By Kevin Francis, courtesy of The Daily Star
NATHAN CLEVERLY went out celebrating in the shadow of Hollywood as his dream of becoming a boxing superstar took a massive step forward.
The Welshman, 25, retained his WBO world light-heavyweight title against Shawn Hawk and is now in line to fight ring legend Bernard Hopkins next year.
The 47-year-old Hopkins, a multi-world champion, could meet Cleverly in March.
Cleverly is relishing the chance of boosting his worldwide image and said: “That is a fight we are definitely looking at. After all, I have come over here and showcased my talents.
“After this, I would love to set up a big fight with Hopkins next year. I am established at world title level and that kind of fight against Hopkins is definitely on the cards.”
Cleverly maintained his unbeaten record by convincingly overcoming Native American Hawk after wearing him down from the opening bell. He said: “I think I made a real impression. I took a few risks but I found the kind of finish I needed.
“I feel I am becoming an elite fighter and the few risks I took made me the more exciting fighter.
“I think I am now in the big time because I have done so well. Maybe now, after one or two more fights, I will really be at the elite stage and ready to stay there.”
Cleverly received a tremendous ovation after a fight in which he was led into the ring by Sir Tom Jones and Mickey Rourke.
He said: “I think it is a mark of how far I have progressed that people of their stature are now being actively involved with me.
“I honestly feel the way ahead is to fight whenever I can in the States. I have been training in the Wild Card gym here with Freddie Roach and that was such an experience for me.”
Cleverly now possesses all the ability to take over Joe Calzaghe’s tag as the best fighter in Wales.
He said: “I certainly feel in a position to take over from Joe and I know a lot of people are looking at me to do precisely that.”
Cleverly had Hawk on the canvas twice in the seventh and once in the eighth before the fight was called off in his favour.
Sir Tom is now backing him, too. He said: “I think Nathan can go the whole way. He is a great light-heavyweight.
“I thought Nathan fought a very good fight. He never lost his temper, which is great. I remember Ricky Hatton saying he lost his temper against Floyd Mayweather and that was bad for him.
“It was a great win for Nathan, who managed to do it despite the other guy’s counter-punching.”
Wladimir Klitschko retained his undisputed heavyweight crown after a unanimous points decision over Poland’s Mariusz Wach in Hamburg on Saturday night.BOXING: Champ lines up Hopkins