Harry Pratt

Cleverly shuts out Karpency, retains WBO light heavyweight title

Welshman Nathan Cleverly retained his WBO light heavyweight title and stretched his perfect record to 24 wins with a straightforward points shut-out over unfancied American Tommy Karpency, in Cardiff, Saturday.

The undefeated 25-year-old Brit, back on home soil for the first time in more than three years, did not disappoint a packed out Motorpoint Arena as he proved too fast, too strong and just too good for the challenger from Pennsylvania.

The three judges’ scorecards each read 120-108 and confirmed what everyone in the Welsh capital knew – that Cleverly had won all 12 rounds.

The only blot on a thoroughly professional display by Cleverly was that it was more workmanlike than spectacular. The action in the ring certainly did not match the emotion-charged atmosphere outside it. Eye-catching this was not.

For, as most had predicted beforehand, Cleverly’s much-anticipated night in his own backyard turned out to be nothing more than a routine stroll; a procession, in fact. Cleverly must look onwards and upwards in the 175-pound division if he wants to make a serious mark among the elite.

A successful third defense was never in doubt from early in the opening round when the Cefn Fforest fighter, roared on by 5,000 partisan fans, pressed forward at every opportunity, launching sustained, punishing attacks to the body of back-pedaling Karpency.

The pattern was set. Yet, while he clearly won round after round, Cleverly could not find a way to finish off the awkward, increasingly defensive 26-year-old southpaw.

Karpency (21-2-1, 14 knockouts) demonstrated why he had never been stopped in his career. Even when in trouble during the ninth and tenth, after Cleverly moved up a gear, he refused to fall. Trouble was, he never responded with any positive blows of his own. Not until the 11th, by which time it was too late.

“It was a good work out. Tommy is very tough,” said Cleverly (24-0, 11 KOs). “A lot of people criticised him before the fight and said what’s he doing in the same ring as me but I can tell you he’s the hardest fighter I have ever fought. He has good experience, he has sparred with some of the very best..

“Sometimes it’s easier against fighters who attack – as they leave openings. Bit by bit, I gradually broke him down but in the end I had to settle for points. There is plenty more to come from me. I still feel fresh, I still feel good.

“The most important thing was to return home as the world champion. I had been on the road now for 11 fights. The fans really got behind me, it was electric out there and I really thrived on it. I hope they enjoyed it.”

Manager and promoter Frank Warren was also reasonably happy and afterwards insisted the plan now is to get THE RING champion Bernard Hopkins to come to Wales to fight Cleverly in the summer – as long as the 46-year-old American sees off Chad Dawson in April.

“I have been talking to Golden Boy about Hopkins and I’d love to do that fight here,” said Warren. “But he has a tough fight against Chad Dawson and I think Dawson might have his number. We’ll see what happens but I will have everything crossed for Hopkins because I think he would bring the best out of Nathan. The man is a legend.”

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