By James Wilson
WBO Light-heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly takes on long time mandatory challenger Robin Krasniqi on March 16. Krasniqi, who was born in Serbia, has been waiting for his chance for what seems an age as the WBO have failed to enforce the mandatory defence vigorously enough on the Caerphilly man. Cleverly remains undefeated after 25 contests.
However, Cleverly has struggled to secure the big fights at light-heavyweight and patience is beginning to wear thin amongst boxing fans, 2013 really needs to the year that he finally steps into true World class.
Krasniqi's record reads an impressive 39-2, with his only 2 defeats coming very early in his career. However, a closer look at his record shows no wins of any great note.
It would appear that winning and defending the WBO European and WBO International crowns are all that is needed to get a #1 ranking with the WBO. This defence therefore should be routine and will not improve Cleverly's reputation at the highest level no matter how emphatic his victory is.
The talk of facing Bernard Hopkins, Beibut Shumenov and the other top players of the division will therefore need to bear fruit if the Welshman is to be taken seriously.
It had looked reasonably promising for Cleverly in 2011 when he registered an impressive victory over the undefeated Karo Murat and a very close decision win over fellow Briton Tony Bellew in a hugely exciting fight. Cleverly, though, has failed to maintain the momentum he built with these fights in 2010 and 2011 and will face heavy criticism if the big matches are not made in the next 12 months.
It all adds up to the fact that Krasniqi will have to be brushed aside if Mathematics graduate Cleverly is to make good on his vow to meet and beat the likes of Hopkins or Shumenov over the coming years.