Nathan Cleverly withdraws from fight

Updated: April 17, 2012, 11:08 AM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Light heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly withdrew from his defense against Robin Krasniqi on Tuesday because of a viral infection, promoter Frank Warren announced.

Cleverly (24-0, 11 KOs), of Wales, was due to make his fourth title defense against Krasniqi (37-2, 13 KOs), a native of Serbia based in Germany, on April 28 at Royal Albert Hall in London.

"I've been unable to train because I've been laid up in bed with a viral infection and there's not enough time to make up what I've missed in training to make sure I'm fully fit," Cleverly said. "I've taken the advice of my doctor and been told to fully rest before attempting to start training again.

"I'm really disappointed because I was looking forward to being the first fighter to bring boxing back to the Royal Albert Hall in over a decade and the first of the century."

Adding to the disappointment for Cleverly is his bout was scheduled on the same night that light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins is set to face former titleholder Chad Dawson in a rematch in Atlantic City, N.J.

Cleverly would like to fight the Hopkins-Dawson II winner. Warren has spoken to Hopkins promoter Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions about the fight in the event Hopkins wins.

"It was a big night for me as Hopkins was facing Dawson on the same night and I was looking to do a good job on Krasniqi to get a fight with the winner," Cleverly said.

Warren's show, the first boxing event at famed Royal Albert Hall in 13 years, will still go on. Middleweight prospect Billy Joe Saunders (12-0, 8 KOs), a 2008 British Olympian, moves up the card into the main event to face Tony Hill (8-2, 4 KOs) for the vacant English middleweight title.

Also on the card, Sam Webb (17-2, 5 KOs) will face Matthew Hall (24-4, 16 KOs) in an elimination bout that will give the winner a shot at the British junior middleweight title.

"I'm sorry for my fans, but I'm happy that the show will go on and a great talent like Billy Joe Saunders will now be topping the card along with Sam Webb and Matthew Hall, which looks like a cracking fight," Cleverly said.

Said Warren: "It's such a shame that Cleverly has been hit with a viral infection, and at a crucial time in his training and career. He is unable to fight and he now needs to have a good rest, get himself healthy and resume training before we look to reschedule his title defense.

"However, Billy Joe Saunders, who is one of the best young talents in Britain right now, is hungry and ready to prove that he is the next big thing. This is the perfect occasion for him to do this."