sport

Cleverly ready for Hawk bout

Nathan Cleverly is ready to make the first American defence of his WBO light-heavyweight title against Shawn Hawk on Saturday night.

Cleverly, who boasts a perfect professional record of 24-0, was slated for a place on the undercard of the WBC super-bantamweight showdown between Anselmo Moreno and unbeaten champion Abner Mares at Los Angeles' Staples Center early last month.

Unbeaten American southpaw Ryan Coyne was confirmed as his opponent shortly afterwards but, after Cleverly's arrival in the States was delayed due to visa issues, the picture became a touch more complicated.

A legal dispute with his promoter Don King ruled out the challenger and, following an anxious wait, Coyne's countryman Hawk was installed as Cleverly's new foe on Monday.

"It's been a bit of a rush job really," said the 25-year-old from Cfen Fforest. "I was late getting my visa and my work permit through, I've had a change of opponent and now we've got a late replacement who's an orthodox fighter.

"I'm quite glad that we've got an opponent now because it was getting late.

"We finally got there and it's just a great opportunity for me to fight and put on a good show."

Hawk, who hails from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and wears a head-dress on his entrance to the ring in tribute to his Native American roots, dropped a wide unanimous points decision to Columbia's 2008 Olympian Eleider Alvarez last time out - the second defeat of a 26-bout career.

But Cleverly is lending little credence to this loss and is wary of a clear betting underdog with a point to prove.

"This opponent is tough and he's going to come to fight," he said. "He's got nothing to lose, so this should be a good fight.

"I don't really pay too much attention to their records. I know he's coming off a loss but sometimes that can be dangerous because a fighter is out for redemption then and they sometimes push that little bit harder.

"I've got to be wary of the backlash, as such. This is something I'm aware of and something that I'll make sure I don't allow to happen."

Cleverly hopes an impressive display against Hawk can put him in line for high-profile world-title unification bouts in 2013.

But he still has an eye on potential all-British clashes along the road.

The second of his three WBO defences to date came when he edged a thrilling majority verdict over domestic rival Tony Bellew last October, while an approach earlier this year to face Carl Froch was dismissed as a "publicity stunt" by the three-time super-middleweight world champion's camp.

Asked whether he viewed a rematch with Bellew as inevitable, Cleverly said: "Yeah, I think so. That was a real good fight, a good battle over 12 rounds.

"Everyone loves their domestic dust-ups. There's plenty of potential fights out there.

"Obviously I've had one with Bellew but you've still got Froch who's around and there's up-and-coming super-middle and light heavies."