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Nathan Cleverly to defend title against undefeated Sergey Kovalev

Nathan Cleverly successfully defended his WBO title against Robin Krasniqi in April. (Scott Heavey/Getty Images) Nathan Cleverly successfully defended his WBO title against Robin Krasniqi in April. (Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

WBO light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly will defend his title against Sergey Kovalev on August 17th in Cardiff, Wales, Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva, told SI.com. The fight will be part of a split site tripleheader broadcast on HBO.

Kovalev-Cleverly will be the co-main event for HBO’s card headlined by IBF middleweight titleholder Daniel Geale’s defense against Darren Barker.

“At this point, we are putting the finishing touches on the contracts,” Duva said. “Sergey is very excited to get the chance to win his first world title on August 17th in Wales. This cannot help but be a non-stop, all action brawl. The real winners will be the fans who get to watch this great fight in Wales, on HBO, Box Nation and throughout the rest of the world, including Sergey’s home country of Russia.”

Kovalev (21-0) is one of the fastest rising stars in the light heavyweight division. On Monday, the IBF ruled that Kovalev (21-0) was the mandatory challenger for titleholder Bernard Hopkins. But Kovalev’s promoter, Main Events, was already deep into negotiations with Cleverly, a fight that HBO wanted to buy. Though Kovalev publicly expressed a desire to fight Hopkins, he decided the chance to fight for a world title immediately and build a relationship with HBO was too important to pass up. 

“My goal has always been to win the world title as soon as possible,” Kovalev said. “So I decided to take the first opportunity that was offered to me. I have dreamed for many years about fighting on HBO. I look forward to going to Wales to fight with Cleverly and I congratulate him for accepting this challenge.”

HBO is preparing to make a significant investment in Kovalev. According to a source, HBO’s cameras will follow Kovalev for a “Two Days” special that will air after his fight. Though Duva said there were no guarantees made for any further fights, there is an “understanding with HBO that they want to go with [Kovalev] going forward.” The light heavyweight division is loaded with television-friendly talent, including titleholder Adonis Stevenson, who won the WBC belt with a stunning first round knockout of Chad Dawson earlier this month. 

In addition, super middleweight champion Andre Ward -- considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in boxing -- is expected to eventually move up to light heavyweight.

-- Chris Mannix

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