Harry Pratt

Cleverly remains upbeat about the state of British boxing

Nathan Cleverly is Britain’s sole survivor. Quite literally. When it comes to world titleholders, the WBO light heavyweight beltholder is last man standing on home shores.

Back-to-back defeats for Amir Khanand Carl Frochearlier this month mean Cleverly sits alone at the top of the UK’s elite boxing tree. Yet the Welsh wonder, 24, is not about to put the boot into his fallen countrymen – nine of whom lost championship bouts in 2011 – nor get too concerned at the apparent dismal state of affairs that side of the Atlantic. Far from it.

“Overall, despite being the sole world champion, it’s been a great year for Britain, with great fights for the fans and some great displays from our fighters,” said undefeated Cleverly (23-0, 11 knockouts), who makes the third defense of his WBO crown, against Canadian-based Pole Andrzej Fonfara, at the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, February 25.

“At world-class level, it’s fine lines and small margins. The Amir Khan fight showed that – with those two points deducted he lost his world titles. It’s unfortunate, but that’s boxing and that’s sport. And, anyway, I’m sure he will bounce back. I think he deserves a rematch. It was a close fight, it was a great fight and he definitely deserves one, no doubt about it .

“It’s difficult, a lot of our fighters are going abroad and fighting the elite world champions. Boxing is tough enough when you’re at home, let alone when you go abroad to face the best. We’ve just been coming up short, just falling short. Like I say, that’s the fine line between being world champion and not.

“But I don’t think it’s a problem for Britain. Despite the results, we have great fighters, who on their day can beat anyone in the world. Unfortunately, the way the year unfolded I’m left as our one world champion. But there have still been great fights and great displays.”

Ex-WBC super middleweight champion Froch, comprehensively beaten on a unanimous decision by American Andre Ward last Saturday, also received a huge vote of confidence from Cleverly, who even suggested he could meet the 34-year-old Nottingham man, at light heavyweight, in 2012.

“That fight would make sense. Two British fighters, I’m only one weight up and it would be great fight for the public,” Cleverly said. “It’s inevitable that it would be an exciting fight. Carl likes to stand his ground and fight, let his shots go, and I’m the same really because I don’t like to take a back step. It has the potential to be a barnstormer, a real classic. Who knows? It could be done quite soon. There’s no reason why it can’t happen in the future.

“On the night, Andre Ward was in a different class to Carl. Ward is probably, pound for pound, one of the best fighters around now. So there’s no disgrace for Carl. He put up a brave performance.”

Given the number of British-based fighters being lined up for title shots early next year, Cleverly’s optimism with regards the overall scene at home appears well founded.

Irish middleweight Mathew Macklin is set to meet THE RING champion Sergio Martinez, in Madison Square, New York, March 17, while before that, on February 18, English heavyweight contender Dereck Chisora travels to Munich, Germany, to face WBC beltholder Vitali Kitschko. Then, of course, there is the likes of Khan, Froch, Ricky Burns and David Haye, to name but a few, eyeing a return to world-class level.




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