Former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion of the world Joe Calzaghe told WalesOnline that 22-year old Nathan Cleverly shouldn't get ahead of himself, and that fans shouldn't be in any rush to see him become "the next Calzaghe":
"Nathan is only 22 and the people who are talking about world titles just need to relax a bit," he said. "Let him fight some tough Americans, guys that will hit him back and put him in the trenches, and see what happens."
"I had knocked 19 of my first 20 opponents out when I boxed Chris Eubank. Suddenly you are hitting someone and they don’t move, they just stand their smiling.
"That’s when you serve your apprenticeship because then you get hit hard on the chin. You are the one that gets stunned and you have to prove you are a champion by coming through it.
"It’s easy being on top when you are beating someone up and being flash. But at the end of the day you have to go through a hard fight, which Nathan will in time.
"I think he has the potential to be a world champion, but not yet. He is still too young, but in a few years I think he will do it."
Calzaghe has at various points over his public life been brash, somewhat arrogant, and all too ready to chirp about himself. But this is genuine advice both for Cleverly and the fans in the UK, who like all fans around boxing do tend to want things to happen fast-fast-fast in a fighter's career. Cleverly is extremely young, very talented, and working his way up. Let it happen naturally.
While we're on the subject, I finally got around to watching Cleverly's fight from last Saturday. What a performance by him, and what a gutsy effort from Danny McIntosh, too. Cleverly and Kell Brook are the two young fighters in the UK making their bones that I'm most excited about, which is pretty standard right now, I suppose.
Cleverly is already knocking on the door of the top ten at 175 pounds. 22 years old and only moderately tested on a regional level or not, it's not that deep a division and it's exceptionally old. As crafty and smart and experienced as Antonio Tarver is, if you matched those two up tomorrow I'd pick Cleverly to beat him on pure will to win and energy. Maybe if Clinton Woods beats Tavoris Cloud on August 28 for the vacant IBF title, we could see Woods-Cleverly sometime in 2010, which would be a fairly big fight in the UK.