8:02am Saturday 17th August 2013
By Andrew Penman
JOE Calzaghe has backed Nathan Cleverly to come through his “biggest test” against Sergey Kovalev tonight and seal his place among boxing’s elite.
Calzaghe, the former two-weight world champion from Newbridge, is a former stablemate of Cleverly and sees his close friend as his natural successor.
And he believes that Cefn Fforest ace Cleverly is ready to follow in his footsteps by landing big unification showdowns in America.
“I see Nathan winning the fight,” said Calzaghe at yesterday’s pre-fight weigh-in in Cardiff’s Queen Street.
“He has to be careful in the first few rounds because the guy is a big puncher but Nathan has the edge.
“He’s much faster, he’s a better boxer and obviously Kovalev is dangerous but Nathan just has to be careful early on and then just pick it up in the second half of the fight.
“It is Nathan’s biggest test so far. There is big attention on this fight from American TV and the pressure is on Nathan to win this fight and go on to fight in the US and get the unification fights.”
Earlier in the week promoter Frank Warren, who has worked with both fighters, predicted that this fight could do for Cleverly what Calzaghe’s crushing win over Jeff Lacy did for his career back in 2006.
“Hopefully that is the case,” said Calzaghe, who retired in 2009 after wins over US legends Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones in America.
“It will be great for Nathan to beat this guy and then hopefully he will get the fights he wants against Hopkins and the rest.”
The headline act in the Red Mist show at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena will be Cleverly’s fifth defence of his WBO world light-heavyweight title.
“It’s the most important fight of my career,” said Cleverly. “And it could be the best. He comes to knock you out but I’m going to be too quick for him.”
The show is live on BoxNation TV with Cleverly and KO specialist Kovalev entering the ring at around 10.20pm tonight.
Before the unbeaten pair finally meet in the ring their respective trainers got into a war of words.
Cleverly’s father and trainer Vince said: “Sergey knows that he’s been knocked down in the amateurs and he’ll be knocked down in the pros.
“I see Sergey has got a nice big chin for Nathan to land on and he’s going to be on the canvas on Saturday night.”
Kovalev’s trainer John David Jackson replied: “The father is very brave but he’s not going to be getting hit on Saturday.
“Let him talk. Talk is cheap but we’ll see what happens when the fighters get in the ring.”
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group