If there is one chink in Joe Calazaghe’s ‘Hall of Fame career’ armour it’s that of the quality of opposition he faced through much of his career.
Nothing can be taken away from his display against Mikkel Kessler, especially having seen what Kessler went on to achieve after the loss.
Similarly, against Bernard Hopkins. Many saw that as a fight between a fighter in his late prime against one well past his.
But B-Hop proved us all wrong by coming back from that defeat to become the Lineal Light heavyweight king long after Calzaghe, himself, retired.
Roy Jones was a spent force by the time Joe got to him. Not spent enough to copy what his arch rival Hopkins did though and sit Joe down on his bum in the 1st round before getting outworked for the remainder.
But all that said, Calzaghe just didn’t get on the plane enough, fought too many average Joes in the prime years of his career, and ended up looking like what teenage gamers might refer to as a ‘stat padder’.
Hailing from the same part of the world as his ‘idol’ and indeed growing up training in Enzo Calzaghe’s gym, Cleverly was labelled as a ‘wunderkind’ with a mathematics degree and a jab that will dissect his opponents and leave them without answers to the problems he posed.
But there’s this one small problem that he can’t seem to find the solution himself lately. And it’s one familiar to his Welsh WBO belt-toting predecessor.
For Nathan seems to be having trouble getting in the ring with genuine, credible challengers.
His latest defence, announced today, is against an American by the name of Ryan Coyne.
Not Beibut Coyne,
Or Ryan Cloud.
Or even Bernard Coynekins.
Just Ryan Coyne.
If you went looking for him on, say Boxrec, you’d have to be on page 3.
Thats outside the top 50!
He isn’t ranked by the WBO (like one or two of Cleverly’s other recent opponents, though they do always seem to make it into the top 15 promptly after the fight being announced and sanctioned) but interestingly he IS ranked #2 by the WBA.
That’s the same WBA that ranked Amir Khan (#2) ahead of Kell Brook (#3) in August’s Welterweight rankings despite Khan never actually having scaled 147 in his career before! So we’ll discount that ranking then.
Ok, I’m rambling. Let’s cut to the chase. Nathan Cleverly? The Real Deal?
Well, having been pretty much given the WBO belt after Jurgen Braehmer went a bit crazy and despite struggling against Frenchman, Najib Mohammedi (a late replacement and a style not trained for went the excuse) he defended against Pole Aleksy Kuziemski (a bit of a nobody) and took a bit of flak for a weak defence.
Then he got in the ring with unbeaten domestic rival, Tony ‘Bomber’ Bellew and squeaked past with a majority decision that many saw a draw.
Bellew has since gone on to face and beat domestic banger, Danny McIntosh, veteran world level campaigner Edison Miranda and is now facing dangerous Argentinian and top 20 pick Robert Bollonti.
No one could criticise Cleverly for the Bellew fight. It was competitive and he faced a genuine contender.
Cleverly did however then return to labour for 12 rounds with another unknown, Tommy Karpency, drawing boo’s from the thousands of home fans that packed out the Cardiff Motorpoint arena in February of this year.
An initially promised rematch with Bellew was not forthcoming, prompting Bellew to part company with promoter and manager Frank Warren and link up with Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn.
Meanwhile, Cleverly tried to get lowly rated German Robin Krasniqi on the dance floor.
The WBO weren’t that keen initially, but a swift ratings adjustment meant he was cleared for take-off only for Cleverly to develop some sort of ‘virus’ and the bout was called off.
So in the past few weeks, Cleverly announced he would face Ukranian, Vachyslav Uzelkov (another ‘top 50 at best fighter’, marginally poorer than Krasniqi but no less fortunate to find himself thrust up the WBO ratings at just the right time) but then…oddly …the bout was called off just a few days ago!
A new opportunity had arisen.
Cleverly had been added to the Golden Boy card involving Mares v Moreno on the 10th November in California.
A chance for Cleverly to ‘break’ the American market, showcasing his talents across the pond. Doing what it took Calzaghe years to do. This could prove career defining.
Now I’ve seen claims on the boxing forums that ticket sales for Cleverly’s latest home town ‘defence’ were less than stellar. I’ve seen numbers as low as 400.
The claim is that even Cleverly’s loyal fans are growing tired of the bogus defences and are refusing to pay to sit through it.
Has it been this that caused Frank Warren to cancel the show and look for another option?
Calling his new found friend Richard Schaefer with a favour?
Well, Richard delivered….with Ryan Coyne! Quite possibly Cleverly’s most bogus defence to date. And that’s saying something!
The twittersphere has been alive today with both disbelief and hilarity at this latest move.
People are actually growing to half expect opponents of this quality, but at the same time can’t believe that a ‘world champion’ can continually get away with fighting unheard of opponents of such weak calibre.
Give Canelo Alvarez his due…he is feeding on light welters and welters since he got given his belt but at least we’ve heard of them all!
So to close…poor Nathan Cleverly is in quite the predicament.
Seemingly losing support at home, forced to go the states and fight down the bill behind super Bantams against a complete random (wait and see where the WBO rate Coyne in the morning!).
All the while his promoter is still talking Hopkins, Shumenov, Cloud, Froch, unifications, blah blah blah.
He might be the real deal one day, a ‘new’ Joe Calzaghe, but the way things are going at the moment its not looking like it.
Clev’s school report for 2012 says “C- must try harder. Opponents.”