• Light-heavyweight

Cleverly: Hopkins fight is inevitable now

ESPN staff
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Nathan Cleverly has little doubt he will be Bernard Hopkins' next opponent, saying it is "inevitable" as long as he overcomes Robert Krasniqi in April.

The names of Cleverly and Hopkins have long been linked, but the bout now has genuine substance after Hopkins won the IBF light-heavyweight title from Tavoris Cloud on Saturday.

Cleverly, the WBO champion, knows he is on course for a major unification clash with the 48-year-old legend, with only mandatory challenger Krasniqi in his way. Once he deals with him on April 20, Cleverly expects to share a ring with Hopkins by the end of the year.

"A potential fight between myself and Hopkins is inevitable now," he said on BBC Sport. "I think we'll definitely get that fight on and I believe it will be after my next fight.

"Provided I get rid of this Krasniqi now... then I'm convinced that the Hopkins fight will be after that.

"I'm pretty sure a unification with Hopkins, with the IBF title on the line and the WBO title on the line, would take precedence over [another] mandatory challenger."

Cleverly is an admirer of Hopkins, insisting he expected him to beat Cloud on points - a scenario that came true at the weekend. Experience would weigh in the American's favour against Cleverly, but the Welshman insists it is not only longevity that makes Hopkins so dangerous.

"Hopkins is just so clever the way he fights; he's 48 years of age, but he's exceptionally athletic. His technical boxing ability is brilliant and he caught Tavoris Cloud very flat-footed.

"It was a really good performance from Bernard Hopkins and I'm glad he won the fight because it hypes up a fight between himself and me in the very near future."

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