Sick Cleverly cancels WBO defence

Welshman Nathan Cleverly

Nathan Cleverly has been forced to withdraw from his WBO light-heavyweight title defence against Robin Krasniqi due to illness.

The Welsh star was set to face the Kosovan on 28 April at the Royal Albert Hall, London, but has been unable to train for his fourth title defence.

“I’ve been unable to train because I’ve been laid up in bed with a viral infection,” Cleverly said.

“There’s not enough time to make up what I’ve missed in training.”

It is not yet clear whether the fight with Krasniqi will be rearranged, or whether Cleverly will have to face the WBO’s mandatory challenger, Russian Dmitry Sukhotsky.

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Cleverly targets summer return

“I’ve taken the advice of my doctor and been told to fully rest before attempting to start training again,” Cleverly added.

“I’m really disappointed because I was looking forward to being the first fighter to bring boxing back to the Royal Albert Hall in over a decade and the first of the century.”

Cleverly had been set to be the first Welshman to appear in a world title fight at the Albert Hall since Howard Winstone beat Mitsunori Seki to win the WBC featherweight crown in January 1968.

Another added incentive was that the 28 April date was on the same night as Bernard Hopkins’s WBC world light-heavyweight title rematch with Chad Dawson in Atlantic City.

The unbeaten Cleverly, 25, still holds hope of a possible summer showdown with American legend Hopkins, with promoter Frank Warren keeping in touch with Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer.

“It was a big night for me as Hopkins was facing Dawson on the same night and I was looking to do a good job on Krasniqi to get a fight with the winner,” Cleverly added.

“I’m sorry for my fans, but I’m happy that the show will go on and a great talent like Billy Joe Saunders will now be topping the card along with Sam Webb and Matthew Hall, which looks like a cracking fight.”

Hatfield’s Olympic star Saunders, who was chief support on the card, will now replace Cleverly as one of the headline fighters when he takes on Hill for the vacant English middleweight title.

Joint top of the bill on the show will see Chislehurst’s Webb in a final eliminator for the British light-middleweight championship against Manchester’s hard-hitting Hall.

The rest of the card includes unbeaten welterweight Bradley Skeete, hard-hitting super-middleweight Frank Buglioni, light-welterweight Bradley Saunders, plus welterweights Freddie Turner and Dean Byrne.

Sick Cleverly cancels WBO defence


Scot Taylor secures Team GB place

Josh Taylor

Lightweight Josh Taylor has qualified for the Olympics, ensuring there will be one Scot in the GB boxing team.

Taylor will fight in the 60kg division after reaching the semi-finals of the final European qualifying event, coupled with Sam Maxwell’s defeat.

Middleweight Anthony Ogogo, who won a thrilling contest on countback, and light-heavyweight Callum Smith box for qualifying places on Friday.

But Warren Baister lost, meaning GB will not have a heavyweight in London.

To reach the last four in Trabzon, Turkey, Taylor had a 17-9 win over Armenia’s Vladimir Sarukhanyan, while England’s Maxwell lost against home favourite Fatih Keles.

Taylor initially tried to qualify at light-welterweight before Liverpool’s Tom Stalker sealed the Olympic berth at 64kg.

And coach Terry McCormack hopes he can emulate Dick McTaggart, the last Scottish lightweight to go to the Games, who won gold in 1956 and bronze in 1960.

“It is an absolutely fantastic achievement and the result of three years of non-stop hard work from Josh,” said McCormack.

“We moved him down to lightweight and there has been no stopping him. He can really punch and as a southpaw he must be a nightmare to fight.

“It is amazing to get a Scottish boxer into the team for the London Olympics. Boxing has come a long way since Dick McTaggart but there is no reason why Josh cannot go on to reach the same kind of level.”

Lowestoft boxer Ogogo beat Jaba Khositashvili of Georgia on countback after a 14-14 draw, having started the last round six points behind.

Smith, making his senior debut at light-heavyweight, scored a 16-6 win over Hungarian Imre Szello.

Sunderland heavyweight Baister, meanwhile, was beaten 19-5 by Bulgaria’s Tervel Pulev.

Andrew Selby, Luke Campbell, Tom Stalker, Fred Evans and Anthony Joshua have already been selected for Team GB.

Scot Taylor secures Team GB place


Groves out of world title fight

George Groves

George Groves has pulled out of his WBO world title fight against Robert Stieglitz on 5 May because of injury.

The British and Commonwealth super-middleweight champion was injured while training in Northern Cyprus.

“I am truly sorry to everyone who will be affected by this,” said Groves, 24.

“This is the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make and I am gutted, but nothing worth having is given away. It’s only made me more determined to become world champion.”

Groves, who was set to fight the 30-year-old Russian-born German in Erfurt, Germany, added: “We tried to work through it, but soon realised I wouldn’t be able to perform the training needed to prepare for this fight.

“After immediately coming back to London and seeking medical advice, I hope this problem will be quickly sorted and cause only a short delay.”

The Londoner had to pull out of a second defence of his British and Commonwealth titles against Scot Kenny Anderson last month because of a back injury.

Groves had an impressive 2011, first beating Olympic gold medalist James DeGale in May to take the British and Commonwealth super-middleweight crown, then defending it with a second-round knockout of Paul Smith at Wembley Arena in November.

The bout with Groves was to be Stieglitz’s sixth defence of his WBO belt. The champion has lost two of his 43 previous fights.

Groves out of world title fight


GB boxers progress in qualifier

Warren Baister

Heavyweight Warren Baister moved a step closer to Olympic qualification with a thrilling win over France’s Abdoulaye Diane in the final qualifying tournament in Trabzon, Turkey.

The Sunderland boxer must win his 91kg category to make the Games and his 18-17 victory put him into the last eight.

Liverpool light-heavyweight Callum Smith claimed a second-round win, beating Montenegro’s Bosko Draskovic.

Meanwhile, middleweight Anthony Ogogo defeated Macedonia’s Fatlum Zuta 18-5.

Ogogo, free from the shoulder injury that hampered his 2011 season, now faces Georgia’s Jaba Khositashvili, who beat an injured Ogogo by a single point at last year’s European Championship.

Smith, making his debut at 81kg, earned a comprehensive 18-8 win over Draskovic to leave him two wins away from securing a place at the London Games.

In the first round of qualifying lightweight Sam Maxwell stopped former world and European champion Albert Selimov in round three, while lightweight Josh Taylor overcame Miroslav Serban of the Czech Republic 15-6. However, Welsh lightweight Joe Cordina was beaten by Ireland’s David Joyce.

Light-flyweight Charlie Edwards, who received a first-round bye, fights on Tuesday.

Five GB boxers have already qualified for the 2012 Olympics. They are Andrew Selby, Luke Campbell, Tom Stalker, Fred Evans and Anthony Joshua.

GB boxers progress in qualifier


Fury stops Rogan in Belfast bout

Former British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion Tyson Fury maintained his unbeaten record as he stopped veteran Martin Rogan in five rounds in Saturday’s bout in Belfast.

Fury, 23, made a tentative start as Rogan produced the better work in the first two rounds at the Odyssey Arena.

However, Fury put Rogan on the canvas with a left hook in the third round.

Fury controlled the rest of the bout and the end came after a body shot put the 40-year-old down again.

Rogan did get up after the fifth-round knockdown but the Belfast boxer’s trainer Bernard Checa insisted that the contest be stopped.

Manchester-born Fury’s win, which earned him the Irish heavyweight title, brings his record up to 18 straight wins.

Fury, currently rated eighth by the World Boxing Council, gave up his British and Commonwealth belts earlier this year in the hope that he could move closer to earning a world title shot.

The 23-year-old caused surprise early in the bout as he opted for a southpaw stance and Rogan did all the work in the opening round as he came forward and appeared to land a decent right hand just before the bell.

Rogan shaded the second round as well but the bout turned dramatically in Fury’s favour in the next as a series of strong jabs were followed by a big left hook which felled the Northern Irishman.

Fury continued to dominate Rogan in round four and the end, when it came, was not a surprise as a fierce body shot left the 40-year-old gasping on the canvas.

Rogan just managed to beat the count but his trainer Checa intervened to stop the contest.

“I found it comfortable to go left handed in that fight,” said Fury.

“I’m a world-class heavyweight and I’m going to try different things.”

Fury stops Rogan in Belfast bout