On March 16th, Nathan Cleverly, the current WBO light-heavyweight champion, will defend his title against mandatory challenger Robin Krasniqi. Forming part of Frank Warren’s huge British bill, which also sees Ricky Burns’ lightweight unification bout with Miguel Vazquez and George Groves’ first fight since beating Glen Johnson, Cleverly will be looking to maintain his perfect record against the Kosovan. Having been originally scheduled to fight back in April 2012, before Cleverly had to withdraw due to illness, the two will finally square off in front of a packed Wembley Arena.
- Age: 26
- Record: 25-0 (12KOs)
- WBO Light Heavyweight Titleholder
One of Britain’s three current world champions, Nathan Cleverly will need to put on a show in this fight if he is to get the unification bout he craves by the end of year. Arguably there are few current world champions with worse resumes than the Welshman, although this isn’t down to a lack of talent or ability.
Cleverly possesses the skills to unify the light heavyweight division, and with age on his side, Clev could follow in Joe Calzaghe’s footsteps and become Wales’ next boxing superstar. However, it’s because of this talent that it has become so frustrating to witness title defenses against the likes of Aleksy Kuziemski, Tommy Karpency and Shawn Hawk, names even the more hardened boxing fans would fail to recognize.
Since being awarded the WBO title, after Juergen Braehmer was stripped of the belt following the late withdrawal from his bout with Cleverly, the only real challenge he has faced was against domestic rival Tony Bellew. On that occasion in front of Bellew’s home crowd, Cleverly went toe-to-toe with the heavy handed Liverpudlian and showed his grit and determination on the way to a majority victory. Like many, I was expecting to see Cleverly to really kick on from this victory and face the division’s elite, but instead it has been little more than cannon fodder.
That being said, in his last outing, Cleverly did produce an impressive performance becoming the first man to stop Shawn Hawk. Making his American debut on the Abner Mares-Anselmo Moreno undercard, the Welshman seized control from the off but had to wait until the middle rounds to make the breakthrough; sending his American counterpart to the canvas for the first time in the 7th following a barrage of crisp punches.
Sensing blood, Cleverly upped the anti and Hawk went down once more in 7th before falling again at the start of the 8th, following a devastating left hook to the body. With Hawk having just about regained his footing for the third time, Cleverly was straight back on the offensive and looking to finish the evening in style before the referee stepped in with 1:07 remaining of the round to save Hawk from any more damage. If he produces a similar performance against Krasniqi, Cleverly might well be in line for a unification fight, which will please both him and the fans.
- Age: 25
- Record: 39-2 (15KOs)
With little amateur experience Robin Krasniqi had a difficult start to his pro career which saw him lose 2 of his first 3 fights. However, since then, the Kosovan has put together an impressive looking record which has seen him go 38-0 with 14 of these victories coming via stoppage.
However, this undefeated run hasn’t exactly included fights against any of the division’s second tier, let alone top tier names, but has somehow been deemed worthy enough by the WBO to become a mandatory challenger. Over half of his victories, 20 to be precise, have come against fighters who were yet to win or had one win to their name, and yet come fight night, Krasniqi will be competing for a world title.
Cleverly vs. Krasniqi analysis and prediction
Cleverly will enter the ring heavy favorite and rightly so. However, hewill need to produce a big performance if he wishes to build on momentum and exposure he picked up in the US following his bout against Hawk.
I’m expecting to see Clev take control from the first bell with his natural attributes and work rate, which should be too much for the Kosovan in the early rounds. Much like his Welsh counterpart Joe Calzaghe, it isn’t a surprise to see Cleverly throw over 100 punches a round and from watching Krasniqi previously he won’t come close to match this output. Unfortunately for Krasniqi, throwing 1 punch for every 5 or 6 of Cleverly’s will see him fall quickly behind on the scorecards, making the assignment even more difficult.
Having racked up the early rounds I think we will begin to see Cleverly mix between fast explosive flurries of punches and more powerful punches and combinations looking to end the show. Either of these approaches could send Krasniqi to the canvas, as they did to Hawk, however, Krasniqi has shown his durability in his previous 42 outings so is unlikely to be as easily disposed of as the American.
Although I am backing Cleverly to get the job done and with a stoppage, it isn’t to say Krasniqi should be completely written off. In previous outings Cleverly has taken some unnecessary shots, with both Hawk and Bellew shaking the champion, so if Krasniqi does time his punch perfectly he might just spring an almighty upset.
However, if we’re being realistic, there should only be one outcome to this fight. Expect to see Cleverly win and expect to see him do it in style.
Prediction: Cleverly via KO9