HBO Boxing After Dark Preview: Cleverly vs. Kovalev, Geale vs. Barker, Romero vs. Martinez


By: William Holmes

HBO presents a split site Boxing After Dark card in Cardiff, Wales and Atlantic City, NJ on Saturday night. Legitimate world titles will be up for grabs in the junior featherweight, middleweight, and light heavyweight divisions.

Promoters around the globe have a better chance at putting their fighters on national television with more exposure ever since Golden Boy Promotions and HBO’s nasty and publicized split came to fruition. Fighters from Main Events, Gary Shaw Productions, and Frank Warren Promotions will be competing on HBO.

The following is a preview of the televised bouts on Saturday night.

ATLANTIC CITY: Jonathan Romero (23-0) vs. Kiko Martinez (28-4); IBF Junior Featherweight Title

Saturday will mark Revel Casino’s first foray into professional boxing, and two title fights is not a bad way to start.

Romero and Martinez are both solid junior featherweights that are in the prime of their athletic careers. Romero, however. has the better record of the two and also has the better amateur background.

Romero competed for Colombia in the 2008 Olympics but did not medal. Martinez fought as an amateur but never fought in the Olympics, despite claiming that he could have gone to the Olympics and represented Spain.

Romero will also have a height and reach advantage over his opponent. Martinez is the significantly stronger puncher: twenty of his fights have ended in a stoppage, while Romero has only has twelve stoppages.

Neither fighter has faced world class opposition. Romero won the IBF belt from Alejandro Lopez with a close split decision in February of this year. He has also faced and defeated Efrain Esquivias, Chris Avalos, and Luis Zambrano.

Martinez is the former EBU Super Bantamweight Champion. He lost his belt to Carl Frampton in February of this year by a 9th round TKO. He has also lost to Takalani Ndlovu and Rendall Munroe twice. His record lacks any notable victories over quality opposition. The best fighters he has defeated to date are Arsen Martirosyan and Jason Booth.

This will be a decent test for Romero, but Martinez probably doesn’t deserve a title shot. Romero should be victorious.

ATLANTIC CITY: Daniel Geale (29-1) vs. Darren Barker (25-1); IBF Middleweight Title

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Daniel Geale takes on Darren Barker

The main event for the Atlantic City card may help determine a future opponent for HBO stalwarts Gennady Golovkin or Sergio Martinez. Both are over thirty years old, and need a victory over a big name opponent to legitimize carrying on.

Geale and Barker have a deep amateur background and both won a gold medal in the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Barker won it as a light welterweight and Geale won it as a welterweight. Geale also represented Australia in the 2000 Olympics.

Barker will have a slight height advantage inside the ring and both will have about the same amount of power. Geale has stopped fifteen of his opponents, while Barker has stopped sixteen. Barker has had two stoppage victories in his past five fights, while Geale has not had a stoppage victory since October of 2010.

Geale won the IBF Middleweight title from Sebastian Sylvester in May of 2011 and has since defended that title four times. He even beat the beloved Felix Sturm in his “home” turf in Germany. His only loss came to fellow Australian Anthony Mundine in 2009, a defeat he later avenged. He has also defeated the likes of Osumanu Adama and Roman Karmazin.

Barker is best known in the USA for putting up a spirited effort against Sergio Martinez before being stopped in the eleventh round in a title fight in 2011. He has since won two fights in a row against Kerry Hope and Simone Rotolo. However, Saturday will only be the third time he has ever fought outside of the United Kingdom. He fought once in Canada in 2008 and his fight against Martinez was in Atlantic City.

Geale is the better tested and more experienced boxer. He won’t stop Barker but he should be able to pull of the decision victory.

CARDIFF: Nathan Cleverly (26-0) vs. Sergey Kovalev (21-0); WBO Light Heavyweight Title

This bout in Cardiff, Wales is by far the most intriguing bout of the night and the winner would have a legitimate claim to being the best light heavyweight in the world.

Cleverly will have about a two inch height and reach advantage over Kovalev, but Kovalev is a significantly harder puncher. Kovalev has stopped an incredible nineteen opponents during his career, while Cleverly has only stopped twelve. In fact, Kovalev’s last nine fights ended in a TKO or KO and none of those fights went past the sixth round.

Kovalev has been getting a lot of air time on the NBC Sports Network ever since he signed with Main Events Promotions. His status really took off when he demolished Gabriel Campillo in three rounds at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

However, Kovalev has yet to be seriously tested in the ring. His opposition has been good, but not great. He has defeated Cornelius White, Lionell Thompson, Darnell Boone, and Roman Simakov. In fact, one of Kovalev’s opponents, Roman Simakov, sadly passed away three days after their fight.

Kovalev has looked like a machine, but Cleverly has the style to give Kovalev problems.

It’s highly unlikely that anybody will beat Kovalev if they choose to go-toe to-toe with him and engage in a firefight. But someone who is willing to box and engage wisely may be the first man to beat him.

Cleverly has youth on his side as well as experience. He’s been the WBO Light Heavyweight Champion since 2010 and has defeated a every contender since then. He beat the future opponent for Bernard Hopkins, Karo Murat, by stoppage in 2010. Since then he has defeated the likes of Nadjib Mohammedi, Tony Bellow, Tommy Karpency, Shawn Hawk, and Robin Krasniqi.

Cleverly will also be fighting in front of a passionate and vocal home crowd. British fans have been known to give their fighters that extra edge during a tough match and they may be the equalizer on Saturday.

If this bout goes past six rounds Cleverly, will have the edge. But Kovalev has looked too good and too strong in recent bouts: this writer thinks Kovalev will stop Cleverly early.

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