Cleverly keeps Hopkins in sights
Promoter Frank Warren believes WBO light-heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly must impress in his mandatory title defence against Robin Krasniqi if he is to get the fight he wants against Bernard Hopkins.
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Cleverly, 26, will headline Warren's 'Rule Britannia' event at Wembley Arena on April 20 when he faces Krasniqi, with a future bout against American Hopkins, who won the IBF belt at the age of 48 at the weekend, the target if he successfully defends against Krasniqi.
Warren said discussions had taken place for Cleverly and Hopkins to meet in the United States last year but also warned Cleverly that he must dispatch Serbia-born Krasniqi before thinking of a unification fight.
"This is a very important fight for Nathan Cleverly," he said. "Nathan can't afford to slip up because if he does, any potential fight against Bernard Hopkins will go out of the window.
"I had discussions last year with (promoter) Richard Schaefer from Golden Boy and we had agreed terms for Hopkins to fight Nathan in New York but unfortunately the WBO ordered the mandatory otherwise they would have stripped Nathan of the title.
"Now we have made this fight and if Nathan can come through it I'm very, very confident in the summer he will be facing Hopkins in the opposite corner."
Warren, who is suing WBO lightweight champion Ricky Burns after the Scot left his promotion company to join Eddie Hearn's Matchroom stable, said he would like to see Hopkins travel to face Cleverly in Britain, but would happily organise a fight for any venue.
He said: "I have always preferred the home advantage if we can get it but I have got no problems with Nathan fighting in the States because I do think Nathan will beat him - I think he has the style to beat him and all the tools to beat him.
"We are looking past Krasniqi, who is no slouch himself. It is a tough fight, but if Nathan comes through that, wherever it has to be it will be.
"In an ideal world I would like to have it at the Millennium Stadium because we are used to putting on big shows."
Cleverly is respectful of his April opponent but admits Hopkins is the fight that really interests him and is pleased he was forced to postpone plans to face the oldest world champion in history.
"He (Krasniqi) is a good fighter actually, he has won his last 38 fights and is fighting with a lot of confidence," said Cleverly.
"He will do anything to win the world title so will give it 110 per cent so they are dangerous and risky fights.
"In an ideal world you would just go for the big fights but you have got to deal with these mandatory challengers and abide by the rules.
"We have got to do it - I have just got to perform like a world champion and get this guy done because he is in my way of the big fights, the elite fights, and I have just got to get him out of the way.
"Because (Hopkins) is IBF world champion now it is a blessing in disguise the fight didn't happen last year - it will be better now with my world title and Hopkins' (title), so we will get a unified world champion."
Dereck Chisora is also on the bill for the event at Wembley Arena after being re-issued with a British boxing licence earlier in the week and Commonwealth super-featherweight champion Liam Walsh will also be in action, both against as-yet unnamed opposition.