WBO light heavyweight holder Nathan Cleverly admits a major box-office showdown against Bernard Hopkins may have to wait until he completes a mandatory defense.
After retaining his title for the fourth time with a solid eighth-round stoppage of American Shawn Hawk at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, this weekend, Cleverly was immediately named as a potential next opponent for Hopkins, THE RING’s No.1 at 175 pounds, in New York on March 9.
But while the undefeated Welshman insists he would relish the opportunity to meet the 47-year-old multiple titlewinner, he fears the WBO will insist that he take on its No.1 challenger first. At the moment that position is held by German Robin Krasniqi, who this Saturday will face America’s Max Heyman in Magdeburg, Germany.
“My next fight, I’m pretty sure, has to be a mandatory. Ideally, we would like a big fight but this mandatory position has come in and Robin Krasniqi has been named the mandatory challenger,” said 25-year-old Cleverly. “We’ve got 30 days to negotiate with him and I believe 90 days for the purse bid. So, that fight could end up being pretty soon.
“Once we get that fight out the way, then we can go back to getting the big fights.”
Ironically, Cleverly (25-0, 12 knockouts) and Serbian-born Krasniqi (38-2, 14 KOs) were slated to meet earlier in the year before illness forced the Brit to pull out.
As for his American TV debut last Saturday, Cleverly, who had only fought on US soil once before, enjoyed it and wants more.
“The reception I got from everyone was great. I loved it and long may it continue. I’ve definitely got the buzz now,” said THE RING’s No.3 light heavyweight.
Photo / Harry How-Golden Boy Promotions