Harry Pratt

Cleverly wants Bellew, then U.S. fighter

Nathan Cleverly has his sights set on a title-unification clash in his homeland of Wales against record-breaking RING and WBC light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins

However, before that potential showdown comes to fruition, Cleverly, who stopped Poland’s Aleksy Kuziemski over the weekend to retain the WBO belt for the first time, says he has unfinished business to care of with mouthy British rival Tony Bellew.

The pair should have fought on Saturday at the London O2 Arena. But Bellew, a late replacement for Cleverly’s original opponent and former champion Juergen Braehmer, failed to make the weight.

Which was a pity. After an explosive, hastily-arranged press conference last week, when they turned the air blue and had to be physically pulled apart, it had promised to be a tasty scrap – certainly a good deal better than Cleverly’s ultimately forgettable fourth-round TKO over Kuziemski.

But the good news is Cleverly has not forgotten Bellew's insults and views a fight with the Liverpool prospect later this year as the perfect stepping stone to bigger and better things – either against Hopkins, 46, who became boxing's oldest major titleholder on Saturday, or another of the elite Americans in the division.

“The amount of people I’ve had on the phone asking me to beat this guy Bellew is unreal to be fair,” said the classy, undefeated 24-year-old Welshman (22-0, 11 knockouts). “That could be a possibility for my next title defense.

“He wants the fight, and he fancies his chances. But I believe I would beat him quite comfortably. So, it would be a nice fight for me before I go for the big names.

“Even though I have achieved my dream of becoming a world champion, there is still a long road ahead for me, where I can take part in the big-money fights against the big American names. That’s the target now.

“Bernard Hopkins in Wales is a big possibility. I spoke with Frank Warren and these sort of names are being mentioned. Tavoris Cloud is another good American, and Chad Dawson.

“There could be no better place for an event like that than the Millennium Stadium. It would be awesome. In terms of fighting a big-name American in that stadium, I think we’re only one or two fights away. It’s exciting times.”

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