CLEVERLY v HAWK (Big fight preview)

TO sum up Nathan Cleverly’s preparation for the fourth defence of his WBO light-heavyweight title in Los Angeles tonight is easy – not ideal.

The same two words are so easily applicable, if we are honest, to the entirety of his reign as a world champion and his perception in the eyes of the boxing public.

Remember, this is the same Nathan Cleverly who had THREE different opponents announced in the week he won the title, not to mention it was the third time of asking he was supposed to get his shot.

The fact that I’ve prepared to write this preview about Shawn Hawk in the same fashion as Nathan has to fight him – with a few minutes viewing on YouTube (Hawkeye, if you will) and by checking his record – is clearly an issue.

If ‘they’ are to be believed jet lag takes an hour a day to get over and by that rationale, Cleverly's body is mid-Atlantic, time-zone-wise.

Whose idea was it to only send him out to America a week before the fight? Joe Calzaghe had two weeks in Las Vegas before he fought Bernard Hopkins and Cleverly will know that, because he was there. A fortnight acclimatising and adjusting training and sleeping patterns would seem a minimum to me, yet Cleverly only arrived at LAX a week ago. That’s not ideal either.

For Cleverly this fairly standard defence of his title and unbeaten record is all of a sudden looking a whole lot trickier than it needs to.

Even the Cefn Fforest fighter has admitted he should’ve travelled out sooner.

And he’s been in the headlines all week hobnobbing with Mickey Rourke and will have Tom Jones walking to the ring with him.

It all sounds a little bit like the backdrop to the first Lennox Lewis versus Hasim Rahman fight, or the Ocean’s Eleven fight, as it should be known.

Mike Tyson against James Douglas a decade before in Tokyo is another example.

And don’t think the unheralded Hawk doesn’t have a puncher’s chance. He does. He’s a slugger, squat and powerful, compact and menacing with 23 wins in 26 fights, 17 of them by KO.

The Native American from South Dakota is a puncher with everything to gain and zero to lose. You think when he last fought, back in June, when he was beaten on points by Eleider Alvaraz in Canada, that he expected he’d be challenging for a world title five months later? Not a chance.

Make no mistake, there are ominous signs for Cleverly, who, let us not forget, has only fought once this year – against Tommy Karpency back in February. Karpency is a sparring partner du jour, he works with ALL of the American world champions regularly, but he’s no puncher.

But there is a caveat to all this doom and gloom and it’s the fact that Nathan Cleverly is a special boxer.

I don’t think many people understand that yet as seeing is believing and I think scepticism of his undefeated record is fully justifiable.

He’s by no means the finished article as a fighter and has, more times than not, recently been betrayed in the ring by his desire to show brawn over brains, to fight rather than box.

On the other hand, it’s added a new dimension to his style formed in the shadows of the Newbridge Boxing Club where Joe Calzaghe was his mentor.

Cleverly can bang and his father and trainer Vince and co-trainer Alan Davies have developed that and he can also throw punches in bunches, move quickly and explosively, just as Enzo Calzaghe taught him.

Combine that with a balanced personality, a genuine love of the sport and the considered intelligence of a real rarity in the sport, a university graduate, and what you get is a fighter on the cusp.

Cleverly will be ready when a unification fight comes his way and he won’t let something like a lack of sleep or distractions get in his way tonight when I expect him to beat Hawk, either on points by a distance or via a late stoppage.

Hawk has hammered people out but has only once had a fight go the distance over 12 rounds. Cleverly is extraordinarily fit, still his biggest asset, and that alone makes me confident he will win. He can take Hawk to the trenches. He’s also got a significant height and reach advantage and by boxing clever, he can win by a wide margin.

The question is can he do it impressively? With the Hawk clash live on US television, it’s a massive opportunity to bring those unification fights closer by showing his absolute best. Now that would be ideal.