Harry Pratt

Cleverly misses out on Hopkins, Froch, Shumenov

Light heavyweight titleholder Nathan Cleverly had been hoping the fourth defense of his WBO belt would be a marquee occasion. Bernard Hopkins, Carl Froch, Beibut Shumenov, or even a rematch with bitter English rival Tony Bellew, would have sufficed.

Frustratingly for the undefeated Welshman, one by one those names mentioned and approached have fallen by the wayside. So, instead, Cleverly will now face Ukrainian Vyacheslav Uzelkov at the Cardiff MotorPoint Arena on Oct. 27.

It is not the ideal scenario for someone very keen to further their reputation among the 175-pound division. Cleverly has been THE RING’s No 4-rated light heavyweight for the best part of a year and, in truth, the caliber of his more recent victims has meant no chance of him climbing higher.

A victory over 33-year-old Uzelkov (27-2, 16 knockouts), in front of a partisan Welsh crowd, is unlikely to do the trick either and the 25-year-old from Cefn Fforest knows it. Uzelkov has never won outside Ukraine.

“This has been quite a long time coming. We have been working hard trying to get an opponent. Hence the delay,” Cleverly told Box Nation, who will be broadcasting the card being promoted by its principal owner, Frank Warren.

“It was verbally agreed for Hopkins at one point. Golden Boy Promotions had agreed it. I had agreed to it. We were all set to go but then he obviously passed up on the fight.

“We also made a big offer to Shumenov to come to Britain to make a unification fight and he turned that down. And earlier in the year, Frank made an offer to Carl Froch, for a lot of money, to step up and fight me at light heavyweight. But he obviously decided to stay at super middleweight.

“I was getting frustrated because I had my heart set on a really big fight for my next defense. I really wanted to establish myself among the elite light heavyweights but the fights kept falling through.

“I’ve just got to get on with it and realize I’m only 25. There’s no major rush for me. Hopefully, I can beat Uzelkov in good fashion and I’ve still got plenty of time on my side to go and rule the light heavyweight division.”

Not that Cleverly (24-0, 11 KOs) is ditching the challenge of Uzelkov. Far from it. For at least the WBO intercontinental holder from Vinitza is prepared to get into a ring with him – unlike Hopkins and Co.

“There have been a few names on the shortlist but now we have got an opponent who is willing to take me on, fight me in Wales and step up to the plate,” said Cleverly, who last time out beat American Tommy Karpency on points. “Uzelkov’s ranked in the top 10 by three of the major governing bodies and has already mixed it with Shumenov for the world title. I know he’ll be a hard defense.

“Every defense of my title is vital as I build towards a unification fight and I can’t afford to slip up.”

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