Nathan Cleverly is confident he has the chin to cope with anything Sergey Kovalev throws his way in tonight’s WBO light heavyweight title bout in Cardiff.
The Welshman is making the fifth defence of his crown and is putting his 26-0 record on the line against Kovalev, a Russian who has developed a reputation for stopping fights in their infancy with his formidable power. Of his 21 professional wins, Kovalev has won 18 of them by KO inside three rounds.
Bookmakers are split over who should be favourite for the Motorpoint Arena contest. The side-effect of his explosive record is that Kovalev has yet to be tested over a 12-round contest, and his ability to go the distance remains a question mark.
Cleverly is confident he can handle any early onslaught and said: “We all know Sergey’s record, it speaks for itself. It is no secret, he starts fast and comes to knock you out, but I have got a great chin and I am prepared for that.
“Obviously, he has wiped out his previous opponents but I feel I am at a different level now and I will be there after three rounds, and I will be there for the full fight.
“It is going to be very hard for him to beat me on the night because of my stamina, my chin and my speed. It is going to be very difficult for him.”
Cleverly and Kovalev opted to take each other on after both parties failed to put together a bout with the IBF belt holder Bernard Hopkins.
But the Welshman is happy to take on an opponent eager to get in the ring, rather than think of what may have been with Hopkins.
“Hopkins did not want to fight, but I want to fight,” Cleverly added. “Now we have two guys who want to fight, so it is going to be a great fight, a proper fight. It will be two hungry guys, two undefeated guys. That is what people want to see because someone has to lose for the first time.”