EXCL – Clev still has the ‘spark’ as Fonfara date in Chicago is confirmed

EXCL – Clev still has the ‘spark’ as Fonfara date in Chicago is confirmed

Cefn Fforest’s former champion Nathan Cleverly (29-2, 15KO) has warned Andrzei Fonfara (27-3, 16KO) that he still has the ‘spark’ as a date and venue for their light-heavyweight class has finally been confirmed.

The 28-year-old Welshman will travel to Illinois’ state capital of Chicago, Fonfara’s adopted hometown, and challenge the Polish national on Friday 16 October. As expected, the Premier Boxing Champions show will be televised by Sky Sports in Britain and Spike TV in America.

Cleverly said: “I’m being underestimated because I’m coming down from cruiserweight where my performances were a bit flat. Maybe, they think that spark I used to have is gone but they’re wrong.

“Fonfara has a good bit of momentum and maybe they feel it’s his time, this is the right fight for him but I’m only 28 and there’s a lot more for me to give. I’m very excited because it’s a chance for me to go and represent my country across the world. Going to America from this small country of Wales and flying the flag is a special feeling for me.”

The former WBO belt holder has appeared in America twice before; in Las Vegas in 2008, Cleverly out-pointed Antonio Baker deep on the undercard of Joe Calzaghe’s win over Bernard Hopkins and then in Los Angeles in 2012, he stopped late replacement Shawn Hawk in eight rounds to defend his then title. However, Cleverly’s date in the ‘Windy City’, his first at 175lbs since he lost to Sergey Kovalev in 2013, will eclipse any stage he’s been on before.

On the other hand, Fonfara will feel right at home in the UIC Pavilion, having never lost at the venue in 13 outings. The Pole’s confidence is sky high at the moment, having pushed WBC champion Adonis Stevenson to the limit and then forcing Mexico’s Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr to quit. Fonfara was in the away corner for both of those performances but it’s now Cleverly who will have to go behind enemy lines.

He said: “It does feel [like] a little less pressure and that can help. Some people see it as a disadvantage, boxing away from home, but sometimes it can be a nice feeling. Being at home comes with pressure, a big crowd and a lot of expectation from the fans. It’s a lot to carry on your shoulders going in to the fight.

“It’s a new goal for me and it’s exciting. I’ve got a chance to really break through on to the American scene and make a good statement. When I fought Shawn Hawk, I opened a few eyes and got good feedback from America but now, it’s on a much bigger platform against a well-respected name, a big TV audience.”

With 50 days to go until fight night, training for Cleverly and Fonfara, who is working with Edward Jackson [a member of Andre Ward’s training team] in Texas, will intensify in the coming weeks. Ahead of the chance, Cleverly plans to make full use of a golden opportunity against an opponent many see as the third best light-heavyweight in the world.

Cleverly said: “This one is a big fight on a big platform, probably one of my toughest fights. It’s one of those goosebump kind of occasions. Overcome Fonfara and America could be a good base for me then. I beat Fonfara and they’ll want to see me back there for more fights in the future.

“Fonfara is a very good fighter and he’s in form, coming off a few big wins. He’s big, a strong puncher and a good, neat and tidy boxer. I know it’s a tough fight, he’s in a confident mood but I’m more than confident I can overcome Fonfara. It’s a big fight for me and one I want to capitalise on.”

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