Nathan Cleverly: 'My youth, pace, and aggression will be too much for Bernard Hopkins'

Scott Heavey

Nathan Cleverly says he's got the style to beat Bernard Hopkins, in a fight that is building up some serious interest on both sides of the pond, and could happen late this year.

Though it's not going to happen next for either of them, there's definitely some legitimate building interest in a fight between WBO and IBF light heavyweight titlists Nathan Cleverly and Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins and Golden Boy have confirmed it's a fight they'd like to make, and Frank Warren and Cleverly have said the same.

Hopkins is due to face Karo Murat, his mandatory, on July 27 in Brooklyn, while Cleverly is likely to face Juergen Braehmer, his next mandatory, in his next fight, also likely for the summer.

That could leave a late 2013 or early 2014 date open for Hopkins-Cleverly. Cleverly, who routinely defeated Robin Krasniqi as expected this weekend, says he thinks he has the style to beat the 48-year-old champ.

"Hopkins is a great fighter and against him I'll have to take my game to another level. His experience is unmatchable and technically he's superb, but I think my youth, pace and aggression will be too much for him. I'd force him to fight every second of every round and not give him an inch or second to think."

I know that I've been a "hater" of Nathan Cleverly in the past, but I've always said this, and I mean it: I think he's talented. I just think he's been handled with kid gloves by his promoter. That's just my opinion. I don't think Cleverly is afraid of taking a big fight, but he's been very cautiously managed since a tight fight with Tony Bellew.

I do believe, personally, that if he can execute, Cleverly's output and pace-pushing style really could be an issue for Bernard at this stage. Hopkins is all savvy now -- I'm not saying he's not still a good fighter, but he's not fast, he does not have a punch at 175 pounds. He beats these guys because he's at least four times smarter a fighter than they are. Stylistically, Chad Dawson was an issue, and that was predictable. Dawson, Joe Calzaghe, Jermain Taylor -- very different fighters, for sure, but they all had an athleticism that gave Bernard trouble, and for the most part, they weren't drawn into constant mistakes like Tavoris Cloud, Kelly Pavlik, Jean Pascal, and others have been over the latter portion of B-Hop's incredible run.

Cleverly has some of that. He's got quick hands, and while not a puncher, he throws enough that Bernard, in theory, wouldn't be able to constantly bait and trap him, putting him into bad situations. Of course, it's very possible that Hopkins would be able to do that, simply because he's Bernard Hopkins and he does that to people.

I think it's a good fight. I hope we see it happen later this year. Braehmer is no pushover for anyone, and that could be tough for Cleverly, but if he gets through it, he's as ready as he'll ever be.

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