Tommy Barber – London
Nathan Cleverly will make the third defence of his WBO light heavyweight belt at the 5,500 capacity Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff on Saturday, February 25. His likely opponent, WBO NABO champion at 175lbs; Andrzej Fonfara (ranked ninth with the organisation), will be taking the greatest step-up in terms of opponent quality yet, despite his inexperience against elite-level fighters, has shown relative promise whilst boxing in the United States.
The bout will be Clev’s first in his native Wales as a world champion. The Cefn Fforest fighter won the title via email in May. He was due to box Juergen Braehmer, however, the German – who had been guilty of late withdrawals in previous contests – pulled out of a May 21 date to defend his honour against Cleverly and so the WBO stripped Braehmer and awarded the belt to the 24-year-old.
Cleverly (23-0-0, 11ko) boxed on May 21 without Braehmer as Aleksy Kuziemski was drafted in as a late replacement by promoter Frank Warren, of Sports Network, but Kuziemski – a Polish boxer, like Fonfara – succumbed to a fourth round stoppage. Five months later, in October, Cleverly made his second defence when he entered his enemy’s territory to engage in a domestic fight of the year nominee – Tony Bellew, prevailing by way of majority decision.
Speaking of his excitement at boxing in front of his home fans, Cleverly said, as quoted by the BBC: “It will be great to fight on home turf again and I’m really looking forward to it. It will be a special feeling having a homecoming as a world champion – I’m going to relish that.
“I need to step up progressively to fight the big names, I’m only 24 so I’ve got time on my side.”
One of those names could be Beibut Shumenov, a champion with the WBA. The two have been highly-speculated to be fighting in 2012, both fighters have openly expressed their enthusiasm for the unification fight and their promoters engaged in preliminary talks. Cleverly, also, has made no secret of his desire to test his skill-set against current WBC titlist Bernard Hopkins or IBF belt holder Tavoris Cloud who, like Cleverly, continues to protect an undefeated record.
Fonfara (19-2-0, 10ko), meanwhile, first has to dispose of weekend opponent Phil Williams in his adopted fighting home of Chicago, in the UIC Pavilion on Friday, if he is to get a chance at sealing a subsequent fight with Cleverly.
Cleverly continued: “Hopefully I’ll get to the big unification fights towards the end of 2012 against the likes of Hopkins and Dawson, that’s my goal – they are massive names in the division.”
Edit: ESPN UK, Sky Sports and BBC announced the fight earlier today, December 13, yet no official word came from Fonfara’s representatives; 8 Count Productions. Reports have since been altered.
Related article: Shumenov encouraged by Cleverly unification media reports