Nathan Cleverly's dream unification fight with Bernard Hopkins moved a step closer after he recorded a landslide victory over Robin Krasniqi at Wembley Arena. Unbeaten Cleverly defended his WBO light-heavyweight title for the fifth time and registered his 26th victory with a wide points decision, compiling 120-108 119-109 120-108 on the scorecards.
Tough Kosovan Krasniqi, the mandatory challenger, showed tremendous bravery as he absorbed Cleverly's best shots, but he was outclassed throughout and did well to hear the final bell. Cleverly has his heart set on a showdown with Hopkins, the age-defying 48-year-old IBF champion, later this year and the veteran American will have been impressed by this display.
"He was hurt a lot of times, but wasn't quite ready to go so I had to go back to Plan A and box," he said. "I felt good in there and I'm pleased with the performance, it was a nice boxing display. He was tough."
"At this level it's important to break your opponents down because these are world level fighters, 12-round fighters who are very tough, so you can't be gung-ho and reckless. I was surprised he went the full 12 rounds because I hurt him early on with the right hand and I thought that sooner or later he'd go. But he dug in, was very hungry and kept fighting back. It was important that I stayed focused and boxed."