Nathan Cleverly to face mandatory Robin Krasniqi on March 16

Scott Heavey

WBO light heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly will defend against mandatory challenger Robin Krasniqi on March 16 in the United Kingdom.

Nathan Cleverly will defend his WBO light heavyweight title against yet another soft challenger, though at least this time, it's not really his or promoter Frank Warren's fault. Cleverly will take on mandatory challenger Robin Krasniqi on March 16, with Warren winning a purse bid for $500,000.

Cleverly (25-0, 12 KO) has had one of the most unsubstantial "world title" reigns in recent memory, winning an interim belt from Nadjib Mohammedi in December 2010, and following that by being awarded the full title because Juergen Braehmer wouldn't or couldn't show up for a fight in the UK. Braehmer was replaced by Aleksy Kuziemski, and since then Cleverly has defended against Tony Bellew, Tommy Karpency, and Shawn Hawk.

Cleverly, 25, appears to have heard the criticisms of his opposition loud and clear, as he's taken to repeating that he's young and in no rush. His team says they've made offers for a Bellew rematch -- which would be a fine fight -- only to be turned down, and that they've made serious attempts to land a fight with Bernard Hopkins, as well, only to be turned down.

2013 is going to be a pivotal year for Cleverly's public image, really. He's an odd case, in that he doesn't come off as arrogant or particularly unlikable in any way, but the sort of opponents he's facing invite a criticism that leads people to dislike a fighter.

Krasniqi (39-2, 15 KO) has a record that makes him look much better than he is; he might be marginally better than Karpency or Hawk, but the gap between them is nowhere near big enough for Krasniqi to be any real threat to Cleverly. At least this time the WBO can be blamed first, I suppose, instead of blaming them later down the chain of command for actually absurdly ranking someone like Karpency or Hawk just to approve the title fights Warren wants to sell.

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