Nathan Cleverly and Shawn Hawk are from two different worlds, but those worlds will collide on Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Cleverly is 24-0 with 11 KOs and he's being adorned as one of the next stars in the light heavyweight division. He is seeking stateside exposure and approval in this fight, which is only his second in the United States.
It is fitting that the fight takes place in the Staples Center as the stars will be out in support of Cleverly. Entertainers Mickey Rourke and Sir Tom Jones will carry the WBO champion's belt into the ring, per Peter Shuttleworth of BBC Sports.
He has also trained under the watchful eye of legendary trainer Freddie Roach at Wild Card Gym. Roach came away impressed with Cleverly and said this per Wales Online:
"You want guys like that at your gym. I wouldn’t hesitate to take him on, he’s definitely talented. We haven’t discussed him coming here yet but he’s here, and maybe there’s a reason why he is here."
Those are significant endorsements for the 25-year-old from the United Kingdom, but can he deliver under the spotlight?
His opponent is stepping in for Cleverly's original opponent, Ryan Coyne. Coyne pulled out of the fight a little over a week before the fight, and Hawk happily took on the opportunity. Considering where he's been, that is no surprise.
Hawk is a Sioux Native American from the Cold Creek Reservation in South Dakota. It is one of the lowest income and most impoverished areas in the United States. Hawk had fallen into some of the pitfalls that impede Native Americans on reservations—namely alcoholism.
He told Ring Magazine this of his home and previous situation:
"There's nothing there. No jobs, no gyms, nothing. I was just in a real bad place back then. I was an alcoholic and I didn't even realize it. I thought I could quit any time, but it took a good support system to get past it.”
At 23-2 with 17 KOs, Hawk has shown some ability and punching power, but this is a major step up in competition. He lost his last fight to Eleider Alvarez in a lopsided unanimous decision for the NABO Light Heavyweight title. He also lost his previous shot at a title back in 2009.
Can he produce a better showing this time?
Here's how you can watch, and some deeper analysis into both fighters.
When: Saturday, November 10, 10 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
Live Stream: Showtime Anytime (Pay Service)
The Book on Cleverly
Tale of the Tape (per BoxRec.com)
Weight: 174 vs. Tommy Karpency in February
Cleverly is a good athlete.
He is long, limber and has good feet. He keeps his hands a bit low, but it allows him to fire punches at varying angles. He has broad shoulders that anchor a frame that could allow him to carry more weight in the coming years.
Cleverly mixes up his attack well with body and head shots, but his speed and reflexes are his best assets. He is a skilled boxer, who is ready to at least be competitive with the best light heavyweights and super middleweights in the world.
Here is Cleverly in his most recent bout against Tommy Karpency. It was a complete shutout as Cleverly won an easy unanimous decision.
Cleverly doesn't possess the type of power that will stop any light heavyweight with a decent chin. He is clearly looking to become a household name, and you have to wonder if he becomes careless in an effort to win fights spectacularly.
In his win over Courtney Fry in 2009, Fry was able to land the uppercut inside. A few of the shots hurt Cleverly, but he went on to stop Fry in the eighth round.
Take a look at the first two rounds especially in this video:
Even in his win over Karpency, he didn't show that he could finish an opponent.
Cleverly is far more skilled than Hawk.
The challenger will come forward looking to land punishment, but Cleverly is longer, quicker and slicker. He should have an opportunity to dominate this fight with his jab, and to counter off movement.
As long as he takes his time and doesn't get caught up in the atmosphere, it should be an easy fight.
The Book on Hawk
Tale of the Tape (per BoxRec.com)
Weight: 175 vs. Alvarez in June
Hawk is a relentless slugger.
He wants the KO and will pursue it with reckless abandon. If he senses that he's hurt an opponent, he will increase the pressure.
He's shown the ability to be a strong closer in that respect. Hunger and desire will be no issue for Hawk, as this is a major opportunity for him. This is an example of Hawk's finishing ability; he disposes of Joshua Green in the video below.
You may also want to watch comedian Eddie Griffin butcher the pre-fight introductions. It carries about the same amount of entertainment as the fight itself:
Hawk does not always appear in the best shape. He has a bit of a soft body, and conditioning could be an issue against a more athletic fighter.
His skills aren't very refined. He's a good puncher, but he throws wide, winging shots. They can be a bit telegraphed, and slick defensive fighters will elude those punches easily.
Hawk's head movement isn't exactly spectacular either. Even though he defeated Henry Buchanan by unanimous decision, take a look at how often Buchanan lands the jab against Hawk early on:
He must pressure Cleverly and stay low. The uppercuts that Fry landed on the champion three years ago could be a valuable weapon for Hawk.
He can't avoid being outboxed in this fight, but if he can get inside to bang the body, he can set up power shots to the head. Cleverly will allow him to stick around in the fight which extends Hawk's puncher's chance.
Cleverly will win a unanimous decision, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some anxious moments. Hawk can punch, and a part of me would love to see him succeed, but Cleverly has him outclassed.
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