By Danny Winterbottom
After two years and five months of his reign as WBO light heavyweight champion of the world Nathan Cleverly finally has the chance to prove the naysayers wrong when he meets Russian power puncher Sergey Kovalev in Cardiff on August 17.
Tony Bellew aside, the Cefn Forest natives reign as ‘world’ champion has been a frustrating one with pull-outs, date changes and routine defences against the likes of American’s Tommy Karpency and Shawn Hawk not exactly capturing the imagination of boxing fans who wanted to see the talented 26-year-old tested in real fights against the best at 175lbs.
But don’t be fooled into thinking Cleverly’s thirst for success has been quenched, or that we have seen the best of the ambitious Welshman. Rather the opposite is true after it transpired Nathan asked his promoter Frank Warren personally to secure the fight with Kovalev when it became apparent the Russian puncher favoured a showdown with the unbeaten WBO champion rather than face 48-year-old Bernard Hopkins for the IBF strap, despite the latter offering the higher purse.
“I’m delighted this fight has been made and it has the potential to be really explosive “said Cleverly when he spoke to SecondsOut.com recently.
“Kovalev is a destructive puncher who has just destroyed two world class operators in Campillo and White with ease but I believe this is the kind of challenge I need and have wanted for some time now. This fight is against a real top light heavyweight who is gonna push me to my ultimate levels of performance.”
“How far can I go? Can I compete at the elite level? This fight is about answering those questions and I’m looking forward to it because I believe Kovalev is the man to bring out the best in Nathan Cleverly.”
Unbeaten in 21 fights as a professional and with 19 wins coming inside the distance Kovalev is making waves on the other side of the Atlantic under the guidance of promoters Main Events. He also has the backing of cable giant HBO, who will be screening the fight live from Cardiff to homes across America, affording Cleverly huge exposure.
Kovalev’s nickname of “Krusher” may sound like he has stepped straight off the set of a Rocky film but the 30-year-old who now resides in Fort Lauderdale, Florida under the guidance of John David Jackson was a decorated amateur with a record of 193-22 and possess the boxing skills to go with that concussive power. So on bare statistics alone could he even start the contest as favourite?
“Yeah you could say so but it is a nice position to be in. This is a real fight” Cleverly admitted. “He was an excellent amateur and he has taken that form into the pro ranks and the Americans are raving about him. He is a dangerous opponent but a win over him could open up some doors for me.”
Carl Froch is a name on the lips of boxing fans around the world following his incredible run of fights against elite competition in the 168lbs division. It has also been widely reported that promoter Frank Warren offered Froch the chance to fight Cleverly in an all British clash, in which Froch would keep hold of his IBF and WBA super middleweight titles, but it seems that fight is still a way off even though both fighters would relish the occasion.
“The Froch fight is the kind of contest where we need to strike whilst the iron is hot” said the Welshman. “We are both British world champions so why not make that fight? I am willing to go down to 168lbs for the fight handing him all the advantages but for some reason they still don’t want it. We’ve seen in the past when rivals in Britain hold out for the fight to become bigger the chance goes. The likes of Eubank vs. Benn were fantastic and we as fans in Britain have missed out on those types of fights for a while now.”
Cleverly will return to the Motorpoint Arena where he widely outpointed Tommy Karpency in 2012, and although he admitted he would like to have fought in a much larger venue such as the Millennium Stadium, he conceded that may have to wait until a Froch or Hopkins is in the opposite corner.
“The atmosphere will still be immense as it will be sold out. Me vs. Froch or Hopkins would be a stadium fight but August 17 will be a proper atmospheric fight night where someone’s ‘0’ has to go!!”