By Jake Donovan
Nathan Cleverly hopes for history to repeat itself as he prepares for his stateside appearance this weekend.
The unbeaten Welshman faces Shawn Hawk on Saturday evening at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The bout airs live on Showtime Extreme as part of a lead-in card to a Showtime tripleheader topped by the super bantamweight showdown between Abner Mares and Anselmo Moreno.
For Cleverly, it’s just the second time he fights in the United States. His lone other trip came 4 ½ years ago, on the undercard of countryman Joe Calzaghe, who defeated Bernard Hopkins to win the light heavyweight crown after a lengthy stay as unbeaten super middleweight champ.
The final fight of Calzaghe’s career came seven months later – also in the United States and on the first Saturday after the U.S. Presidential election. Five days after Barack Obama became the first-ever African-American to win the presidency, Calzaghe won what became the final fight of his career in soundly outpointing Roy Jones Jr.
The stakes aren’t nearly as high for Cleverly (24-0, 11KO). The defending titlist is a heavy favorite to get past Hawk, a late replacement just named Monday morning after Ryan Coyne was forced to withdraw due to promotional contract issues with Don King.
Still, there exists the importance of looking good enough to keep building as a worldwide star. With that, Cleverly uses the historical parallels of his longtime friend and countryman heading into his latest adventure this weekend.
“Joe was a great fighter and it’s nice to be compared to such a good champion. But I’m out to be my own name and leave my own legacy, although I’m comfortable with the comparisons,” Cleverly said in a statement. “It was tough sparring with Joe because he was the best in the world at his weight but it set me up a nice foundation.
“It’s starting to show in my style and the way I fight with fast hands. I helped Joe a lot because of my speed. I helped Joe for his fights with Mikkel Kessler and Bernard Hopkins. I probably sparred over 200 rounds with him.”
Such experience has helped Cleverly reached the alphabet title stage, though the stay near the top hasn’t been easy. The highlight of his alphabet title reign was a 12-round war with Tony Bellew last October, in which Cleverly edged out a majority decision.
Only one fight has since followed, a 12-round pasting of hapless American challenger Tommy Karpency this past February in his native Wales.
The aforementioned win over Bellew currently rates as the biggest fight of his still promising career. The 25-year old hopes that Saturday serves as the start of carving out his own name in the sport.
“Every fighter wants to make their own name and in the next year or so I have got an opportunity to take on the best in the world and make a legacy of my own. I don’t set a time scale of how long I should stay in boxing. I just want to unify the division and once that is achieved then what more is there provided I have made enough money.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox