WBO Light Heavyweight Champion, Nathan Cleverly’s year looks like it will be ending on the same note it began, by fighting an unknown American in the United States, making the fourth defense of his title. What credibility this is meant to achieve is unclear, nor will it be of much interest to U.K. or U.S. fans alike.
Cleverly won an uninspiring unanimous decision in February of this year against unknown Tommy Karpency. On Nov 10th he faces unknown Ryan Coyne (21-0 9 KOs) in Los Angeles at the Staples Center on a televised Showtime card. Though the chances of it not being shown are high, as the card’s two the headlined bouts of Mares vs. Moreno and Angulo vs. Cezares will surely take precedent.
Frank Warren (Cleverly’s promoter) claims it to be a breakthrough fight for him in the U.S., whilst Cleverly says, “I’m sending out a statement of intent by taking on an unbeaten fighter with everything to gain.”
Warren went on to say, “The reason this fight has been taken is that we have tried very hard to get named opponents, but the truth is it just hasn’t happened.” This statement seems somewhat contradictory, particularly when you consider Cleverly was originally scheduled to fight Ukrainian Vyacheslav Uzelkov (27-12 16 KOs) at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena this month. This was apparently cancelled. Was the fight with Coyne too good an opportunity to be turned down? This is quite hard to believe, as Vyacheslav seemed to be a much more credible opponent on paper with some good names on his resume, Adamek being one of them.
Smokescreens aside, the cold facts of the matter are much more likely to have been Warren’s inability to sell enough tickets and generate enough interest for the Cardiff show. It appears he quickly ducked out, spreading the lively undercard around to other upcoming shows, plain and simple.
Warren’s claim of trying to secure a big name opponent such as Bernard Hopkins, Carl Froch, and Tavoris Cloud to name a few, were met with derision by Eddie Hearn, Tony Bellew’s manager. Hearn stated, “You can’t mention names like that while you’re fighting guys like Kapency and Coyne.” Hearn has stated that Tony Bellew, who lost to Cleverly back in Oct of 2011, was never offered a rematch which contradicts Warren’s claim that he was. Cleverly-Bellew 2 is a fight that needs to happen. I’m sure the fans would love it, and it would probably sell out.
The blame for the poor matchmaking appears to lie solely with Frank Warren and as a direct result, it seems to be having an adverse effect on Cleverly’s reputation. Cleverly appeared this week on Bunce’s boxing hour to say he’s hoping to take part in a four man tournament next year that would include Hopkins, Cloud, and Shumenov. This would be a tantalizing prospect if it ever came off.
Make no mistake, Cleverly is a class act with loads of talent and plenty of heart, sometimes too much for his own good, something which must be addressed if he’s to compete with the elite of the light heavyweight division. The tendency to stand and trade and to not box off the jab while displaying a lack of lateral movement, will surely be his undoing against top level opposition. That being said, I’m sure he may be able to overcome these things and make UK fans proud. After all, he’s a British champion we should love to follow. Let’s hope fighting the best brings out the best in him just as it did with Froch and Calzaghe. Nathan needs to prove he’s world class. In order to do that he must fight at the world class level. Let’s hope next year brings bigger and better fights.