Cleverly aims high

Sport
File photo of Nathan Cleverly (R) and Polish boxer Aleksy Kuziemski , during their WBO World Light-Heavyweight Championship title boxing fight in London. Cleverly defeated Robin Krasniqi on Saturday, in a unanimous points win at Wembley Arena. Picture: IAN KINGTON

London - Nathan Cleverly outlined his plan to win two of the other four world light-heavyweight titles by the end of 2013 after his unanimous points win over Robin Krasniqi on Saturday.

The World Boxing Organisation (WBO) light-heavyweight champion made a fifth defence of his title at Wembley Arena with the three judges only awarding one round to Krasniqi, who bravely refused to go down despite taking some heavy blows.

Cleverly, 26, has spoken of his desire to face International Boxing Federation (IBF) title-holder Bernard Hopkins - the oldest world champion in boxing history at 48 - in a unification clash, but the Welshman will fight again before talks can begin with the veteran American.

After beating Krasniqi, Cleverly may have to face another German boxer, former WBO title-holder Juergen Braehmer, this summer.

But Cleverly would prefer to face a rival world champion and hopes a deal can be made to face America-based Kazak Beibut Shumenov, the World Boxing Association (WBA) king.

"I need to stay active and keep the rust away and try to unify the light-heavyweight division in 2013," Cleverly told AFP.

"I'm still learning, but I'm winning and winning quite well now. I want fights that test me and that's the elite fights now - Hopkins and those guys.

"He was hurt a lot of times, but wasn't quite ready to go so I had to go back to Plan A and box.

"I felt good in there and I'm pleased with the performance, it was a nice boxing display. He was tough.

"At this level it's important to break your opponents down because these are world level fighters, 12-round fighters who are very tough, so you can't be gung ho and reckless.

"I was surprised he went the full 12 rounds because I hurt him early on with the right hand and I thought that sooner or later he'd go.

"But he dug in, was very hungry and kept fighting back. It was important that I stayed focused and boxed.

"We may have Braehmer next, but I don't think he really wants the fight so we may go for a unification fight. Maybe Shumenov will be a good option and the winner maybe gets Hopkins.

"We'll see if the WBO force the second mandatory which is Braehmer, but I don't mind really. The unification fights are the ones I want now.

"If Bernard won't come out of America I'll make sure I go to America and take that belt off him.

"I'm looking forward to unifying now and I believe I can do that."

Cleverly's promoter Frank Warren was left pleased and excited about the future for his brightest star. Warren will discuss with US promoters Golden Boy the possibility of Cleverly defending his title on the same bill as Hopkins's defence of his IBF title against German Karo Murat in New York on July 27.

"It was a boxing masterclass and he was in the comfort zone at all times and showed he had a good chin," he told AFP.

"These mandatory defences are a bit of a pain and he needs a challenge and needs to step up and fight the elite fighters, the other world champions.

"And Nathan will rise to the occasion when he is in these fights, which is why I want to do them now.

"We are looking at Nathan fighting on the same show as Bernard Hopkins' next fight, and if that doesn't happen he will fight in Cardiff in July.

"I don't know if Braehmer fight will happen next. He has pulled out three times."

-Sapa

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