By Keith Idec
Nathan Cleverly isn’t considered the puncher nor the favorite in his Aug. 17 light heavyweight championship showdown with Sergey Kovalev.
Try telling that to Vince Cleverly, the unbeaten WBO light heavyweight champion’s father and trainer. Vince Cleverly repeatedly predicted on a conference call Wednesday that his son will knock out Kovalev, a ruthless Russian contender who has earned a reputation as one of boxing’s most dangerous punchers.
“Nathan’s got a longer reach, he’s got better stamina, he’s got a better chin,” Vince Cleverly said. “And everybody goes on about Kovalev knocking people [out]. … I’m 100-percent confident that Nathan will KO Kovalev. I’ve seen Kovalev’s legs wobble with Cornelius White, also with [Gabriel] Campillo. If they can wobble him, I’m positive Nathan Cleverly is going to stop Sergey Kovalev.”
Kovalev (21-0-1, 19 KOs) dropped White (21-2, 16 KOs) three times in the third round before their fight was stopped June 14 in Bethlehem, Pa. In his previous fight, the 30-year-Kovalev also stopped Campillo (22-5-1, 9 KOs, 1 NC) in the third round.
Demolishing Campillo propelled Kovalev’s career, but Vince Cleverly clearly wasn’t all that impressed with Kovalev’s convincing technical knockout victory over the Spanish southpaw Jan. 19 in Uncasville, Conn.
“Sergey finishes the guys,” Vince Cleverly said. “He’s got good power, especially with his right hand. He’s been taught well to fight a southpaw. [Trainer] John [David Jackson] taught him very well to fight a southpaw like Campillo, who’s a good southpaw.
“But please remember, Campillo’s a very slow starter. Campillo wasn’t right for that fight. And Campillo’s got a record of being knocked down early on in his fights. We all know that Kovalev has a good right hand and he’s got a good left hook. He throws the left hook very hard and he has real good footwork. But there’s a lot of weaknesses in Kovalev. … And Nathan knows how to exploit those. He’s a very intelligent man.”
The 26-year-old Cleverly (26-0, 12 KOs) hasn’t faced a puncher as powerful as Kovalev since he won the WBO’s 175-pound title 2½ years ago. Nevertheless, Vince Cleverly said sparring sessions against heavyweights Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora and cruiserweight Lateef Kayode have assured him that his son is more than ready to handle Kovalev’s vaunted power.
“Sergey Kovalev does not want to think that he’s going to come over here to Wales and beat [Cleverly],” Vince Cleverly said. “Nathan is a very hard man. He has never been down on the canvas. His stamina is absolutely tremendous. And what people have got to remember about Nathan Cleverly, he was a very young world champion and he’s been brought along at the right pace by [promoter] Frank Warren.
“This boy is improving with every fight. His strength is going up with every fight. He’s still only 26 years of age. Nathan has been in the ring with bigger punchers than Sergey Kovalev.”
The 12-round Cleverly-Kovalev clash will be one of three bouts broadcast by HBO on Aug. 17. The Cleverly-Kovalev fight will be televised on delay from Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales, along with live feeds of 12-round bouts from Atlantic City that’ll pit Australia’s Daniel Geale (29-1, 15 KOs), the IBF middleweight champion, against England’s Darren Barker (25-1, 16 KOs) and Colombia’s Jhonatan Romero (23-0, 12 KOs), the IBF super bantamweight champion, against Spain’s Kiko Martinez (28-4, 20 KOs).
“Kovalev’s got a dream,” Vince Cleverly said. “Unfortunately, Nathan is going to destroy that dream.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.