Boxing: Cleverly sticks to basics in another win for Wales

 

No slapping, spitting or unscheduled scuffling. Just a decent, back-to-basics boxing exhibition from the WBO light-heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly in a shut-out victory over American challenger Tommy Karpency at Cardiff's Motorpoint Arena last night.

It was a fight which 25-year-old Cleverly dominated, the only disappointment being that he could not stop a contender who was by no means a A-list opponent, being ranked only 10th in the world. Yet there was no doubting Cleverly's superior skills, all three judges scoring 120-108, giving him every round.

Fighting in his Celtic homeland for the first time in four years, the undefeated Cleverly was clearly delighted at acquiring the second leg of Wales's hoped-for sporting triple crown, following the rugby win over England. Cleverly himself will be at Wembley today supporting Cardiff City in their Carling Cup quest against Liverpool.

It was a successful third defence of his title by the maths graduate. Karpency, a qualified psychiatric nurse from Pennsylvania, was given little chance but Cleverly admitted: "A lot of people said he did not deserve to be in the same ring, but believe me, he was one of the hardest punchers I've fought."

Cleverly made a sharp start against the fragile-looking southpaw and it was soon apparent that Karpency had little to offer save a bit of spirit, a tight defence and the occasional sneaking left-hand counter. The Welshman proceeded to give a clinical display of neatly angled punches, forcing Karpency on to the back foot. But his attacks, while varied and constant, lacked power. They did, however, take their toll, particularly on Karpency's body, bringing a reddening around the ribcage.

The advice from the American's corner was "back him up". But Karpency replied: "I'm too tired." Even so, he continued to frustrate the ever advancing Cleverly, who won round after round but could not bring the sort of finish that we might have seen from his predecessor as the boxing idol of Wales, Joe Calzaghe.

By the end Karpency had been out-worked and out-fought but he was still on his feet, a situation which no doubt satisfied someone who clearly came to survive.

After a seven-month "sabbatical" Frankie Gavin, the former world amateur champion whose progress as a pro has been beset by weight and personal problems, showed he has got himself back into shape mentally and physically by knocking out the former British welterweight champion Kevin McIntyre with a crippling body shot in the third round. It was one of the most composed performances of the 26-year-old's career.

Former WBO cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli, another with a reputation in need of restoration, continued his comeback with a two-round stoppage of Belfast's Ciaran Healy, also inflicting the damage with a body attack which twice floored the veteran. It was an emotional night for Maccarinelli, whose father died recently and who now challenges for the British title again next month.

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