By Clive Bernath: Prior to Nathan Cleverly unanimously out-pointing the vastly more experienced Tony Oakey to claim the vacant Commonwealth light-heavyweight title in October 2008 the undefeated Welshman, who turns 23 on February 17 has moved up in class, improved with each performance and matured in equal measure.
Since defeating Oakey, Cleverly, from Cefn Forest, has defended the Commonwealth crown five times, stopping all opponents on route and adding the prestigious British crown to his trophy cabinet into the bargain. They say becoming a champion can make you a better fighter and that has certainly been the case with Cleverly. All five of the aforementioned wins produced a steady improvement to various parts of his game and last Saturday night we witnessed the fruits of his labour when Nathan destroyed Antonio Brancalion in five highly impressive rounds to become European champ.
In less than five years as a professional ‘Clev’ has notched up 19 straight wins and won three major titles. I’m not suggesting for one minute that young Nathan is ready to face the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Chad Dawson or Glen Johnson but the way in which he dispatched such a seasoned and experienced campaigner such as Brancalion proved the young Welsh Dragon has the ability to develop into a genuine world-class fighter.
With the departure of Amir Khan, many experts thought his promoter Frank Warren was elevating Cleverly to main event status too soon but Warren has proved time and time again that no one picks the right opponent at the right time for their fighters better than him. The 34 year-old Italian boasted an impressive record of 32 wins, eight defeats and just one stoppage loss but Cleverly showed maturity, controlled aggression, speed and patience to slowly destroy Brancalion inside five rounds to become a triple champion and send a clear message to the world’s best light-heavyweights.
What makes Cheverly’s achievement so far all the more impressive is the fact he is only a part time fighter because he is studying for a highly time consuming pure maths degree at Cardiff University.
Nathan believes he can improve on his ring performances by at least 25% but before he takes on the world’s best at 175lbs he insists his education will continue to be his top priority
"I haven’t taken this sport seriously yet, this is just a hobby for me. I promise you,” insisted Cleverly.
"I’m just part-time in the gym really and it’s a hobby, this is all just fun. It’s just a sport I enjoy.
"My education comes first and when I graduate, you’re going to see another 25%.
On May 27 Welsh boxing’s newest superstar graduates, and when he does the plan is to march on and target the very best in the world, and judging by last weekend’s performance, a 25% improvement may just be enough to emulate his fellow countryman and friend Joe Calzaghe and bring another world title back to Wales.
February 15, 2010