Although news of the Cefn Forest champion's next challenge didn't come today as expected, it is unlikely to be Russian star Sergey Kovalev after the IBF ordered its light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins to begin negotiations with mandatory challenger Kovalev immediately.
Kovalev fought on Saturday, knocking down American Cornelius White three times in the third round. After the fight, he called out Bernard Hopkins, who was due to defend against his mandatory challenger and former Cleverly opponent Karo Murat on July 13. This was abandoned after Murat was unable to obtain a visa to enter the US.
Kovalev's promoter Main Events are reportedly in discussions for their man to challenge WBO champion Cleverly - a fight that would be broadcast in America on HBO. According to Cleverly's promoter Frank Warren, he is awaiting confirmation from the network, after only discovering late on Monday night that the deal had not been finalised.
Yesterday, the IBF ordered Hopkins to begin negotiations with mandatory challenger Kovalev. According to Sports Illustrated (si.com), a letter from IBF chairman Lindsey Tucker said neither fighter could take an interim fight.
Cleverly is due to make a mandatory defence of his WBO title against the German challenger Jüergen Bräehmer, but the Cefn Forest star said after his last fight:
“Although I’m due to face Bräehmer I don’t think he really wants to fight me.”
This would appear to be the case, as Bräehmer is scheduled to fight Italian Stefano Abatangelo on August 24, a week after Cleverly's Cardiff Arena outing announced today.
Who Cleverly eventually ends up fighting is anyone's guess at this point, but promoter Frank Warren is still hopeful of concluding a deal with dangerous Russian Kovalev.
He stated: "We want this fight and for Nathan, it will be like Jeff Lacy was for Joe Calzaghe."
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- Sergey Kovalev
- Bernard Hopkins