By James Slater
Welsh legend and former super-middleweight and light-heavyweight king Joe Calzaghe says his countryman Nathan Cleverly can make it to the top of the 175-pound division with a win over lethal puncher Sergey Kovalev tomorrow night at the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena.
Speaking with BBC Sport, Calzaghe, who walked away with a perfect 46-0 record, said Cleverly has a “golden opportunity” against the 21-0-1(19) Russian.
“They’re saying that Kovalev is the next big thing. Winning this fight and winning it in good style would catapult Nathan among the top light-heavyweights in the world, up there with [Bernard] Hopkins” Joe said. “Nathan winning this fight would put him up there in that league. This is the perfect fight for him because he is fighting a guy who’s coming with the backing of American TV – a guy the American’s expect to win, similar to myself with Jeff Lacy.
“Showtime came over talking about Jeff Lacy, and they went away talking about Joe Calzaghe. This is a fantastic opportunity for Nathan to put his mark on the division.”
As all fans know, Calzaghe all but ruined Jeff Lacy back in 2006, putting on a superb performance that won him millions of new fans. Now it’s up to Cleverly to do something similar. Can he do it? Odds makers Ladbrokes cannot split Cleverly, 26-0(12) and Kovalev.
Both men are listed at 10/11 to get the victory. For a 1st-round win by Kovalev betters can get a price of 22/1, while for defending WBO champ Cleverly to win in the opening round punters can get a price of 80/1.
Kovalev has said the fight will not go past the 3rd-round, and he can be betted on at 20/1 to win by KO in both rounds two and three. Cleverly’s best chance of winning, in the opinion of many, is via a points verdict. Cleverly fans can bet on him to win a decision at 13/8. A draw is priced at 25/1.
Meanwhile, Cleverly’s promoter Frank Warren says that should his man win tomorrow, a fight between he and Hopkins will have to be made.
“We agreed terms with Richard Schaefer three times to make this fight with Hopkins,” Warren told Wales Online. “But, on all three occasions he’s [Hopkins] pulled out. I would like it to happen as it would be a big fight for the fans – and I don’t think he can walk away from it now.”
Of course, if Cleverly is beaten by Kovalev all talk of a Hopkins fight will completely disappear.