• Light-heavyweight

Cleverly to return to the ring in February

ESPN staff
December 13, 2011

Nathan Cleverly's next fight - his first in Wales as a world champion - has been confirmed, with the WBO light-heavyweight champion putting his title on the line against an as yet unnamed opponent on February 25 at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff.

The 24-year-old has not fought on home soil since earning a points victory over Joey Vegas in November 2007 on the undercard of Joe Calzaghe's memorable triumph over Mikkel Kessler, and his appearance in Cardiff will be his sixth bout in the Welsh capital.

"I am coming back as a world champion," Cleverly told the BBC. "And it will be a special feeling having a homecoming as a world champion. I'm going to relish that. I need to step up progressively to fight the big names, I'm only 24 so I've got time on my side."

Talks are underway between Cleverly's promoter Frank Warren and WBA champion Beibut Shumenov over a potential unification showdown later next year, though Cleverly admits he is targeting the bigger names in the division, with the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson being possible opponents.

He added: "Hopefully I'll get to the big unification fights towards the end of 2012 against the likes of Hopkins and Dawson, that's my goal - they are massive names in the division."

Hopkins has made known his desire to get a rematch with the retired Calzaghe, who beat the American great via a split decision when they met in Las Vegas in April 2008, but Cleverly says he cannot see his fellow Welshman picking up his gloves again.

"He [Hopkins] desperately wants a rematch with Joe," Cleverly said. "But I think Joe is happy with his legacy and contented in retirement. Financially Joe is sorted and he has nothing to prove in boxing so I don't think that is going to happen.

"I'd probably do the same thing if I was in Joe's shoes."

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