WBO light heavyweight titleholder Nathan Cleverly admits he is on a mission to clean up the division as soon as possible. Right now, though, the undefeated Welshman has the blinders on.
This Saturday in front of a partisan crowd in Cardiff, Wales, Cleverly (23-0, 11 knockouts) faces unheralded American Tommy Karpency (21-2-1, 14 KOs) in what most predict will be a routine third defense. However, while a red-hot favorite with the bookies to make it a memorable homecoming, the man from Cefn Fforest is taking nothing for granted.
Forget the big names and big paydays looming large on the horizon. Forget all talk of a possible summer showdown against RING champion Bernard Hopkins or any of the other 175-pound beltholders. Cleverly knows what is at stake should he stumble and is refusing to look beyond the immediate challenge.
“I’ve achieved my dream as world champion and my next goal is to unify the light heavyweight division in three fights – maximum. But this is a potential banana-skin fight and I don’t want it to stop me going higher,” said Cleverly, who turned 25 last week. “There is always a risk going in against an unknown quantity like Karpency.
“But I’ve trained better for this fight than my last one – much better, actually – and that can’t be used as an excuse. I have to go in there on Saturday, make sure there are no slip-ups and keep my winning streak going.”
Producing a performance to catch the eye of his rivals is certainly part of the plan for Cleverly, along with ensuring he lives up to the expectations of 5000-odd Welsh fans at the Motorpoint Arena. It is now 12 fights and more than three years since Cleverly last fought in his own country.
“In terms of pressure, there is more for this fight as it’s in Wales. But really it comes down to how much pressure I put on myself, ” he said. “At present, I am enjoying the moment. I’m going to thrive on the occasion and, even though I’m young, I’ve enough experience of big fights in big arenas. You can’t buy that. It will stand me in good stead.
“The response to me fighting in Wales has been great. It’s nearly sold out and that’s a major boost. The country is getting behind its champion. I’m really looking forward to it and just want to get the fight on – and put on an exciting display.”
Which is exactly what manager Frank Warren is demanding as he attempts to secure some career-defining fights for Cleverly in 2012. Not that he is writing off the threat of Karpency.
“Nathan has to look good, he must win in good style,” said the British promoter, no doubt happy to be back on UK soil after all the trouble last weekend in Germany surrounding another of his fighters, Dereck Chisora. “We’re looking to put him in a big fight early this summer, ideally against the winner of the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson fight in April. So that means no slip-ups.
“We’re expecting a top fight – Karpency isn’t coming here to roll over. It’s a nice chance for him. He knows he could upset Nathan’s plans and seems to think he’s got a good chance.”