HERE’S one for all sports trivia nuts out there - has there ever been a world title fight between boxers who are university graduates?
Well, there’s no question that a number of pugilists have donned the old cap and gown after completing degrees, but it’s highly unlikely two have fought for a world championship belt before.
But that’s exactly what will happen this Saturday when maths boffin Nathan Cleverly defends his WBO light-heavyweight crown against qualified psychiatric nurse Tommy Karpency.
It’s just one of a handful of similarities the pair share and certainly something missing from quite a few boxers’ CVs these days (no prizes for who I’m talking about here!).
As well as their education, Cleverly and Karpency both grew up in small towns that have a proud mining history and both are trained by their fathers, Vince and Tommy Snr respectively.
The one big difference of course is their stature in boxing right now – some bookies are making the Welshman 33-1 on to make a third successful defence of his belt.
You just have to look at the duo’s preparations for their clash at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena.
While both say their training has gone smoothly, Karpency, who hails from Adah, a one-horse town in rural Pennsylvania, has had to marry his gym schedule with a 40-hour-a-week job at a local hospital where he monitors patients with acute psychiatric disorders.
The 26-year-old American knows he is the underdog for the clash with Cleverly but feels the pressure is firmly on the unbeaten champ, who is targeting a big unification fight later this year and can’t afford a slip-up this weekend.
Karpency’s day-to-day job brings its own stresses so he is well used to pressure and is going to give it his all in the Welsh capital.
“It’s a world championship, it’s the pinnacle of the sport, the highest you can get so I’ll do my best to prepare and fight as well as I can on Saturday,” he said.
“Because I’m a contender I have to work full-time and train whereas Nathan just has to train so I’m pretty busy.
“My management where I work has helped me tailor my schedule around my training but 40 hours a week is still a lot of time and we improvised the best we could and it went well.
“The hardest part for me is just putting the shifts in. My job is to medicate and monitor psychiatric patients who are in an acute state of their illness.
“You deal with patients who are belligerent all the time so you get aggressive patients who try to attack you.”
He added: “This was a great opportunity for me to come over and try and win a world title. I know I’m not going to fight Bernard Hopkins or Chad Dawson because they’re looking to fight each other for big pay days.
“I believe he (Cleverly) is as good as they are and I think I’m just as good as they are.
“I think my best attribute is that I will fight anybody anywhere and all the pressure is on Nathan and I’ve got an opportunity of causing an upset.”
Karpency’s manager, Pat Nelson, has been quick to praise both men’s schooling and is in no doubt his fighter can spring what would be a massive surprise.
“Both of these young men have college degrees, both went to university before they got serious in their careers as boxers,” he said.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had two people in a title fight with degrees. Tommy is a professional, not just inside the ring but outside the ring.
“Nathan is a great champion and has a lot of offensive tools but we wouldn’t have taken the fight if we didn’t think Tommy could win.”
Meanwhile, promoter Frank Warren has admitted that boxing “is on trial in the UK this week” after the disgraceful scenes in Germany last weekend.
Warren is in no doubt that Cleverly and Karpency can do their bit to repair some of the damage done by Dereck Chisora and David Haye following their brawl at a press conference in Munich.
Thursday’s media gathering at The Vale Hotel couldn’t have been further from the chaos caused by Chisora and Haye after the former’s world heavyweight title defeat to Vitali Klitschko.
Cleverly had a run-in himself with Tony Bellew last year though that fracas didn’t come to blows and Warren believes his man, and his American opponent, have the temperaments to leave people talking about the fight rather than anything unsavoury.
“Boxing is on trial in the UK this week after what happened in Germany,” said Warren. “It was a great fight in Germany but all the stuff surrounding it was pretty disgraceful and left the sport with, for want of a boxing phrase, a black eye.
“What we have got here (Cleverly v Karpency) is the acceptable face of boxing. These guys have shown great respect to each other and that will be done up until the time they get into the ring.
“But boxing is certainly under the spotlight so let’s hope it’s a good fight on the night, everyone behaves themselves and the fans enjoy it.
“That’s what boxing’s all about; great sportsmanship, great fights and great respect for everybody involved.
“There’s responsibility on all of us. Nobody liked to see what happened in the aftermath of that fight. We’ve had all the anti-boxing brigade out this week and they’ve had a lot of ammunition to throw at the sport.
“I know that 99% of the time everyone treats everyone with respect. This isn’t tiddly-winks, this is a very physical sport, and people have different temperaments and some can’t control themselves which they have to do.
“Nathan has got a great temperament and he’s shown it quite a few times over the last few of years, certainly in the last fight going into the lions’ den in Liverpool when there was a charged atmosphere.
“I think he’s a credit to the sport and I do think that as a world champion you have a responsibility but I don’t need to tell Nathan that.
“I don’t feel I have to stress it. We have had a conversation and talked about it but only a brief conversation because he’s a responsible guy and not that type of person.
“Tommy is a model pro, he’s got a great manager and his father is his trainer and they’re all sensible people.
“All people are different and handle situations in a different way. In Nathan’s case, he saves all his aggression for the first bell and when that bell goes you know there’s going to be fireworks.”
Warren also reiterated his wish to stage a big show for Cleverly in the summer, either at the Millennium Stadium or the Cardiff City Stadium, with Bernard Hopkins as the Welshman’s potential opponent if he beats Chad Dawson on April 28.