Nathan Cleverly will meet Italian veteran Antonio Brancalion at Wembley Arena on Saturday night in a fight for the vacant European light-heavyweight title and the chance of a world title fight.
The 22-year-old Welsh Math’s student already holder of the British and Commonwealth belts, hopes a clean sweep of domestic titles will lead on to a world title shot by the end of 2010.
“I’m in the final year and have the final set of exams in May before graduation,” Cleverly said.
“About three weeks ago I had four exams. I had the results last week and I was successful in those. I’ll be finished in May and I can concentrate solely on the boxing after that.”
Cleverly hoping that promoter Frank Warren will be able to clinch a world title fight for him, if he wins, although he is not looking too far past Saturday night,.
Rated at number two by the WBO and five by the WBC, winning the European crown will clear Warren’s path and give his case better grounds for an approach to the governing bodies.
“We’ve touched on it,” said Cleverly. “We haven’t gone into too much detail because we’re only taking one step at a time and we’re concentrating on the European title fight first.
“At the same time I’ve been given the indication that provided we’re successful with this then, possibly in the summer, we can look for a world title shot. So it’s an added incentive, really.”
Cleverly would become only the seventh Welshman to win all three crowns and is setting his sights on a world title shot in 2010, which promises to be an extraordinary year for the fighter trained by his father Vince.
Already considered the brightest prospect in British boxing, Cleverly has recently been named in the top 10 light heavyweights list by boxing bible Ring Magazine, in a list that includes the Chad Dawson and Bernard Hopkins.
“First things first, the plan is to beat Brancalion, it’s the biggest fight of my career and without question, the most I’ve ever been in the spotlight,” he said.
“I have been doing press all week, people are kind of taking a real interest in me for the first time, but I’ve been around boxing for a while now and it doesn’t go to my head whatsoever, I am just getting on with things.
“I’ve said in the Argus before that my aim for this year is to graduate university, to win this (European) title and to get onto the world title level and that quest begins tomorrow night.”
Cleverly was set to face the Italian in his own backyard, but two postponements and a lot of waiting around, the board eventually gave up on the Italian promotion company and in stepped Frank Warren to save the fight and in-turn bringing the Italian over the the UK and giving the Welshman another edge.
“Training-wise it was difficult, I was ready to fight and then it was off, that’s tricky because you have to put the breaks on for a few weeks and then step things up again, but it’s the same for both fighters.”
Cleverly is now unbeaten in 18, is expecting his toughest fight to date. “Brancalion supplies me with another step up in class,” he said. “He is a good European operator, not quite world class but each fight is a step on the ladder towards a world-title and providing I get through this, it will set me up for a world shot.”
Having come through the ranks at Enzo Calzaghe’s world renowned Newbridge stable, Cleverly knows what it takes to become a champion and also knows a thing or two about father and son, trainer and boxer relationships.
And just as Joe had to with father Enzo, Cleverly is ready to defend his father as the right man to lead his career.
“I think dad grows as a trainer just as I do as a fighter, he wasn’t very keen on boxing when I was a kid but I love working with him, he’s a big inspiration to me,” he said.
The fight will be Live on Sky Sport 1 at 10pm
Our Prediction?: Cleverly to stop Brancalion inside six rounds.