NATHAN Cleverly is on a collision course with legendary five-weight world champion Bernard Hopkins, but not before a final pit stop this July.
The undefeated WBO light heavyweight world champion made it 26 wins from 26 fights with a one-sided destruction of mandatory challenger Robin Krasniqi at Wembley Arena on Saturday night.
And before he can get his hands on former Joe Calzaghe opponent Hopkins in what would be a super fight and super payday for Cleverly; he’s certain to face action this summer.
Former world champion Juergen Braehmer is the mandatory challenger to Cleverly’s title but the Cefn Fforest fighter’s promoter Frank Warren isn’t certain whether that will go ahead.
Therefore he’s plotting either a homecoming fight at an “outdoor,” arena in Cardiff this summer, possibly at the Cardiff City Stadium or on the undercard of Bernard Hopkins’ next fight in the US.
Age defying IBF champion Hopkins faces Karo Murat – a former Cleverly victim – this summer and Warren admits it’s possible that Cleverly will be on the same bill, ideally in a unification fight against WBA champion Beibut Shumenov.
“The mandatory defences can be a bit of a pain, Nathan needs a challenge, he needs a step up in class,” Warren told the Argus.
“We want him to fight the elite fighters; it isn’t for the want of trying, because Nathan is head and shoulders above fighters like Krasniqi as he’s shown.
“We are looking at July to maybe fight on the same card as Hopkins, we will make a decision this week, otherwise he’ll fight in Cardiff somewhere outdoors.
“The last time he tried to fight Braehmer, Braehmer pulled out three times so it’s a risky situation for us.
“The Hopkins fight can be made, but he has his mandatory defence first, that’s a pain because it’s not what the fight fans want to see.
“If we put Nathan on that card ideally it’d be against Shumenov, we think that’d be a great fight, it makes a lot of sense and from there the winners move on and I believe Nathan will beat Shumenov.”
Cleverly’s mentor, undefeated Newbridge world champion Joe Calzaghe agrees with Warren that now is the time Cleverly must step things up.
“I’d love to see Nathan fight Hopkins, he’s the biggest name in boxing, but Nathan’s like me, he will raise his game against the better opponents,” he said.
“Nathan is similar to me, the bigger the opponent the more he will raise his game.
“Krasniqi had a good chin and came to stay and credit to him, but Nathan’s ready to step it up against the best names.
“The bigger and better opponent he faces, the better he will be. Hopkins is very cagey and clever and a world champion at 48, he’s one of the best ever but Nathan has the attributes to beat him, to outwork him.
“I know where he (Cleverly) is at, at the moment. It took me eight years to get a unification fight, I don’t want Nathan to have to wait that long.
“I had plenty of fights like Nathan had on Saturday. You have all these big names floating about and then you have a mandatory challenger to beat. In order to get the best out of fighters like Nathan and myself, you need the fear factor and you only get that against the very best.”