By Frank Warren
It was a huge relief to finally confirm a genuine world grade challenger WBO light-heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly this week.
On 17th August the 26 year old Welshman squares up to unbeaten Russian prospect Sergey Kovalev at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. It is a match that has already gripped the trade on both sides of the Atlantic.
Komrade Sergey certainly represents a significant step up in terms of both quality and profile for ‘Clev’. Now based in Florida, the Russian has been given the big build up by both his influential promoters Main Events and the NBC TV network over in the US.
His credentials are beyond reproach. A former Russian amateur champion and World Military gold medallist, Kovalev was victorious in 193 of his 215 amateur bouts. Since shedding his headguard and singlet five years ago, he has gone unbeaten in 22 as a pro, with 19 stoppage wins and 18 victims falling inside three rounds.
Having ruined Spain’s ex WBA champion Gabriel Campillo in three rounds last January, Kovalev is mandatory challenger with the IBF and rated in the top eight by the other three major sanctioning bodies plus all leading boxing mags.
Even the naysayers must concede he is a genuine world class operator. This represents Cleverly’s passage into the big time and, though it’s the stiffest of tests, I’m very confident his speed, skill, chin and energy, coupled with home court, will hopefully prove decisive.
I’ve long maintained that maths graduate Nathan has the talent between the ropes, plus the looks, charisma and intelligence beyond, to evolve into a huge crossover star.
But it’s no secret that I’ve found it extremely frustrating securing credible competition to advance his profile over the last 18 months. Nevertheless, each step we’ve taken has had meaning. ‘Clev’s’ shut out defence over Tommy Karpency in February 2012 provided him with a long overdue homecoming to a packed house in Cardiff.
November’s eight round demolition of Shawn Hawk in Los Angeles exposed Nathan’s wares to the US market while his 1000 punch suffocation of Germany’s very useful Robin Krasniqi at Wembley in April took care of his mandatory obligation.
It’s all about building careers and avoiding the temptation of succumbing to short term monetary gain. Those who disparage Cleverly’s level of opposition would do well to remember that the lad from the valleys is still only 26.
He cut his teeth as chief spar hand to Joe Calzaghe whilst still in his late teens, then bagged Commonwealth, British and European belts by the age of 22 in record time.
The Kovalev fight represents the sixth defence of the world title he acquired back in 2011. At a comparable age Carl Froch had had just 10 pro fights and was yet to debut at even British or Commonwealth title level. Those are the cold, hard facts!
With cable giants HBO televising live in the US and BoxNation broadcasting live in the UK, an emphatic victory over Kovalev can elevate Cleverly’s standing on both sides of The Pond; just as Joe Calzaghe’s slaughter of the supposedly invincible Jeff Lacy catapulted him to stardom.
The future is in Clev’s fists!
Hopefully, we’ll discover more about the true extent of Adrien Broner’s talent this evening.
The touted future great from Cincinnati concedes every conceivable advantage bar talent when he rises two weight divisions to challenge the vastly more experienced WBA welter boss Paulie Malignaggi, in the champ’s home borough of Brooklyn, New York.
Known as ’The Problem’, the controversial but exquisitely gifted Broner, 23, should still triumph. Malignaggi is quick but couldn’t dent a soufflé!
BoxNation brings the whole bill, featuring three world title fights, live to the UK.
Week after week, The Channel of Champions delivers the very best ring action from around the globe.
Next weekend we showcase the welterweight civil war between Birmingham’s Frankie Gavin and Manchester’s Denton Vassell. The following week it’ll be David Price’s attempt to avenge his knockout loss to Tony Thompson. A fortnight later we broadcast my huge Wembley promotion, fronted by another Transatlantic heavyweight clash between Dereck Chisora and Malik Scott.
At a tenner a month, it’s a steal.
With 32 straight wins and 27 knockouts, Miguel ‘Mikey’ Garcia is clearly a fighter going places.
But I was decidedly unimpressed by the 25 year old Californian’s failure to make weight – and by a full two pounds – for the first defence of his WBO featherweight strap against Puerto Rico’s Juanma Lopez last weekend.
As a consequence, Garcia was forced to pay a $150,000 forfeit to his opponent. However, by the time the re-hydrated rivals stepped into the ring, Garcia had a 5lb edge – that’s a full weight division. Unsurprisingly, he romped to a predictable early stoppage win.
It’s a practise that has become far too common place of late. It makes a mockery of the check weigh-ins introduced in the build up to title fights to assist fighters in reducing their weight safely.
Failure to attempt to make weight provides culprits with an unfair advantage over an opponent who has put their body through the mill.
Is it tantamount to cheating? Far stiffer penalties are required for those who transgress.
My congratulations go to Keith Walters, the President of the ABA of England who was awarded an OBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to amateur boxing.
A real stalwart, Keith once made cricket bats for England test star Ken Barrington and he has served the unpaid code for 58 years as a boxer, coach and administrator. A top man!
A shout out also to all involved in The Haringey Box Cup which takes place at Alexandra Palace, north London this weekend.
With 400 male and female boxers attending from all over the UK and Europe, the tournament exceeds the Olympic Games in terms of participation numbers.
The non-profit event, now in its sixth year, is organised by local community coppers Ken Marsh and Gerry Willmott. Both have MBEs.
With three rings active simultaneously, competitors ranging from novice 11 year olds right up to Olympians box in their club colours for medals. Amateur boxing at its purest!
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