Unbeaten Cleverly puts WBO title on line

Unbeaten Welsh fighter Nathan Cleverly aims to make his US ring debut a memorable one when he puts his World Boxing Organization light heavyweight title on the line Saturday against Shawn Hawk.

The bout at Staples Center in Los Angeles is on the undercard of Mexican Abner Mares's World Boxing Council super bantamweight title defence against Panamanian challenger Anselmo Moreno.

Cleverly, 25 and unbeaten in 24 pro fights, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Welshman Joe Calzaghe, who retired in 2009 having capped his unbeaten 46-fight career with a unanimous decision over Roy Jones in New York the previous year.

"Joe retired, he was looking for a new star to come through and take over the mantle. Fortunately and thankfully, I've fallen into that category," Cleverly said.

Cleverly is testing the transatlantic waters earlier in his career than did Calzaghe and has had to endure some uncertainty after intended opponent Ryan Coyne withdrew at short notice.

Hawk, a Native American who campaigned at cruiserweight until 2010, brings a record of 23-2 with one drawn to the bout and is determined to make the most of his unexpected title chance.

"It is a great opportunity for someone like me to showcase my talent in a world title bid," he said. "I'm 100 percent good, in great physical shape and I am ready to shock the world."

Mares, a former bantamweight champ who claimed the vacant WBC super bantamweight title with a unanimous decision over Eric Morel in El Paso on April 21, brings an unbeaten record of 24 wins with one draw and 13 knockouts to his first suer bantamweight defence.

He expects Moreno, another former bantamweight champion who is stepping up in weight, to provide a difficult test.

"This will be a very good fight, a very tough one that will bring out the best in me and the best in both of us," Mares said.

"This is the kind of fight the fans want, a pretty even fight, you could say, between two world champions going at it from the opening bell."

Moreno (33-1-1 with 12 knockouts) said multiple appearances on the same card with Mares had made him think about eventually taking on the American, and he's ready.

"It's a fight that has been talked about before. I think that I'm ready and it's going to be a very, very good fight," he said.

Mares knows that Moreno's speed and boxing skills could make for a difficult fight.

"I think this could be a more mentally exhausting fight than a physically exhausting one for me," Mares said. "I know I have to be mentally sharp. With Moreno's style, if you miss, you cannot become frustrated. You have to keep working, and that is one of the biggest keys for me."

Also on the card, Mexico's Leo Santa Cruz puts his International Boxing Federation bantamweight world title on the line against Victor Zaleta.

Cruz, who owns a record of 21-0 with 1 draw and 12 knockouts, will be making the second defence of the title he won with a unanimous decision over South African Vusi Malinga on June 2.

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