Nathan Cleverly will be back on October 27, facing Vyacheslav Uzelkov in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Nathan Cleverly will defend his WBO light heavyweight title against Vyacheslav Uzelkov on October 27 in Cardiff, Wales, with the usual reports of he and promoter Frank Warren attempting to make a better, bigger fight, but no one wanted it, and blah blah blah.
Cleverly (24-0, 11 KO) is maybe the sport's thinnest paper champion, to the point that I'm not even sure "paper champion" is a fitting title -- maybe cellophane champion. I can't totally go and blame the fighter here, but it's getting harder to not do that.
The biggest problem I've had personally is that a couple of years ago, I thought this looked like a talented rising star with a lot of upside, a fighter who could get plenty better than he was and become a legitimate force in the division. At this point, it's hard to tell if his team truly has confidence that he can get better than he is at the moment, because they sure aren't matching him tough.
The Warren spin is that they were thisclose! to having him fight Bernard Hopkins, which I frankly do not believe, and that they offered the fight to Beibut Shumenov, and that they offered a rematch to Tony Bellew. Shumenov hasn't said anything, but Bellew quickly put out there that he was not offered any fight:
"More rubbish about me in the media! For the last time I have never been offered a rematch! If I had I wouldn't be fighting Miranda!"
I honestly believe that the fight with Bellew last year scared the shit out of Cleverly's team -- Nathan was supposed to roll in that fight, he was supposed to outclass Bellew, and to say the very least, he did not. It was a good fight, though, and I think people would like to see a rematch, but instead of that we've dealt with Cleverly's totally pathetic defense against Tommy Karpency, an aborted date with fringe contender (I'm being nice here) Robin Krasniqi, and now Uzelkov.
If you recall Uzelkov (27-2, 16 KO), it is likely from his two losses. He took a dump against Shumenov back in 2010, and in February of this year, was outclassed by current European champion Eduard Gutknecht. He is a slow, plodding fighter with no major assets -- he's certainly a step up from Karpency, but he's not even a top 25 fighter in this division. Hell, who wouldn't have been a step up from Karpency?
Apparently, the plan is to target a title unification bout after this one. As Frank said to Rod, "I'll believe it when I see it, muchacho."