The Pugilist

Albert Hall deserves better than Cleverly-Krasniqi

The Pugilist

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The famous old venue returns to the boxing scene

In a world full of identikit stadia, venues like the Royal Albert Hall stand out.

Sure, the capacity of a 140-year-old building cannot compare with that of the modern giants of sporting architecture - but surely it deserves better than Nathan Cleverly versus Robin Krasniqi?

There hasn't been a world title boxing card at the place since Marco Antonio Barrera in his prime made short work of pretender to his WBO super bantamweight throne, England's own Paul Lloyd, back in 1999.

The card, set for Saturday April 28 and to be headlined by Cleverly/Krasniqi, will be the first inside those hallowed halls right by Hyde Park this millennium.

However, amid the hype that has accompanied such a historic announcement, there are logic gaps in this pairing which goofy photos of Cleverly dressed as an orchestra conductor just won't fill.

We'll start at the top, shall we? First and foremost: who is Robin Krasniqi?

The Serbian-born 24-year-old doesn't have a miserable resume, with 39 fights already to his name - of which he has won all but two, stopping 13 fighters inside the distance along the way.

His two defeats came as a rookie teenager in fights one and three of a fledgling career fought, until next month, almost entirely in his home nation of Germany. The exception is a unanimous decision win over Jindrich Velecky on the defeated fighter's own patch, Prague.

Does anyone expect a reasonably-promising young light-heavyweight to make the step up from a lifetime of comfort-zone bouts and shock the WBO champion at the world-famous and partisan Hall?

Of course not. But then, that's the point.

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Warren won't risk Cleverly

Warren has an unrivalled ability to pick out "win-win" opponents for his men, as he has here for Cleverly. While Krasniqi's form is enough on paper to build up the fight and justify it going ahead, there's very little chance, if any, of the boat being rocked in South Kensington that night.

Thanks mostly to the location, this card will interest and it will sell, a fact which would be the case even if Warren put the Welshman up against a broomstick in the main event. The concept is far too appealing for us fight lovers to walk away from.

The British boxing community will rejoice at the return of the sport at this level to the home of the noble arts, following the overturning of a High Court order brought on by complaints of "anti-social elements" by locals.

Heaven knows it needs all the good news it can get after Haye and Chisora's antics. Better yet, the fight will be followed by action live from Atlantic City, and who can turn down an all-nighter of boxing?

Chad Dawson and WBC champion Bernard Hopkins will strive to settle their dispute once and for all at Boardwalk Hall. The winner looks likely to put that belt, and the Ring Magazine crown, up against Cleverly's WBO title.

Of course, that would be a fight worth putting Nathan's undefeated streak at risk for, financially-speaking. Warren would never risk blowing that wad by throwing him into a rematch with Tony Bellew, or against countryman Enzo Maccarinelli, beforehand.

Or even Russia's Dmitry Sukhotsky, the mandatory challenger named by the WBO to fight Cleverly within 120 days of the latter's laboured victory over Tommy Karpency back in February. Karpency is another boxer with little experience outside of his own country.

Reneging on that stipulation on the Karpency agreement has led to the governing body refusing to sanction Cleverly/Krasniqi in an announcement within hours of the event being made public, making the fight even more of an afterthought.

So Bellew, Sukhotsky and Maccarinelli will have to wait. How long for? Who knows.

Questions have already been cast by the Warren camp over the drawing power of Maccarinelli and whether or not such a pairing would be worthwhile. I'd hazard a guess that it is more the punching power of the 31-year-old that is provoking those second thoughts.

After their gripping encounter in October, Bellew and Cleverly would hardly struggle to sell for a second bout. But would that notion even be entertained until — or if — Cleverly is the undisputed king of the division?

And if a Sukhotsky bout can be avoided once, it can be dodged a thousand times, unless circumstances change to suit the side of the champ.

For now, purists will have to settle for the good news that Albert Hall will be alive and kicking once more come April 28, if only for a couple of rounds.

Liam Happe

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