By Lem Satterfield
IBF light heavyweight king Tavoris Cloud of Tallahassee, Fla., will make the third defense of his crown on June 25 opposite Philadelphia's Yusaf Mack at the Family Arena, Saint Charles, Mo.
The 29-year-old Cloud is 22-0, with 18 knockouts, and is coming off of December's unanimous decision over 33-year-old Fulgencio Zuniga (24-5-1, 21 KOs).
Prior to facing Zuniga, Cloud was previously in the ring in August, when he defeated Jamaican-born, ex-world titlist Glen Johnson (51-15-2, 35 KOs) of Miami.
The now 42-year-old Johnson was coming off of a February, 2010, sixth-round stoppage of the 31-year-old Mack (29-3-2, 17 KOs) before facing Cloud.
Johnson ended a six-fight winning streak by Mack, who has since rebounded with a March, split-decision win over a fighter in the 33-year-old journeyman Otis Griffin (23-8-2, nine KOs) who has been knocked out five times.
Mack will be trying to avoid being stopped for the fourth time in as many losses when he meets the hard-hitting Cloud, who will no doubt be trying to earn a spectacular knockout against Mack.
A solid effort against Mack could bolster Cloud's quest to achieve lucrative match ups opposite fighters such as newly-crowned, 46-year-old WBC king Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) and ex-titlists Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) and Jean Pascal (26-2-1, 16 KOs).
Cloud-Mack will take place on the under card of a main event featuring southpaw former junior welterweight king Devon Alexander (21-1, 13 KOs) and hammer-fisted contender Lucas Matthysse (28-1, 26 KOs).
During a national conference call, Cloud addressed some of the issues concerning his upcoming bout.
Tavoris Cloud on his training for Yusaf Mack:
I've been training eight weeks for this fight. My game plan going in is to win the fight. I know that Yusaf Mack has been involved in a couple of tough fights and from what I hear about him, he's a pretty good fighter.
But now, he's the No. 1 contender. So we have to defend the IBF belt against him, and we're just looking to win the fight and to move on.
On their results against their common opponent, Glen Johnson:
You know, I look at that and initially, I dismissed his fight with Glen Johnson. But I still keep it inside of my head to let me know thalt if Yusaf starts to fold under the pressure, then I'll go about things as usual.
But I'm not expecting to see the same fighter. He's has time to learn from his mistakes. I'm expecting a better fighter sense he's fighting for a world championship instead of a No. 1 spot. I'm expecting the best Yusaf Mack that we've ever seen.
On the fact that he hurt Glen Johnson in their fight, and what he gained from facing an experienced fighter like Johnson:
That fight right there, I learned a lot from that fight. It was a good win. I'm a better fighter because of that fight. As far as my confidence, I feel that I've always been confident. I've never had a lack of confidence when it comes down to boxing. Maybe that's the reason why I'm undefeated.
On the sort of performance that he expects out of himself as a result of his training for Yusaf Mack:
As a result of my training, like I said, I don't predict knockouts. But the outcome and the performance that I'm looking for is a victory. Nothing less than a victory. I don't try to predict fights, and I respect every fighter who gets inside of the ring, especially with me.
You know, we're just going to see how it's going to work itself out. But the fashion that the fight will be won in, I don't know yet. But hopefully, it's in great fashion.
On being the favorite against Yusaf Mack:
That don't affect me. I don't let it affect me.
On whether a huge victory over Yusaf Mack could catapult him into conversations alongside Bernard Hopkins, Chad Dawson and Jean Pascal:
I'm not thinking about those fights right now. The only fight that I'm thinking about is Yusaf Mack on June 25. No other fights matter to me right now.
I plan on staying at light heavyweight and just running the light heavyweight division and unifying as many titles as I can in the division. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to be here for a while.