By Frank Warren
This evening WBO light-heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly endeavours to become the first Welshman since the Second World War to win a world title fight on US soil when he defends his belt for a fourth time at the futuristic Staples Center in Los Angeles, with new friend Mickey Rourke and fellow Welshman Sir Tom Jones at ringside.
Initially, the maths graduate was tabled to defend a fortnight ago, against a little known but dangerous Ukrainian at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena. However, that always represented a sideways step so we canned it in favour of getting ‘Clev’ the US exposure that could be crucial in elevating him into the unification fights that everyone is demanding against rival champions Chad Dawson (WBC), Tavoris Cloud (IBF) or Beibut Shumenov (WBA).
And make no mistake, I would unleash Nathan against any of the above, or Bernard Hopkins, and be fully confident that he’d emerge victorious whether those prospective fights took place in the US or the UK.
Since signing with me shortly after his 18th birthday in 2005, Nathan has collected British, Commonwealth, European and WBO light-heavy titles, and holds a perfect 24 fight record. At 25, this is his crucial next step. It does make me titter when others whinge about me ‘protecting him’. Recently rivals have chucked their ‘starturns’ into title fights in the US simply to appease TV. Darren Barker, Matt Macklin, Matthew Hatton and Ryan Rhodes readily spring to mind. All were defeated, most were knocked out.
I’ve not done bad over the years delivering challenging yet winnable big fights for the likes of Benn, Hamed, Hatton, Calzaghe and plenty of others, eclipses anyone elses in Britain. Fact. Tonight Cleverly gets a gilt edged opportunity to introduce himself across The Pond, on a card that also includes the fantastic WBC super-bantam showdown between Abner Mares and Anselmo Moreno - two of the globe’s elite talents in the lighter weights – to gain some more valuable US exposure and to make a statement.
Nathan was due to face challenger Ryan Coyne, but the American got into a contract dispute with promoter Don King and was unable to participate in the bout.
To that end, it was essential that we found an American opponent. And if substitute challenger Shawn Hawk isn’t the ideal choice he’s certainly credible. A four time national junior champion in the US, the 28 year old from South Dakota can brag 120 amateur bouts (just 12 losses) plus 23 victories – including an ominous 17 by stoppage - in 26 pro gigs (one draw).
Having conducted most of his business up in the cruiserweight class, Hawk will be the naturally bigger man. He also has the advantage of home court and was on ‘standby’ for almost three weeks so isn’t as ‘last minute’ as some cynics are trying to make out.
A Native American from the Crow Creek tribe, ‘The Sioux Warrior’ will enter the ring in a traditional headdress and shall certainly add plenty of colour to the promotion.
But I very much doubt he’ll have the tools to beat Nathan. This evening’s exercise, being broadcast live in the UK by BoxNation and Showtime in the US, isn’t so much about Cleverly successfully retaining his belt as about him mesmerising a fresh US audience and forcing those super fights in 2013. The Welsh boyo must deliver in comprehensive style.
I know the Jocks like their porridge but former world featherweight king Scott Harrison is taking it to extremes.
After completing a 30 month stretch in a Spanish slammer in September 2011 following an assault, the troubled Scot copped another four years bird this week after a similar offence at a brothel near Malaga in 2007.
The ‘Real McCoy’, already 35, is believed to be lodging an appeal but, if it fails, that will surely be the end. He was victorious in 9 of 11 World Championship fights (one draw) and didn’t concede his title in the ring but succumbed to the demon booze while still in his prime. A scandalous waste of talent. Scottish boxing’s George Best!
News broke this week that two weight world champion David Haye is going into the jungle.
I too was approached to do ‘I’m A Celebrity...’ five or six years back but heard the maid service wasn’t up to much! As a vegetarian, I’m not a big fan of eating kangaroo’s penises, though at a recent visit to my local Korean restaurant, I have to say the main dish was the dog’s boll**ks!
My idea of bush tucker would be eating at one of Gordon Ramsay’s joints but today people are keen to test their resolve and spirit so you have to respect David for that. Still, the real contest could be who spunks up the most money in phone bills nominating the ‘Hayemaker’ for every bush tucker trial, the Klitschko brothers, Dereck Chisora or even me!
Frank Maloney is calling for Boxing Board Chairman Charlie Giles to resign after former England cricket captain Andrew Freddie’ Flintoff was licensed as a professional boxer at the age of 34.
I have to disagree with Little Frank who rubbished the decision as ‘a joke’. Of course, it’s highly unlikely that the Ashes winning all rounder will reach domestic, never mind world title level. However, he’s a world class athlete who has the right to try! After all 90% of boxers who turn pro will never win a title!
Flintoff is handled by former world champion Barry McGuigan, a long-time advocate of boxer’s rights and welfare. His neck is seriously on the line should anything go awry. McGuigan’s judgement deserves to be respected.
Sky One will show the build up to his fight and BoxNation will broadcast his fight live on 30th November. As I have said it is ‘car crash tv’ – can Freddie make an impression or not?
One of the all-time greats Carmen Basilio sadly passed away this week at 85.
Basilio was a big hero in the 1950s because of his all-action style that would involve taking punishment to get inside and deliver big punches.
Known as “The Upstate Onion Farmer”, Basilio sensationally beat the man regarded as the greatest fighter of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson, to win the world middleweight title in front of 40,000 at Yankee Stadium. He also won a world title a welterweight beating Tony DeMarco.
He fought in an era when 6oz gloves, 15-rounds and 30-day rematches were the norm and he racked up 56 wins from 79 fights.
Basilio was the main reason that International Boxing Hall of Fame is held in Canastota which was not far from his childhood home and he was in the inaugural induction class of 1990.
He will be sadly missed.