Cleverly Faces Toughest Challenge to Date in Krasniqi

The time has come for WBO World Light-Heavyweight Champion Nathan Cleverly to finally stake his claim as the world’s leading light-heavyweight.
On Saturday evening the boxing boffin – a maths graduate from Cardiff University – headlines Frank Warren’s huge ‘Rule Britannia’ promotion at Wembley Arena in a tough mandatory defence against rising German based Kosovan Robin Krasniqi.

And the 26 year old is aware that an impressive victory could vault him into a Transatlantic superfight with IBF counterpart Bernard Hopkins this summer.
The whole card, which also features the comeback of Dereck Chisora plus Liam Walsh against Scott Harrison and Paul Butler, is live and exclusive in the UK, on BoxNation, the Channel of Champions, from 7pm on Saturday evening. Join at www.boxnation.com
Boxing writer Glynn Evans found ‘Clev’ in rude health and chomping to meet the challenges when they spoke at length on the weekend.

You concluded a difficult 2012 campaign in style by destroying Sioux Indian Shawn Hawk in eight rounds at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to retain your world title for the fourth time. Did the US exercise fulfil your intentions?
Absolutely. I thought it was a great idea to defend my belt and start planting seeds over in America. The whole US experience was fantastic and I’d like to think I made the most of my opportunity, let the US fight crowd know who I am, see me first hand. Previously, I was pretty unknown over there.
First and foremost, I put in a good performance. I’ve always had quite an Americanised style, anyway. I got terrific exposure on a Golden Boy promotion and Showtime TV and I received great feedback from the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Richard Schaefer. I also did some sparring at the Wild Card gym in Hollywood and hear that (leading coach) Freddie Roach was impressed with what he saw.
BBC Wales followed me around all week and I felt a bit like a movie star, chilling with (actor and ex pro) Mickey Rourke – a real boxing nut – and (Welsh singer) Tom Jones. Quality! They were in my dressing room before and carried my belt in. I enjoyed the glitz and glamour but always made sure I kept my eye on the job at hand.

That was five months ago. What did you get up to in the interim before you began training for your mandatory?
You can get soaked up with all the pressure of fights and training so it’s nice to enjoy life and take advantage of my belt whilst I can because I’m sure it won’t last for ever. Presently, I enjoy a lot of invites to sporting events such as Cardiff City or the rugby internationals, or music concerts. I’ve also done quite a bit of charity work which can be very rewarding. Away from boxing, I’m quite laid back and live a pretty normal life.
For me, Karo Murat, the previously unbeaten German who you beat in a WBO eliminator prior to winning the world title, remains your stiffest opponent to date. Fair comment?
On paper he probably was. He was undefeated in 22 and came with quite a big reputation but, in reality, I made quite an easy night’s work of him. I was on my game and dominated him, pretty much won every round before stopping him.
(Nadjib) Mohammedi, who I outpointed to win the ‘interim’ title gave me a harder night because I wasn’t 100% mentally and was very laboured that night. Mohammedi, who let’s not forget was world ranked, provided a tricky test. Not only was he a late replacement, he was also extremely fit and very, very awkward.

When I fought (Tony) Bellew in his home town, he was really fired up, really gave it 110%. I had to be switched on and fight smart that night. So my world title fights with Mohammedi and Bellew were harder than Murat, definitely.
Your former victim and arch rival Tony Bellew is now number one contender for the WBC title. What did you make of his draw with Isaac Chilemba in their final eliminator the other week?

I couldn’t care less about Bellew, his performance, or anything he says. I’ve beaten him and now I’ve no interest in him whatsoever. I’m far too busy focussing on my own career, my bright future.
Saturday’s ‘Rule Britainnia’ promotion was postponed for five weeks. To what extent were you required to adjust your preparations? Have you incorporated anything new into your routine?
Prep has gone okay. Delays are a part of boxing. When the news of the delay broke, I just eased off the gas for a week or two and enjoyed a welcome bit of junk food! I do like my curries, pizzas and Chinese plus a Magners with ice! When the time came to step back on it, I was refreshed.
The only thing I’ve really changed has been my environment. Earlier in the year, not really as part of the camp for this fight, I went to a mate’s gym in Alicante in Spain for a bit of warm weather training, mixed in with a bit of a holiday.
Recently, for a change of scenery, I’ve been training at (coach) Don Charles’ gym in London. It’s taken me away from my home comforts which helps keep the mind fresh. I’ve done a bit on the pads with Don and I’ve been sparring big ‘Del’ (Chisora) who’s a very strong, heavy guy. It keeps me on my toes and gets me accustomed to additional weight. You can’t afford to take one of his swinging hooks so I have to stay sharp. He uses me for speed work. It’s productive, respectful sparring that benefits us both.
Mandatory challenger Robin Krasniqi seems primed to provide your toughest fight thus far. What have you seen of him? What qualities will you need to be mindful of?
You’re right. Potentially, he’s the best I’ve met. He’s young, he’s worked hard to get himself into the mandatory position and he enters with a lot of momentum. His two defeats both came in his first three fights when he was still only a teenager and he’s since won 38 straight and knocked out his last four in title fights. As I’ve said, the unknowns can be very dangerous and Krasniqi seems super hungry.
I’ve always been one to focus more on getting my own game right than wasting too much time worrying about opponents but I’ve seen bits of him on You Tube. He’s a typically upright Eastern European who leads off with the jab and has a big uppercut. A few of his recent knockouts have come with that. He seems gritty, strong and prepared to fight on the front foot. It should be very interesting.
But I’m world champion so I have to expect to face challenges like this. The convincing win that I have planned will prove my status as a worthy world champion.
He appears to have riled you in the build up with certain comments that he’s made about you being the weakest of the reigning 175lb champions. You responded that you’d ‘smash him to bits!’ As against Bellew, it appears you need a bit of ‘edge’ to stoke your fire.
That’s correct. I almost manufacture it. I think it was just a sign from Krasniqi of how badly he wants to beat me. But I’ve worked extremely hard for my title so I get defensive and use any negative comments to fuel my motivation, put a bit of fire there which will give me an extra few per cent to take into training every day. He intends ripping my title from me, I’ll be doing every thing I can to protect it.
Do you feel there’s an expectation for you to not only retain on Saturday but to win impressively?
First and foremost, I have to make sure that I get my arm raised. If anything, I need to be mindful of not trying too hard. It’s my natural way to excite so I just have to try and let that flow. I’ve prepared correctly, physically and mentally and now I just need to apply it all in the ring on Saturday night. That’s what being a champion is all about.
A good night’s work would constitute remaining as world champion and on course to unify. Come Sunday morning, I want to be reading some positive headlines regarding a solid victory over the mandatory challenger.
Provided you come through, the fight everybody is keen to see is a unification match between IBF king Bernard Hopkins and yourself. However, a second mandatory with German southpaw Juergen Braehmer could present a stumbling block to that.
That’s true but, deep down, I’m not sure that Braehmer wants to fight me. He’s withdrawn from fighting me at the last minute before. He should stay as a successful European level champion. I’m hoping we can work around it but, look, if I have to fight him, I’ll do it.
What was your assessment of Bernard Hopkins’ recent history making title win over Tavoris Cloud?
I only watched about six rounds of the fight because it was obvious what pattern was developing. Hopkins made it look very easy because of his technical superiority. His ring craft and movement made Cloud look distinctly average. Hopkins came in with the right hand, scored his point, then nullified Cloud’s attacks. Cloud was very limited but Hopkins executed a perfect game plan and, for once, looked good doing it.
A superfight between BHop and yourself has long been mooted. What gives you encouragement that it could finally be made?
It’s been stewing for a while but I do think we’re gradually getting closer because its importance has grown. He’s starting to mention my name. I think we both want to unify the division and now we both have belts. Provided I come through on Saturday, I think it’s definitely the biggest fight in the division. He’s a sure fire Hall of Famer whilst I’m the up and comer who brings excitement.
After Krasniqi, I’ll definitely be pushing for my first superfight. I’d love it to be at the Millennium Stadium but I’m happy to travel, if that’s what it takes. I’ve always enjoyed my experiences in the US. We can do it wherever makes best business.
Why are you confident you could beat a fighter of Hopkins’ calibre?
My youth would be a massive factor. I also believe I’m the more natural light-heavy. Has Hopkins ever beaten an opponent with my speed and my engine?

My attributes are similar to Joe (Calzaghe)’s and Joe beat him.
I’m sure you’re keeping an eye out on the current fantastic crop of super-middle champions such as Andre Ward, Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler, should they get bold and move north.
Oh yes. Ward is absolute quality. For me, he’s in the top three ‘pound for pound’ at the minute. He’s got fantastic technical skills and timing but it’s definitely a fight I’d take if it was offered. You have to challenge yourself against the very best.
If Froch comes through Kessler that would be a great fight for the British public but Carl’s ego won’t allow him to move up and fight me. Andre Ward schooled him and Andre Dirrell schooled him. Any top fighter who can box and move beats Carl Froch comfortably.

Amir Khan and Freddy Roach Split

By: Brandon Stubbs

Follow me @Punch_2theface
www.Punch2theface.com


What is Amir Khan going to do now? It was confirmed today that the former lightweight and super-welterweight champ Khan will be parting ways with Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. “I’m not even at my peak yet, I want to make a few changes and am in talks to change trainers at the moment. I am looking at a few names but I don’t know if they are available.” said Khan this weekend. Tension between the two parties had been going on over the past few months since Khan’s TKO lost to Danny Garcia. “I have not heard anything official from them,” said Roach, “I heard they want to fight in December. No one has told me if I’m in or out.”

Roach has made it cleared many times in interviews that any other fighter he trains will come in second behind his cash cow Manny Pacquiao. That is something that may have started to affect Khan in his training camps. For his last fight against Garcia, his camp was starting as Manny’s was ending for his bout with Tim Bradley. The same thing happened late last year in his lost to Lamont Peterson when Roach was ending camp and working the corner of Manny for his fight with Juan Manual Marquez. Khan also had to share his trainer’s attention with middleweight champ Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and the up and coming star Peter Quillin who trains at the famed Wild Card Gym in Los Angles as well.

So who should Amir work with now? He will now be moving on to his fourth trainer in the seven years he has been pro; not a good average there. He is penciled in to get back in the ring on Dec. 15th against a yet to be named opponent or site selected. It seems that his career is at a major crossroads. With two straight losses and starting over with a new trainer, Amir has quickly painted himself in to a corner. One bright side is now that with his exit from Roach’s Wild Card Gym, this could open up a bout with Pacquiao if Amir can get back to handling his business in the ring.

Amir Khan’t

By: Danny Richardson

Follow me @Danny_Boy_93

 

 

As you will know by now, on Saturday night, Olympic silver medallist and former world champion Amir ‘King’ Khan was shockingly knocked out in four rounds by WBC champion Danny ‘Swift’ Garcia, at the Mandalay Bay resort, Las Vegas. Khan, who suffered the third defeat of his career, was caught with a huge left hand in the third round, and never really recovered as he went on to be stopped after a torrid fourth session. Garcia, who extended his unbeaten record, had struggled for the first two rounds of the contest, the American having no reply for Khan’s superior speed and footwork in the opening stages.

However, Garcia showed his power by landing a peach of a shot on the Bolton man, leaving an all too familiar site, Khan on unsteady legs as he had been in previous contests against Marcos Maidana and Breidis Prescott. The shocking defeat has left some in the boxing world calling for Khan to retire, while some question his relationship with Freddy Roach and others point out Khan’s weakness in the chin department. There are a lot of questions to be asked of Khan following Saturday night, and I’m not sure whether he’ll ever recover.

We shouldn’t forget that Khan started like a house on fire though. For the first 7 or so minutes, he swarmed Garcia with shots, buzzing in and out of range and causing some damage to Garcia’s face after the very first round. His sublime speed caught Garcia out, and until the fateful left hand which sent him crashing to the canvas, it looked for all the world like Khan would force a stoppage in the later rounds.

However – as is always the case with Khan, his defence deserted him. For a man who has a glass jaw, he keeps his hands perilously low, and when he’s caught flush, his legs do a silly dance. That was the case again on Saturday, as he never really recovered from the knockdown. Don’t get me wrong, it was a peach of a shot and Garcia has a reputation as a big puncher, but at the level Khan is at, particularly with his chin worries, he shouldn’t be getting caught with shots like that. You have to wonder, when will he ever learn?

I say that, because he has all the attributes to be a good boxer. He has decent power and a decent boxing ability, but with his blinding speed and terrific jab, he should be keeping fights at range and peppering opponents with shots. That type of style would make him difficult to beat (but not unbeatable) and he’d be beating fighters like Garcia and Lamont Peterson comfortably. He doesn’t need to sit down on his shots and aim to get fighters out of there early, because he would overwhelm opponents with punches, forcing stoppages late on.

But for some reason, ever since the Prescott defeat, Khan seems to set out to prove that he has a chin and can stand and trade with big punchers. He wants to get involved in tear ups, he wants to prove that he can take a shot. Why? The whole boxing world knows that he can’t stand and trade, we all know that he can’t take a shot, we all know that he takes a while to recover after getting hurt. So why take the risk of getting blown away? In the fourth round on Saturday, he egged Garcia onto him when he was clearly hurt. He wanted to stand and trade, he didn’t hold or run for his life like he should have done, and he was eventually stopped. He’s brave yes, but he’s too brave for his own good.

This is a problem he’s had for all of his career. It’s not like this has just come to light, he’s been getting hurt in fights even before Prescott. He was floored early in his career against Michael Gomez and Willie Limond, and after Prescott, he was rocked against Maidana and Peterson. Khan cannot take a shot, yet he wants to prove that he can. He should start by getting that ridiculous mentality out of his head, because until he learns he doesn’t need to stand and trade or take a risk, he won’t go very far. He might lose some of the entertainment value, but at least he’ll be winning.

The other problem he has is his attitude. In my opinion, he’s too big for his boots. There’s nothing wrong with confidence or ambition, but all we’ve heard before his last two fights, is “I’m a superstar” “I’m more known in America than Kell Brook is in England” “I want Floyd Mayweather” “I can beat Floyd Mayweather” and “Younger fighters hang onto my name”. This type of attitude isn’t doing him any favours whatsoever, because in England, his home nation, there are a hell of a lot of people who want to see him lose. I’ll be honest, I don’t like Khan either, particularly because of his attitude. After another defeat, he’ll most likely come back to England and hope to rebuild, but will he have as big as a fan base as he thinks he does? I don’t think he will, in fact, if he goes on to fight Kell Brook, I think Brook would be the fan favourite.

Also, he won’t be getting a fight with Mayweather any time soon, in fact he shouldn’t even be mentioning ‘Money’ in the same sentence as himself. He isn’t in Mayweather’s league, so to talk about fighting him and beating him is ludicrous. Also, he hasn’t been focusing on the task in front of him when he’s mentioning Mayweather, and for me, he’s underestimated opponents, particularly in the case of Lamont Peterson. He’s been guilty of looking past opponents, and that’s added to his list of problems. He needs a reality check, and I hope that Saturday has done that for him, because the way he’s been talking, you’d think he was already at the top of the game, when he has a hell of a long way to go.

So what’s next? He’ll almost definitely fight in England, because he won’t be able to headline a Vegas show coming off a defeat like Saturday’s. But who against? I’ve heard rumours that Ashley Theophane may be in the mix, as well as Kell Brook – which everyone in England wants to see. That of course would mean a step up to welterweight – but would that do Khan any favours?

If Khan has been getting put down as a lightweight and light welterweight, then a move up to welterweight won’t help. There are some big punchers at welterweight, and I can guarantee you, if Khan was to move up to 147lbs, he will find his legs doing a silly dance again. He hasn’t got the power to blast away welterweights, and he hasn’t got the chin to take some of the shots. If he isn’t the best in the light welterweight division, he hasn’t a prayer in the welterweight class. With fighters such as Kell Brook, Victor Ortiz, Andre Berto, Manny Pacquiao and of course Floyd Mayweather, I can safely say Khan won’t dominate a weight class as he wants to.

I would love to see Khan face Kell Brook now, because after all the things Khan has had to say, he’s coming off a loss and I think should he move up a weight, he will be begging to face Brook. It’s the biggest fight domestically out there for him, so it all of a sudden makes a lot of sense. I would love Brook to beat Khan personally, and I hope the fight comes off.

He may chase a rematch with Garcia, even maybe Lamont Peterson should he be allowed to fight following his positive drugs test, but I don’t see either of those happening. All of a sudden, the suggestion that Khan should retire doesn’t look as stupid as it first sounds. Glen McCrory, the Sky pundit, reckons Khan should retire now, and I have to agree with his argument. Khan can’t mix it with the elite in my opinion, and never will be able to. He is a world level fighter, but can he ever be regarded as one of the best? Not for me, because let’s be honest, Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia will never be Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Timothy Bradley dominated Peterson, while Garcia didn’t look the best in beating an ancient Erik Morales.

If I’m honest, Khan shouldn’t retire, because I still feel he has something to offer – but only to a certain degree. He will never be one of the elite fighters, because he simply hasn’t got the ability. When you look at it, he has blinding speed, but that’s about it. He hasn’t got a boxing brain – he’s only showed he can follow instructions against Andriy Kotelnik to win the world title, but apart from that, he seems to do whatever he wants, and although he may be exciting, he doesn’t look terrific in doing it.  Khan will always be one of those fighters who may be in and out of a world title, but he will never be a dominant champion.

I’ve heard suggestions he should leave Freddie Roach, and I don’t think that’s a bad idea. He will always play second fiddle to Manny Pacquiao, and although Roach has improved Khan as a fighter, he is an offensive minded trainer, while Khan clearly needs to work on his defence. Maybe a change in camp wouldn’t be the worst thing, and don’t be surprised if Khan splits from Roach in the near future.

I’ve tried to be fair in my analysis of Khan, but if I’m brutally honest, I’m not a fan of his and maybe that has played a part in my opinions. But, I genuinely believe that Khan isn’t good enough to be a permanent fixture at world level, and that’s the bottom line. I think he’s been over hyped to a certain extent, and his attitude hasn’t won him many fans in Britain and I doubt he’ll ever be a massive fan favourite.

Even following his defeat, he has come out and said he’s in a better division and fought better fighters than Carl Froch, following quotes from Froch that he would retire if he was in Khan’s shoes (Froch was misquoted however, he meant he would retire if he had been knocked out like Khan was). That type of comment from Khan isn’t winning him fans and it’s delusional. Let’s be honest, the opposition he’s beat have been good, but not at an elite level. Khan can come back and be at a good level, but it’s about time he realised, he will never be great.