Hopkins vs. Cleverly makes sense for both men right now
At this point in his career Nathan Cleverly is now in a bit of tricky situation. Although establishing himself as the best in Britain and WBO light heavyweight champion of the world, he is now struggling to find good quality opposition that would really get his name noticed.
Match-ups with Chad Dawson and Jean Pascal would be ideal for Cleverly’s career, but perhaps wouldn’t generate the commercial interest to actually make the fight happen. And of course, each man is busy with a different fight on the schedule for the time being. Consider that Glen Johnson has retired and a domestic showdown with Carl Froch is unlikely until late 2013 at the earliest. Therefore, an interesting opponent for him would be Bernard Hopkins, and it’s a fight that would make sense for the old master as well.
With Cleverly needing a big name on his resume, and Hopkins seeking redemption following his loss to Chad Dawson, this could be a win-win situation. What makes this fight even more intriguing is that Cleverly’s style is very similar to Joe Calzaghe’s, to whom Hopkins lost a split, but hotly contested, decision in 2008.
Calzaghe and Cleverly both use a very effective jab and fast hands to keep their opponents occupied, while using great footwork to keep distance and stay just outside the pocket. The pressure they exert is through volume of punches; however, if they are faced with fighters who can sidestep their jab, come on the inside, and physically back them up, they are not as effective.
This is the type of opponent Bernard Hopkins thrives on. Hopkins is the master on inside-fighting, using pressure and smothering tactics to nullify a fighter’s strongest assets. It almost worked against Calzaghe, but with Cleverly lacking the experience and maturity, it might just work on him. The question here is whether youth and volume can overcome age and experience.
Unfortunately, we go back to reality when thinking of the commercial interest in the fight. The ultimate question for Bernard Hopkins at this stage of his career is does the reward outweigh the risk? In this instance, probably not. Unfortunately, Cleverly isn’t known in America and there are bigger names stateside for Hopkins to earn more money, even at the twilight of his career. His legacy would be more intact losing to any American fighter with more exposure, and he would earn more money in the process.
However, Hopkins loves a good challenge, and he loves going against the grain. Maybe he wants to fight in the U.K. before all is said and done, with hopes of derailing another undefeated titleholder’s grand plans. That sounds pretty nice. However, if the Hopkins vs. Cleverly fight doesn’t come to fruition, then the near future looks bleak for Cleverly without a big name opponent for his dance card.