Cleverly retains WBO title

Basingstoke Gazette: Nathan Cleverly stopped Shawn Hawk in eight rounds in Los Angeles Nathan Cleverly stopped Shawn Hawk in eight rounds in Los Angeles

Nathan Cleverly retained his WBO light-heavyweight title with an eighth-round stoppage win over Shawn Hawk in Los Angeles.

Defending the belt for the fourth time, Cleverly floored a game challenger three times in an eye-catching showing that keeps him on track for high-profile unification showdowns in 2013. Cleverly's superior skills and hand speed bamboozled Hawk throughout, although the champion carelessly took some heavy shots in return.

He stepped up the pace in round seven and superb attacks to the body lay at root of Hawk being knocked down twice. The challenger was on the floor again in the next session and, when a sickening left hook to the kidneys left Hawk sagging, referee Tony Crebs called a halt after one minute and 53 seconds of the round.

Hawk was only confirmed as the 25-year-old's opponent on Monday after original foe Ryan Coyne was forced out due a legal dispute with his promoter Don King

Cleverly moves to an unblemished 25-fight record with his 12th victory inside the distance, while Hawk slips to 23-3-1 after failing to hear the final bell for the first time as a professional.

"This proves I'm ready for the States, I just hope their best fighters are ready to fight me," Cleverly told BBC Sport Wales.

"I had a late replacement opponent and that can be dangerous as he came in with nothing to lose. He was quite a big puncher with a good knockout record.

"But I felt great early on and thought the writing was on the wall for him - I felt unstoppable in there. I've enjoyed the experience and feel I made the most of a great opportunity of fighting in the States."

Cleverly expected a hostile reception but felt his performance won over the home crowd.

"I got some good exposure on American TV and I think the crowd enjoyed the fight," he added. "They booed me as I went in but some fans gave me a standing ovation when I left the ring, which shows my exciting style can win people over here."

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