By Jake Donovan
Nathan Cleverly is the latest casualty in a stretch where more fights are being canceled than inked.
The unbeaten light heavyweight titlist was set to defend against Robin Krasniqi on April 28 at Royal Albert Hall in London, but was forced to withdraw due to a viral infection.
Cleverly (24-0, 11KO) was bit by the flu bug long enough to miss a significant portion of training camp. The Welsh fighter was prepared to make up for lost time once healthy, but medical advice suggested otherwise.
"I've been unable to train because I've been laid up in bed with a viral infection,” Cleverly noted. “There's not enough time to make up what I've missed in training to make sure I'm fully fit. I've taken the advice of my doctor and been told to fully rest before attempting to start training again."
It is the third notable bout within the past 24 hours to hit the scrap heap. Unbeaten super middleweight contender George Groves was forced to withdraw from next month’s title challenge versus Robert Steiglitz after suffering an undisclosed injury in training camp.
On the other side of the pond, middleweight prospect Fernando Guerrero was a last minute scratch from this weekend’s Shobox card. A partially torn tricep was damaging enough to cancel plans for a stay busy fight against Chris Fitzpatrick, reducing the card to a televised doubleheader.
As for the bill Cleverly was supposed to top, the show will still go on. Much to the light heavyweight’s dismay, a small piece of domestic history will be made without him.
"I'm really disappointed because I was looking forward to being the first fighter to bring boxing back to the Royal Albert Hall in over a decade and the first of the century,” said a dejected Cleverly.
Now topping the bill is unbeaten super middleweight prospect Billy Joe Saunders. A member of the 2008 Great Britain Olympic boxing squad, Saunders (12-0, 8KO) will face Tony Hill in a scheduled 10-round main event with a regional title at stake.
The card marks the first time in 13 years that Royal Albert Hall has opened its doors to boxing. The last show in the venue took place in April ’99, featuring Marco Antonio Barrera in his second tour as 122 lb. titlist. Also on the bill was Julius Francis, outpointing Danny Williams in a fight that in part led to his serving as the opponent of choice for Mike Tyson’s UK debut in Jan. ‘00.
No official word was offered on when Cleverly can return to the ring. That it won’t come on April 28 is a huge disappointment. Cleverly was hoping a win over Krasniqi would help make a statement and put him in line for bigger opportunities at light heavyweight.
“It was a big night for me as (lineal champion Bernard) Hopkins was facing (Chad) Dawson on the same night (in the U.S.) and I was looking to do a good job on Krasniqi to get a fight with the winner.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]