With British boxing very much on the ropes, battered, bleeding and sore after last weekend’s shenanigans from two of the country’s leading heavyweights over in Germany, the game in the UK has a chance to repair some of the damage when its only remaining legitimate world champion defends his title on home soil this Saturday.
The well-educated and erudite light-heavyweight Nathan Cleverly hopes to prove that British pugilists can operate at a level other than the Neanderthal, when he entertains American contender Tommy Karpency at the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena. He’ll be putting his WBO title on the line together with a burgeoning reputation which has been gathering pace in the UK, but has yet to take root across the Atlantic.
Cleverly, 25, is unbeaten in 23 contests, including 11 stoppages, and will be making the second defence of the title he was “granted” by the WBO in 2010. Cleverly can claim legitimacy having beaten Aleksy Kuziemski in what was effectively a contest for the vacant title. He made heavy weather of his first defence, taking a majority decision from fellow Brit Tony Bellew last October in what became something of a grudge fight, with the two combatants almost coming to blows Haye-Chisora style on a couple of occasions at press conferences in the build-up. Generally, however, Cleverly is known as one of boxing’s few university graduates, and his mathematics degree is as uncommon to the fight game as a Chisora pleasantry.
On paper it doesn’t appear that Karpency will trouble the young champion too greatly. The 26-year-old has a decent record, 21 wins and 2 losses, but the quality of his opposition has been questionable. In his sole foray outside the United States in 2010, he dropped a wide decision to Karo Murat in Germany, a fighter who went on to be stopped by Cleverly. That said, Karpency’s fourteen inside distance wins suggest that he carries some power, and he expects to give a good account of himself, not least because a win would allow him to give up the day job.
“I expect a really great fight”, he said. “It’s my big chance to prove I belong with the best light-heavyweights in the world and victory would provide me the opportunity to support my passion for boxing, without having to go to work.
“But it’s the glory not the money that motivates me. Every fighter’s ultimate goal is to win a world title. When you’re fighting at this level, you train heart and soul to win, not to get paid. If you can’t get motivated to fight a world champion, you don’t belong in this sport.”
For Cleverly, fighting an American opponent will increase his exposure to a US audience. They’ll see a skilled and determined operator, who generally wears down opponents with a prodigious work-rate and overwhelming confidence in his own ability. Cleverly also possesses an exceptional chin. He’s asked his promoter Frank Warren to get him a fight with Bernard Hopkins, who has long desired a trip to Wales to draw Cleverly’s countryman Joe Calzaghe into a scrap, and Nathan will be looking to put on a show Saturday night to persuade Hopkins that such a trip would be worth his while. Cleverly’s taking nothing for granted, however:
“It would be absolutely stupid and naive to underestimate any opponent in boxing, especially in a world title fight”, said the champion. “It would be a recipe for disaster. A lot of people have written Tommy off, but they’re not the ones who are stepping into the ring. I’ve prepared even better than I have for any other fight. Tommy’s got nothing to lose and can give it everything knowing there’s a big prize at the end of the line.”
On the undercard, troubled welterweight and former world amateur champion Frankie Gavin, 11-0, 8 KO’s, has his first contest since walking out on a fight at the end of last year citing personal issues. Gavin’s short professional career has been littered with problems, mostly concerning his attention to weight and training, that are rooted in a chaotic personal life that he seems unable to bring under control. He takes on former British champion Kevin McIntyre, 30-8, 9 KO’s, in an interesting match-up – if Gavin is properly prepared he’ll make short work of McIntryre, if not, he could slip up.
Also the comebacking former world cruiserweight champion Enzo Macarinelli, 33-5, 26 KO’s limbers up for his March assault on new British champion Shane McPhilbin with a tune-up bout against an opponent yet to be named.