If looks could kill: Nathan Cleverly and Sergei Kovalev go head to head at the Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
By ANDREW GWILYM –
Nathan Cleverly is predicting an explosive defence of his WBO light heavyweight world title against Russian Sergey Kovalev in a fight he has dubbed the most important of his career.
Cleverly, 26, will put his 26-0 unbeaten record on the line against the formidable power of Kovalev, who has secured 19 of his 21 professional wins via knockout, with 18 of those coming within three rounds.
Saturday’s Cardiff bout presents a potential stumbling block for Cleverly – Kovalev is the bookmakers’ favourite – and is a considerable step up from his last title defence in Cardiff, where he secured a convincing unanimous points decision victory over Tommy Karpency.
Frank Warren has admitted he has taken a risk but, with a contract with American cable network HBO on offer should Cleverly win on Saturday, fighter and promoter believe it is a gamble worth taking.
Cleverly said: ‘It is going to be great on home soil, the fight is almost sold out. It is going to be very special.
‘It is going to be a great fight, we like to fight on the front foot and it is going to be explosive.
‘It is the most important fight of my career, potentially the best fight of my career as well. Potentially the best opponent I have faced so this is a tremendous fight.’
Warren added: ‘It was Nathan who wanted this fight, he suggested it to me in a meeting we had a few months ago in London. Having been involved with Nathan from day one, this is a fight which can project him into some real big-money fights.
‘It’s simple. If he wins he winds up with a contract with HBO, which means big paydays, so he has everything to gain from this one and he knows how important it is.
From Russia with glove: Kovalev has won 18 of his 21 bouts via knockout in the first three rounds
‘It is a fight he wanted, it is a fight he has got. I feel he can win, it will be tough. We have a lot of respect for Sergey, I have seen a lot of his fights on film, but in Nathan we have someone special.
‘This will propel him into the big time if he wins it. It is a big risk but all fights at this level are a risk.’
He added: ‘I think this could be a candidate for fight of the year. I don’t care what anyone says, we have not picked any easy jobs here, this is two good boxers and there is going to be an explosion.’
Cleverly’s father and trainer Vince has no doubt his son will emerge victorious at the Motorpoint Arena, and praised Nathan’s attitude.
‘Whatever the Russian tank brings for Nathan, I think Nathan has the artillery to blow up that tank,’ he said.
‘It won’t be easy but I only see one winner. Nathan has trained like the challenger, not the champion and he definitely wants to win this fight to bring on Bernard Hopkins.’
Kovalev chose to keep his counsel simply saying: ‘Who knows what will happen, but we will find out on Saturday night.’