Nathan Cleverly has been ordered by the WBO to defend his world title against their mandatory challenger or be stripped of his belt.
In pole position in the WBO ranking list to meet Cleverly is Kosovan-born Robin Krasniqi who now resides in Munich in Germany. It's the second attempt to get these two 25-year old light heavyweights in the ring after Cleverly pulled out of the bout originally scheduled for last April because of illness. At that time Krasniqi was ranked number four in the WBO rankings and got offered the opportunity to fight for the world title because the higher ranked fighters were unavailable for various reasons. This time he's earned the right and, after having waited almost a year, he's now even better prepared to take on the unbeaten Welshman.
"It's been a year since the two dates have passed but I haven't stopped working. I've become stronger and had fights, both of which I won by knockout." explained Krasniqi.
Since stepping up to the twelve round format in 2011, Krasniqi has won all four of his contests by knockout and has become the WBO international champion. His most impressive display came when he destroyed previously unbeaten Serdar Sahin in Berlin in August last year. He fought again in November against American Max Heyman, stopping him convincingly within three rounds.
Cleverly is a step up in class for the German and this fight will be the biggest and most important of his career. "I have had 41 fights and have a lot of experience in this type of thing. I'm a calm sort of guy and I will have everything under control going into the fight", says Krasniqi. "Cleverly is not the best fighter but he is still a world champion. He is going to be tough but to be fighting at the world level of boxing means everyone is tough."
His boxing trainer is Dirk Dzemski, a former German middleweight champion with a solid 27-2 record. Dzemski also trains former world super middleweight champion Robert Steiglitz while fitness and conditioning is handled by Alfred Segerer.
Caerphilly-born Cleverly is already looking past Krasniqi and has made no secret that he has his sights set on the winner of the Tavoris Cloud v Bernhard Hopkins match that is scheduled to happen on the weekend before his own fight.
The Welshman has been flirting with the American public recently and even persuaded superstars Tom Jones and Mickey Rourke to walk him into the ring for his last fight in order to boost his notoriety state-side.
Cleverly's promoter, Frank Warren, has described the fight with Krasniqi as "a pain in the backside" after claiming to have reached an agreement to get his boy in the ring with American legend Bernhard Hopkins, a 47-year old former undisputed world middleweight champion. Hopkins currently holds no world title but is still a massive opponent to have listed on his BoxRec fight history. One can only assume that the reason for chasing a clash with a man 22-years your senior is the money that it would undoubtedly generate through the American television networks.
"What Cleverly's promoter is saying is ridiculous. I've worked for this. I'm the WBO number one, without which I wouldn't even be here", claims Krasniqi who is yet to become a household name even in his native Germany.
While most are tipping Cleverly to overcome Krasniqi and move his career on, it's mainly because Krasniqi has never proved himself against anyone in the world's top 10 and is therefore a relatively unknown quantity. In terms of ability and experience these two are very closely matched. What is likely to play a big part in the outcome of this contest is whether Krasniqi can unload his big shots while avoiding Cleverly's quick hands and ferocious combinations. It's an intriguing encounter that has all the marking of being a great scrap on March 16th. The venue for the bout is yet to be decided but according to matchmaker Dean Powell, is most likely to be in either London, Liverpool or Cardiff.