- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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After light heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly of Wales rolled to a near-shutout decision win against mandatory challenger Robin Krasniqi of Germany on Saturday in London, he beat the drum yet again for a showdown with fellow titleholder Bernard Hopkins.
Cleverly did it in a respectful manner, too. He lauded Hopkins for being an all-time great and said he wanted to fight him to prove to himself that he was an elite champion and not just an ordinary titleholder.
"Hopkins is a great, great fighter, and against him I'll have to take my game to another level," Cleverly said. "His experience is unmatchable and technically he's superb, but I think my youth, pace and aggression will be too much for him. I'd force him to fight every second of every round and not give him an inch or second to think."
Cleverly looked good against Krasniqi and turned in an exceptional work rate (1,047 punches thrown). Cleverly doesn't have much pop, but that activity would be sure to give a slower, methodical fighter such as Hopkins some problems.
"I showed another side to my game against Krasniqi," Cleverly said. "I showed that I could box intelligently, not get reckless against a dangerous challenger and made it look easy. He was very tough, and maybe I would have liked to have knocked him out, but it was a great workout and I showed the pace I can set for 12 rounds at the highest level."
Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KOs) has said he would like to face Cleverly (26-0, 12 KOs) and that he would be willing to go to the United Kingdom for the fight. But first Hopkins has a mandatory defense to make this summer against Karo Murat, whose only loss is a 10th-round knockout to Cleverly in a 2010 title eliminator.
On March 9, the 48-year-old Hopkins broke his own record of becoming the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world title when he outpointed Tavoris Cloud.
Cleverly's promoter, Frank Warren, and Hopkins' promoter, Richard Schaefer, have done business before and get along just fine, so if the sides really want to make the fight, it shouldn't be too difficult. Warren would like to have Cleverly fight in the co-feature when Hopkins faces Murat and then have them square off if they both win.