Champion Nathan Cleverly puts his WBO Light Heavyweight championship belt on the line as he defends it against the undefeated Russian Knockout Merchant; Sergey Kovalev on Saturday August 17th, in what looks set to be a thunderous encounter at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff.
You could be forgiven for mistaking the man as another dull and durable eastern European mercenary that doesn’t quite stand up to elite level. With a name like Kovalev he may lack the stellar appeal of a Bernard Hopkins or Adonis Stevenson but in truth you couldn’t get further from the mark.
The Russian ‘Krusher’ is as strong as an Ox and has rapidly developed a fearsome reputation as one of boxing’s biggest hitters having racked up 19 knockouts in his 21 victories. Even more impressively 18 knockouts have come within three rounds such is the concussive power that the dynamite fisted contender brings to the ring. He is 4/6 odds on favourite to win outright.
You would certainly think that looking at his resume that he is one to be avoided but Kovalev brings more to the table for Cleverly than just another title defence. The Russian resides Stateside and has become one of HBO’s big attractions after devastating performances against former champion Gabriel Campillo and American prospect Cornelius White. If Cleverly defeats him and performs well not only would it send a huge message out to the rest of the division but it would also ignite the interest in the Cefn Forest fighter; propelling his status, making him a more attractive proposition financially and in turn opening doors to unification fights.
The undefeated pride of Wales will be fighting on home soil and he certainly possesses the all action style that will excite a home crowd. Kovalev will not have been in the ring with anyone before that throws the same amount of leather that Clev does and that could be key as to the outcome. Cleverly’s stamina and fitness are second to none and he is able to relentlessly push the tempo of a fight deep into the championship rounds; a quality that fellow Welsh legend Joe Calzaghe used to obliterate Jeff Lacy when the American was the ‘next big thing’ and knocking out opponents for fun. Unsurprisingly comparisons have been drawn with this fight by Frank Warren and fans alike as Cleverly has been installed as the bookmakers underdog at 6/5 off despite being undefeated and being world champion.
Without a doubt Cleverly is facing his toughest assignment of his career to date. The two most likely outcomes are a points win for Clev or a knockout victory for Kovalev. I don’t think Kovalev has fought anyone who has the same intensity and speed as Cleverly and bearing in mind he has shown he can take a good clean shot and that being odds off he is a better value bet I would back Cleverly to win over the distance.
His blistering speed, tempo and accuracy should take him to the points win if he sticks to his plan and doesn’t get sucked into a brawling dust up.