an early night's work for the gold medallist at London 2012.

2. James DeGale vs. Marco Antonio Periban

Ever since he dominated the previously-unbeaten American Brandon Gonzales in May, DeGale has been in the position of mandatory challenger for Carl Froch's IBF title, but with the 37-year-old still waiting on a potential showdown with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, DeGale has opted to test himself in a dangerous fight before potentially trying to win his first world title.

The word "potentially" is used because if DeGale slips up against Marco Antonio Periban on Saturday night, he will lose his spot in the rankings, and while he should be too fast and powerful for the Mexican, it isn't a foregone conclusion and the former European champion will have to deliver a showing of similar standard to that produced against Gonzales.

James Degale in action with Brandon Gonzalez during their IBF World Super Middleweight Final Eliminator bout at Wembley Stadium on May 31, 2014© Getty Images

Periban hasn't tasted success in his last three fights, all of which have been at a high level, but in one way or another, things didn't go his way and he can't be underestimated at the weekend. He lost a close decision against Sakio Bika for a world title and came within seconds of stopping J'Leon Love before losing on points, and DeGale must be wary of the threat that he poses at the weekend.

It's hard to see anything other than an offensive fight, which could play into both men's hands, but DeGale will be confident that he can exploit any gaps in Periban to force a late stoppage to secure an opportunity to fight for the IBF belt, which is likely to be declared vacant by Froch, in March.

3. George Groves vs. Denis Douglin

After his devastating loss to Froch at Wembley Stadium, Groves returned to action in September to win the European title against Christopher Rebrasse, but despite a wide points win, it was nothing more than a solid performance from 'The Saint' and he will need to find an extra gear over the next months.

A chance to fight for the WBC title next year has been earned but he will lose that opportunity should he fail to beat American Denis Douglin. The American is unknown on these shores but with a record of 17 wins in 20 outings, he can't be dismissed as a live opponent in this match.

The key for Groves is to recapture the sharpness that saw him give Froch all kinds of problems in their first fight, and if he can do that, he should have the firepower to win by the halfway stage to set up a trip to the United States to go up against Anthony Dirrell.

4. Callum Smith vs. Nikola Sjekloca

Much has been said about the development of Callum Smith, who has showcased his punching power in 14 dominant wins to date, but Saturday night will be the acid test for the Liverpudlian when he faces former world title challenger Nikola Sjekloca.

So far, Smith has displayed his main attribute - his shots to the body - with explosive effect but against an opponent who has only lost to Bika and Arthur Abraham, that opening is unlikely to materialise unless he can find a way to dismantle the Montenegrin at some point during the 12 rounds.

Callum Smith of England in action with Vladine Biosse of the USA during their WBC International Super Middleweight Championship fight at the Liverpool Echo Arena on July 12, 2014© Getty Images

Perhaps the biggest test for Smith will be the shots being fired back by the 36-year-old. He doesn't possess a frightening knockout record but he's awkward and won't give the youngest member of the four Merseyside siblings the space to get off his shots at range or from the inside.

Many are expecting Smith to come through, but to do so, the 24-year-old may have to go the 12 rounds, something that he is yet to do, if he wants to move closer to a shot at the WBC strap at some point in 2015.

5. Scott Quigg vs. Hidenora Otake

Since winning the WBA super-bantamweight title, it's been a story of one replacement opponent after another for Quigg, and while the same scenario has arisen for the weekend, he has been given what should be his toughest contest as a world champion.

Hidenori Otake is probably below Yoandris Salinas in terms of levels of opponent that Quigg has faced, but he is a step up from his last three fights and while Otake hasn't previously fought anyone of Quigg's ability, it would come as a surprise if he didn't extend the Bury-based fighter past the first quarter of the bout, which hasn't been done for over a year.

It's difficult to see anything other than a Quigg victory, but with potential matches against Kiko Martinez in March and Carl Frampton next summer, the 26-year-old will be eager to make a statement before the end of this year.

6. Jamie McDonnell vs. Javier Nicholas Chacon

Jamie McDonnell celebrates his victory over Tabttimdaeng Na Rachawat during their WBA World Bantamweight Championship bout at Wembley Stadium on May 31, 2014© Getty Images

Like Quigg, McDonnell has had to deal with a late change of opponent after Walberto Ramos applied for the wrong visa and Javier Nicholas Chacon being drafted in earlier this week, but the alteration has likely left the WBA bantamweight champion with a tougher fight than previously anticipated.

It's been just eight months since the Argentine went 12 rounds with Anselmo Moreno, who is widely regarded as the strongest fighter in the division, while the 33-year-old made a name for himself with one of the best knockouts of 2012 when he floored Sebastian Eladio Ferreyra in 98 seconds.

However, with a unification clash with Tomoki Kameda already agreed in principle for next spring, this is a fight that McDonnell can't afford to lose. The Yorkshireman may have to go 12 rounds to get over the line against a dangerous opponent but any type of triumph will be enough to make Kameda sit up and take notice.

Take a look at the main event between Cleverly and Bellew by reading Sports Mole's preview.

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