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Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Nathan Cleverly ready for title fight

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Light heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly has a new opponent, a new fight date and new venue far away from home. But he could not be more excited about the unexpected change of plans.

Cleverly will make his fourth title defense against Ryan Coyne of St. Louis on Nov. 10 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles instead of at home in Wales.

"At only 25, it's a dream come true to defend my world title in America on such a big show and it takes my career to a whole new level," Cleverly said. "It's a golden opportunity to make a big statement that I'm the leading man in the light heavyweight division.

"It will be exciting and challenging to get the recognition of the American fans and media and prove to them that I'm the real thing."

The 25-year-old Cleverly (24-0, 11 KOs) originally was scheduled to fight former title challenger Vyacheslav Uzelkov of Ukraine in the main event of promoter Frank Warren's Oct. 27 card at Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales.

However, Warren worked out a deal with Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer to put Cleverly's bout, now against an American opponent, on the Staples Center card.

"Although the Oct. 27 fight against Uzelkov would have sold out in Cardiff, Frank felt that this was a much bigger opportunity to showcase Cleverly in the States, where he is looking to get fights next year," Warren spokesman Richard Maynard said.

Cleverly's title fights in 2013 would be against titleholders Beibut Shumenov and Tavoris Cloud and former champion Bernard Hopkins.

The fight against Coyne will be Cleverly's second in the United States, but his first with any attention paid to it. In 2008, he had his 12th fight, an eight-round decision win against Antonio Baker, on the undercard of countryman Joe Calzaghe's light heavyweight championship fight against Hopkins at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

"Of course, I love fighting and headlining in front of my Cardiff home fans, but this shows that I'm not scared to leave my home comforts and risk my title by putting it on the line in another country. That's what being a world champion is all about; I relish the challenge," Cleverly said. "It's a big test in my career, but I'm ready and won't be overawed. I think that this will give my performance a sharper edge because I'm not at home and the pressure to perform will be on me."

According to Showtime spokesman Chris DeBlasio, Cleverly's fight will be part of Showtime's coverage of the card, although it has not been determined if it will be on the main Showtime network telecast or part of its undercard coverage on Showtime Extreme.

"I'm delighted that Nathan has got the opportunity to showcase his talent in America at this stage of his career," Warren said. "He's eager to show the American fans what he's made of and a win will set up big unification fights next year."

Showtime is already committed to three bouts on its main telecast, including the main event of junior featherweight titlist Abner Mares (24-0-1, 13 KOs) in his first defense against bantamweight titleholder Anselmo "Chemito" Moreno (33-1-1, 12 KOs), who is moving up in weight.

Also on the telecast, bantamweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz (21-0-1, 12 KOs) will make his second defense against -- probably against Victor Zaleta (20-2-1, 10 KOs), who would move up in weight from junior bantamweight -- and junior middleweight contender Alfredo "Perro" Angulo (20-2, 17 KOs) returns from a year layoff while his immigration problems were resolved to face Raul Casarez (19-2, 9 KOs).

The 30-year-old Coyne (21-0, 9 KOs), nicknamed "The Irish Outlaw," is a brawler with a perfect record but is untested against a top opponent.

"From what I've seen of Coyne, he looks strong, comes forward and likes to have a fight," Cleverly said. "I'm not afraid to stand and trade, either, so it will be exciting for the fans when we exchange punches."

Cleverly hopes that a strong performance against Coyne in front of an American audience will lead to bigger fights.

"I'm in this business to prove that I'm at the best at the weight," he said. "I've achieved that over here by winning the British, Commonwealth and European titles and my aim is to unify all the world titles by beating all the champions out there. Shumenov and Cloud are the names that I'm looking to face next year and that excites me.

"We've been trying hard to get Shumenov and Cloud to come over here and fight me but they've been reluctant to make the trip. So if they won't come to me, I'll go over there (to the United States) and fight them. I'll go to their own territory and embarrass them into facing me."

Warren also announced that with Cleverly moving to Nov. 10 in Los Angeles, the Cardiff card on Oct. 27 has been canceled. Instead, Warren said the two key supporting bouts -- British welterweight champion Junior Witter's defense against Frankie Gavin and Ovill McKenzie Commonwealth light heavyweight title defense against Enzo Maccarinelli -- will move to other cards.

Witter-Gavin will headline a Nov. 1 card in London and McKenzie-Maccarinelli has been added to the Nov. 9 card in Liverpool.