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Nathan Cleverly: Bernard Hopkins doesn't want to fight me or Kovalev

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Nathan Cleverly says that he wasn't surprised to get an August fight with Sergey Kovalev instead of Hopkins facing the Russian, because he doesn't think the 48-year-old legend wants to face either of them yet.

Scott Heavey

When Nathan Cleverly landed an August 17 HBO and BoxNation date with Sergey Kovalev, just a couple of days after Kovalev was named mandatory challenger for Bernard Hopkins' IBF title, many were surprised, but Cleverly says he wasn't one of them.

Cleverly tells RingTV.com that he doesn't think Hopkins wants to face either himself or Kovalev yet:

"This fight was always going to go ahead because Hopkins would rather watch a fight between me and Kovalev than take one of us on. His preference will be Karo Murat who was his original mandatory and the visa issues which threatened that fight have been sorted out. Kovalev and I are two fresh guys who come to fight and Hopkins would rather let us settle things before fighting the winner."

Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KO) was scheduled to face Karo Murat on July 13, but that fight was scrapped due to Murat's visa issues, which are no longer an issue. Showtime -- for whatever the real reason -- decided they weren't interested in Hopkins-Kovalev after the IBF ordered that fight, which led to Main Events promoter Kathy Duva quickly reaching a deal with Cleverly and Frank Warren, believing that B-Hop would vacate his IBF belt and look to fight Cleverly for the WBO title.

Cleverly (26-0, 12 KO) and Kovalev (21-0-1, 19 KO) will meet in Cardiff at Motorpoint Arena, in the HBO debut of both fighters.