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Ben Shalom: Pressure Is On Boxxer, And Clarke, Ahead Of Wardley Showdown

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Ben Shalom has revealed the sense of “pressure” on Boxxer and Frazer Clarke ahead of his British and Commonwealth heavyweight title fight against Fabio Wardley.

They fight on Sunday at London’s O2 Arena, long after they had first appeared on course to do so, and following long-term calls from Wardley and the heavyweight’s then-promoter, rivals Matchroom, for them to be matched.

That those attempts had been so public contributed to accusations that Shalom and Clarke had been attempting to avoid what has since become an even more essential fight, but for all of Clarke’s apparent willingness to take it previously, given Shalom had preached the need for patience, the heavyweight will need to deliver to justify his approach and the delay.

On the occasion of his ninth professional contest Clarke, 32, enters his first true test and perhaps even does so as the underdog, yet Shalom said: “There is a lot of pressure on us and Frazer, but we are just delighted to be able to put on a big night.

“I wanted to make it for a while. We got a lot of criticism last year for Frazer not taking the fight. If Frazer wins, he becomes the fastest fighter to become the British heavyweight champion. We are moving him at quite a pace; we felt it would have been irresponsible from an ability standpoint not to give him longer fights in rounds. He has had that early in his career, and now he is headlining at The O2. Because of everything that happened last year, it has now become a monster fight. 

“It is a monster fight that pays more than anything anyone would have dreamed of at that time, and they now get to headline The O2. Fabio, I know he is pleased, and so is Frazer, so they both now have a huge night to see who is better. 

“Personally, obviously, I am delighted to make the fight. But there was a lot of pressure to make it, too.”

Shalom and Boxxer succeeded Eddie Hearn and Matchroom with Sky Sports after Matchroom signed a broadcast agreement with DAZN,and he has therefore come to be perceived as under pressure to compete with Hearn, whose influence previously undermined the reputations of Boxxer and Clarke.  

Asked how personal Sunday’s fight therefore feels to him, Shalom responded: “For me, it was making the fight happen and as big as possible. We have done everything possible for Frazer to have the experience needed to prepare for the fight. Yes, he already has experience, and he believed he was ready for a British title when he made his debut. 

“As a promoter, your job is to make the fight as big as possible; make sure you make the fight and that your fighters are as well prepared as possible. We have ticked all those boxes, so our job is done and we can now enjoy a huge fight for British boxing. 

“It is big [on a personal level between the fighters]. They have been through a lot together. I think Fabio Wardley’s name has grown since that situation, but ultimately, there will be respect there. They are working extremely hard and getting well-paid, but it is a crossroads fight. 

“I think it is one of those fights where there is so much opportunity for the winner. You look at that heavyweight division and the money on offer – so when you have those big Sky Sports nights, that catapult pay-per-view stars… 

“You have seen it with [Carl] Froch, [David] Haye, ‘AJ’ [Anthony Joshua] and things like that. Those two will potentially have millions watching that fight. That is what is going to create a star. They will both come out the better for it, but one of them will go on to huge things in the heavyweight division and into the top echelon of the division. 

“It is an exciting time. Yes, it is personal, but it is personal because of how much it will mean to both for their careers.

“You have Fabio with Ben Davison, who is on a hot streak right now and will be looking at Frazer and preparing him very well. Equally, Frazer is having a great camp with Richard Riakpohre and Angel Hernandez, with fantastic sparring. Frazer has some great experience and has shared the ring with some of the very best, and he has to use all that experience, ring IQ and ability to win the fight.

“Frazer has to take these risks; has to take these tests. Yes, it is early, but he wants to achieve things in this sport and the heavyweight division.

“He is going to have to take these tests. This is a big test but the Frazer Clarke who I know – the one who has been in the WSB [World Series of Boxing], has fought some serious guys. 

“It is all about matching Fabio Wardley’s grit, determination, and work-rate, and if he can do that, he is the better fighter. I am confident, but it is heavyweight boxing and anything can happen, which is why there is so much interest in the fight.” 

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