Cleverly eases to victory
Nathan Cleverly's dream unification fight with Bernard Hopkins moved a step closer after he recorded a landslide victory over Robin Krasniqi at Wembley Arena.
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Unbeaten Cleverly defended his WBO light-heavyweight title for the fifth time and registered his 26th victory with a wide points decision, compiling 120-108 119-109 120-108 on the scorecards.
Tough Kosovan Krasniqi, the mandatory challenger, showed tremendous bravery as he absorbed Cleverly's best shots, but he was outclassed throughout and did well to hear the final bell.
Cleverly has his heart set on a showdown with Hopkins, the age-defying 48-year-old IBF champion, later this year and the veteran American will have been impressed by this display.
Inactivity has been Cleverly's greatest enemy - he fought only four times in 2011 and 2012 - and the 26-year-old Welshman will want to be busier as he plots his path to becoming unified light-heavyweight champion.
Krasniqi may have won all but two of his 41 fights - both defeats came in his first three contests - but he had campaigned well below Cleverly's level and he was soon under pressure.
Several long-range right hands pinned him up against the ropes, but none of the shots landed cleanly.
A pair of uppercuts from Cleverly caught the eye, but the Welshman was also caught by a left hook from an opponent who was challenging for the world title for the first time.
Cleverly continued to box on the front foot, stalking Krasniqi around the ring and landing the occasional shot that failed to do any significant damage.
Two hard right hands in succession signaled the start of a lively fourth that saw Krasniqi rocked by a right uppercut and look hook, although the flailing Kosovan returned fire with a vicious shot of his own.
Cleverly expertly switched between body and head in the fifth and referee Mark Nelson began watching Krasniqi closely with the fight increasingly becoming one-way traffic.
But the sixth was far closer with Krasniqi enjoying success as he traded with Cleverly, who was being hit too easily, by the ropes in his best round yet.
Another close round followed as the champion was struck by two hard rights but with neither fighter having one-punch knockout power, a stoppage seemed unlikely.
By the ninth Cleverly had resumed full control and for the first time it seemed as though Krasniqi might not last the distance.
Only the bell saved him in the 10th as Cleverly began to unload, but the final two rounds were uneventful as it became clear he was unable to stop him.
Cleverly was surprised Krasniqi lasted the distance and praised the Kosovan's commitment.
"He was hurt a lot of times, but wasn't quite ready to go so I had to go back to Plan A and box," he said.
"I felt good in there and I'm pleased with the performance, it was a nice boxing display. He was tough.
"At this level it's important to break your opponents down because these are world level fighters, 12-round fighters who are very tough, so you can't be gung-ho and reckless.
"I was surprised he went the full 12 rounds because I hurt him early on with the right hand and I thought that sooner or later he'd go.
"But he dug in, was very hungry and kept fighting back. It was important that I stayed focused and boxed."
On the undercard, heavy-handed Paul Butler won the Commonwealth super-flyweight title with a fifth-round stoppage of Yaqub Kareem after dominating the fight from start to finish.