WITH finger nails having already taken a pounding during the Twickenham drama a few hours before, it was perhaps a good thing all round for Welsh sports fans that Nathan Cleverly’s successful defence of his world title was about as one-sided as you can get.
With the home crowd at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena still on cloud nine following Wales’s Triple Crown triumph at HQ, Cleverly completed his part of the bargain in a potential and historic Welsh sporting treble ahead of Sunday’s Carling Cup final between Cardiff City and Liverpool.
He may not have been as sharp and eye-catching as one might have hoped on what was his long-awaited homecoming bout in the principality, but WBO king Cleverly got the job done, maintained his unbeaten record and kept up his hopes of a summer unification showdown with another one of the light-heavyweight division’s big hitters.
By the end of the 12 rounds against game American opponent Tommy Karpency, it didn’t need one of the Welshman’s newest fans, ringside spectator Carol Vorderman, to tell you that the numbers on the judges’ scorecards would add up heavily in Cleverly’s favour.
In fact, all three scored the fight 120-108, and in truth, it was one of the easiest world title fights they will ever have to judge.
That’s not to say Karpency didn’t have his moments. With the strains of ‘Land Of My Fathers’ only just over, the American, a psychiatric nurse by day, seemed to stun Cleverly momentarily with his first punch of the night - at the post-fight press conference the champion actually said Karpency was the toughest man he’d fought.
But after that very brief show of Karpency power it was all one-way traffic though at times you could sense the crowd wanted a big KO to round the day off in style.
By the middle rounds, Karpency looked to be blowing hard but in fairness he found a second wind from somewhere and from about round nine you could feel it was going the distance.
There were a couple of times when Cleverly forced his man into the corner and unleashed several barrages of punches but with a jaw like the American’s it was clear it would take something extra special to put him down.
The important thing though for ‘Clev’ was that he made it 24 undefeated contests as a pro and it was amazing to think that at the same venue just five years earlier he’d been appearing on the undercard of an Enzo Maccarinelli world title bout and now roles had been reversed.
So, what next? Well, promoter Frank Warren has booked the Royal Albert Hall for a show on April 28, the same night that Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson lock horns in their rematch in the States.
Warren and Cleverly clearly want Hopkins next, ideally in Cardiff, but it’s difficult to say what the 47-year-old American veteran will want to do should he win or lose against Dawson.
One thing is for sure, Cleverly, and Welsh boxing, are both in a good place right now and a sell-out crowd on Saturday night simply goes to show that the sport has someone who can take it forward after its recent bad press.
Before the main event, there were wins for all of the other Welsh boxers on the bill in Cardiff.
Maccarinelli had no problems in seeing off Irish journeyman Ciaran Healy inside two rounds at cruiserweight.
The Swansea boxer, who now faces British champion Shane McPhilbin next month, hardly had to break sweat and had his opponent down twice before the contest was stopped.
There was an even quicker victory for Blackwood’s Craig Evans, who was also enjoying a homecoming after his first five fights had been on the road.
His super-featherweight encounter with Marc Callaghan was a total mismatch and proceedings came to an end between rounds one and two with the Englishman unable to continue.
Perhaps the most eye-catching tussle of the event was the all-Welsh light-welterweight dust-up between Lewis Rees and Tony Pace. Gary Lockett-trained Rees would eventually win comfortably on points (60-55) but he didn’t have it all his own way.
Ely’s Francis Robinson, son of former world champion Steve, also had his work cut out against Mark McKray before coming through 39-38 after four tough rounds at light-welter.
Middleweight Liam Williams, trained by Vince Cleverly, won his second pro bout against Tommy Tolan. The 19-year-old from the Rhondda took it 40-36 at the end of four trouble-free rounds.
In the other two fights, former world amateur champion Frankie Gavin impressed in his third-round knockout of Kevin McIntyre while Liverpudlian Liam Smith coasted to an easy points victory over eight rounds against Paul Morby.