by Cliff Rold
26-year old WBO Light Heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly (26-0, 12 KO) of Cefn Forest, Wales, made the fifth successful defense of his title with a surprisingly easy decision over the game but outclassed 26-year old Robin Krasniqi (39-3, 15 KO) of Munich, Germany, on Saturday night at Wembley Arena in London, England. The loss ended a streak of 38 straight wins for Krasniqi after losing twice in his first three starts.
Both men weighed in below the division limit of 175 lbs., Cleverly at 174 ½ and Krasniqi at 173. The referee was Mark Nelson.
Both men came out flashing quick left jabs, Cleverly toying with a lead hook as well. The pressuring Cleverly stayed close throughout the opening round, wobbling Krasniqi near the ropes in the final minute. Krasniqi stayed up but could do little to stop what was quickly becoming a paint job.
Over the next four rounds, Cleverly stayed several steps ahead. His quicker hands consistently beat Krasniqi to the punch and he regularly had his man worked over on the ropes. Krasniqi’s best moments came in the last stages of round six. Letting his hands go and trying to change the momentum, Krasniqi got Cleverly’s attention and shined promise on the possibilities for the bout’s second half.
The pace slowing, Cleverly moved more and punched less for most of the seventh. It didn’t matter much, Cleverly picking his shots well and boxing beautifully to maintain control. Krasniqi landed a huge shot in the final ten seconds to keep things interesting. He didn’t have as much success in the eighth.
And Krasniqi took a bit of a lacing in round nine. Cleverly poured on the offense in the middle of the round but still couldn’t land the sort of blow that could get him closer to the showers. To his credit, Krasniqi showed no quit. Into the tenth, he was still trying even as Cleverly battered him with shots to the body and uppercut. The closing seconds of round ten saw Krasniqi land a bombing shot off the ropes to keep hope alive and the crowd engaged in a near shutout.
Anyone who saw that hope as a sign that there might be some drama in the final six minutes was likely disappointed. Krasniqi never stopped looking for a prayer to be answered and Cleverly never let him put enough change in the collection plate. Wisely boxing, Cleverly never let Krasniqi in and never came close to letting the fight get away from him.
The final scores were academic at 119-109 and two shutout tallies of 120-108.
Cleverly was as calm and professional in post-fight comments as he’d been in the ring all night. Commenting on his ability to handle Krasniqi’s best weapon for most of the night, Cleverly said, “A few times it landed so that’s something for me to work on but overall I felt I dealt with the right hand well and I was happy…with that performance.” Looking to the future, Cleverly made clear he wants to share the ring with a living legend.
“I’m not obsessed with (IBF titlist Bernard) Hopkins but that’s the fight; that’s the elite fight that can answer my questions. Am I an elite fighter or am I just an average world champion? Hopkins is the man to ask me those questions.”
The ageless Hopkins is currently scheduled for a mandatory challenge from Karo Murat. Cleverly suggested perhaps he could unify titles with WBA titlist Beibut Shumenov in the meantime with an eye on more unification down the road.
The lineal World Champion of the division remains WBC titlist Chad Dawson. Dawson defeated Hopkins for the crown with a decisive decision in 2012 before suffering a knockout loss against Andre Ward in a challenge for the Super Middleweight title one fight later. Dawson is slated to face challenger Adonis Stevenson in June.
Also televised following the main event, 29-year old former Heavyweight titlist Derek Chisora (16-4, 10 KO), 252, of London, England, made his first start since being stopped by David Haye in July 2012 and halted a three-fight losing streak with a pedestrian decision over 38-year old journeyman Hector Avila (20-13-1, 13 KO), 218, of San Miguel, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Chisora won every round but never seemed able to get Avila, who had been stopped in eight previous bouts, in serious trouble until a body attack (started by what appeared to be a low blow) left Avila bent over in pain in the ninth round. The referee stopped it at 2:49 of the frame despite Avila’s objections.
The card was televised in the U.S. on EPIX, promoted by Frank Warren Promotions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]