NATHAN CLEVERLY is planning a January return to Los Angeles unless Shawn Hawk causes one of boxing’s biggest upsets of recent times.
The unbeaten Welshman makes the fourth defence of his WBO light-heavyweight title against Native American Hawk at the Staples Center, Los Angeles on Saturday night.
He has trained ahead of his crucial 12 rounder at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym and won over the gym where they breed them tougher than most fighting sweatshops.
Cleverly, 25, said: “Freddie was impressed. He said he liked my skill, speed and that I was a really talented fighter.
“That is nice because Freddie has worked with the best fighters in the world and that was a good compliment.
“This climate is brilliant for training and I love Los Angeles. It is a great environment and everybody seems positive in this city. I’ve got the buzz for this place and want to come back early next year to train.
“I could see in the Wild Card gym that he lives for that place and his boxing. You can’t help but pick up things.”
Cleverly’s sparring with undefeated world ranked cruiserweight Kayode Lateef brought the gym to a total halt, and Nathan, unbeaten in 24 fights proudly added: “The Wild Card was incredible – people sat on the side sparring and cheering the boxers on.
“Everybody in the gym stopped and watched Lateef and myself. They were really enthralled and could see the skill level
“The whole gym clapped. It meant a lot that my style and technique was appreciated.”
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Shawn Hawk: ‘My Overall Physical Condition Convinces Me I Can Spring An Upset.’
‘Sioux Warrior’ Shawn Hawk knows his challenge for WBO World Light-Heavyweight king Nathan Cleverly’s title at the Staples Center, Los Angeles on Saturday accords him a once in a lifetime opportunity to change his life.
A former US national junior champion and feared fixture on the Toughman circuit, the 28 year old from Sioux Falls, South Dakota had no intention of letting his good fortune go to waste when he spoke to boxing writer Glynn Evans on Wednesday evening.
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You’re a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. To what degree do you follow Native American traditions?
I know a few old Native American words but our language was essentially lost when they placed us on reservations. I still attend pow-wows and go to church for Native ceremonies.
Ultimately, I had to leave the reservation to further myself as a boxer but I’m extremely proud of my heritage and the reason I enter the ring with the headdress on is because I want everybody to be aware of who and what I am.
Through history, there’s been several successful Native American boxers from (1976-80 WBC featherweight champ) Danny ‘Little Red’ Lopez and his brother Ernie (a welterweight contender) back in the 70’s, to Marvin Camel the first world cruiserweight champion, (three time world-light heavy and one-time WBA cruiser king) Virgil Hill and Joe Hipp. I believe (Mexico’s ex WBO super-bantam champ) Daniel Ponce De Leon also has some Native American background.
Virgil was always my favourite, my personal hero. I loved the way he picked opponent’s apart with just his jab.
How did you first become involved in boxing and what did you achieve in the amateur code?
I’ve been going to the gym since I was six years old and I had my first bout at seven.
I was raised around Chicago so it was a pretty tough, competitive circuit and I fought against a lot of good opposition from the big cities along the East Coast.
Between the ages of eight and 15, I won four national titles; two Silver Gloves, a junior Golden Gloves and the National PAL in 1998. All told I had 120 amateur bouts and only lost somewhere in the region of a dozen.
After turning pro aged 19 in May 2004, you went unbeaten in your first 18 fights (one draw), predominantly fighting in Washington state, Idaho and the Dakotas. I read somewhere that Freddie Roach was training you for a while.
Shortly after signing with Sycuan Promotions I had a few pad sessions with Freddie at the Wild Card gym over in Hollywood, California but I’m not sure he’d even remember me!
The two defeats on your 26 fight record (one draw) came against Rhode Island’s future WBO title challenger Matt Godfrey in a July 2009 NABF title clash up at cruiserweight (lpts10) and in your most recent start when gifted 2008 Olympian Eleider Alvarez of Columbia outscored you over 12 in Montreal. How do you account for those two comprehensive defeats?
Around the time of the Matt Godfrey fight, I was in a real bad place....going stir crazy, drinking too much. That’s when I knew I had to leave the (Native American) reservation to be successful. My people understood and gave me their blessing.
As a cruiser, I was heavy handed but never in the best of shape. Once I stopped the drink, the weight just fell off and my last few wins have been easily the best performances of my career. At light-heavy, I’m more a box-puncher; more comfortable and much faster.
Against Alvarez, I have to say that he was just a very good fighter. I gave him a good fight but he threw a lot of punches and hit hard. He’s just a good guy.
Despite plenty of rumours on the grapevine, it was confirmed that you’d be replacing unbeaten St Louis southpaw Ryan Coyne as Cleverly’s challenger on Monday. Given the short notice, were you apprehensive about accepting the gig?
Not at all. When the offer came, immediately, I was: ‘Hell yeah!’ It’s a great opportunity for me to get exposure, regarding my boxing career.
Obviously I’m nervous. This is my first time stepping into a ring with a world champion but I’ve been waiting my whole life for such a chance. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could win.
I’ve been in the gym constantly since losing the Alvarez fight (in June) and always stay around 180-185lbs so dropping the weight was never an issue. I’ve been working away in Kansas with Carlos Monteagedo, a strength and conditioning coach who goes to school in Kansas University. I know I’ll be far stronger than the Shawn Hawk who lost to Alvarez. I’m 100% ready.
What have you seen of Nathan Cleverly and what specific problems do you envisage the undefeated champion will pose?
I studied Nathan long before the opportunity came to fight him and he reminds me a lot of an orthodox Joe Calzaghe.
He’s very fast, very slick, throws a lot of punches and, physically, he’s lanky with broad shoulders. I think the biggest obstacle might be getting past his height and punch output. But I want to put on a real good show. I’ve absolute confidence that I shall find a way to beat him and ensure his belt remains in the USA.
Despite home court, the bookmakers have you as a rank outsider (10-1). However, you conducted most of your earlier career up in the cruiserweight class and have an impressive 17 stoppages victories on your slate. Could that natural size advantage be the key to you upsetting the odds?
I don’t really see myself as the bigger guy. Sizewise, I think we’ll be pretty even. Nathan’s a world champion so I’m sure he must train very hard himself.
It’s more my overall physical condition that convinces me I could spring an upset. That, plus my determination to get recognition for my people and make my community proud of me. I want to shock the world.
Steven Bash, a qualified attorney who moonlights as Hawk’s co-manager and business adviser, adds:
“Shawn’s a very quiet, mild mannered individual and I find that’s a trait synonymous with most Native American fighters. He’s very humble but it’s the quieter fighters who are usually the tougher ones in the ring. Shawn’s never been knocked out and, to my knowledge, he’s never even been down.
Thus far, Shawn’s not had an enormous amount of opportunities because, for long periods, he tried to do things on his own. Though the guy who beat him last time (Eleider Alvarez) only had eight fights, he had a very extensive amateur pedigree.
Shawn understands that he’s essentially a young fighter starting out in his career. He’s engaged to be married and this unexpected world title opportunity is a massive incentive for him to change the direction of his life. He has a good amateur background and has proven himself as a very good puncher in a higher weight category.
He’s known about the potential of this opportunity for a lot longer than was formally announced and I sincerely believe that he’ll be more ready than Nathan is. When we got the call, Shawn was barely a couple of pounds above the light-heavy limit and was in training for another fight anyway.
By contrast, Nathan had spent a lot of time training and strategising for Ryan Coyne, a southpaw with a completely different style to Shawn.
His corner shall be headed by well regarded Californian veteran Seifudeen Mateen and ex opponent Otis Griffin, who now co-manages Shawn with me. He’ll be in good hands.
Shawn knows that from leaving his locker room to returning to his locker room he’s been granted one hour in which he can effectively change the direction of his life. He’ll leave it all in the ring, that’s for sure. He’s a warrior both by blood and by persona and it’s what’s inside him that I believe will take him to victory.”
BoxNation catches up with WBO World Light-Heavyweight Champion Nathan Cleverly in Los Angeles before his big title defence against Shawn Hawk at the Staples Center this Saturday night.
Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke and legendary trainer Freddie Roach give their opinions on the hot Welsh star and Cleverly talks about his preparations for the biggest night of his career.
Go to www.frankwarren.com/videos/frank-warren-tv.html
Watch Cleverly v Hawk live and exclusive on BoxNation in the UK on Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546 from 1a.m this Sunday morning. Join at www.boxnation.com Tags: Nathan Cleverly , Cleverly-Hawk , Cleverly vs Hawk , Shawn Hawk