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Fabio Wardley, Frazer Clarke Fight To Draw In Bruising British Heavyweight Title Fight

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Frazer Clarke (Left) and Fabio Wardley trade blows during their March 31 British heavyweight title fight at The O2 Arena in London. Photo Credit: Boxxer

by Declan Warrington | 

Before Fabio Wardley made his way to his post-fight press conference one of his handlers could be heard asking for a pair of sunglasses the heavyweight could wear to mask the considerable damage to his face.

It came as a surprise that the British and Commonwealth champion was even making himself available to speak. There were those at broadcasters Sky Sports who feared that so taxing was his split decision draw with Frazer Clarke that neither fighter would be available.

Instead, shortly after Clarke had spoken and demanded a rematch follow their entertaining and dramatic draw at London’s O2 Arena, Wardley, apparently unable to find the sunglasses at least one of those around him had sought, arrived wearing a hat he wore at an angle to cover as much as possible of his disfigured features – something he ultimately largely failed to achieve.

“It’s an option, isn’t it?” he responded when asked about the potential rematch the 32-year-old Clarke and Ben Shalom, of Boxxer, had just finished speaking so positively about. “The fans are probably going to ask for that. I’m never going to count a draw as a win, but I’ve still got my belts, and there’s still a lot of options on the table for me to look around.

“Whether it be the rematch; whether it be other options; whether it be something else. We’ll take some time, and then we’ll reassess.”

His inability to hide his physical discomfort and the fact that he was so non-committal made it tempting to conclude that a rematch is something he may attempt to avoid, but Dillian Whyte, so influential in his career, has earned significant money through being similarly cagey, and it is likelier that he has learned from Whyte and knows, as Shalom had already said, that a demand for a rematch would make a fight between them even bigger second time around.

At a time when Britain’s domestic fight scene has been threatened by the ambitions of Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom in Saudi Arabia, so entertaining a contest was not only valuable for British boxing two weeks after Brad Pauls and Nathan Heaney had so exciting a fight for the British middleweight title, but for two of the fighters whose long-term futures appear likely to remain in the UK.

The 29-year-old Wardley had appeared fortunate that scores of 114-113, 112-115 and 113-113 were awarded by the three ringside judges in London, even at the conclusion of 12 rounds in which Clarke was once knocked down and had another point deducted for a low blow. He had also appeared fortunate the ringside doctor approved him fighting on when in the 10th round the referee Steve Gray asked him for an inspection of the damage to Wardley’s heavily bleeding nose.

“It’s not an ideal way to box,” Wardley continued. “It’s not an ideal way to fight. It definitely takes some years off your life, and worries the people around you, so it’s not something I’m planning to do too often.

“As soon as [Whyte] got in the ring he was immediately telling me how proud he is; how much he loves me; how much he loved that fight. He knew that heart was in me. I’m from the same cloth that he is; I’m built the same way he is. He’s been in those wars and he’s come up, and I’m going through them as well. Mine was going to come sooner or later, and I don’t want to be in too many more of them – I’ve probably knocked off a few years of my life for that. But it’s all in the name of a good bit of fun.

“I was worried about my mum. ‘She’s not gonna like this. They are not gonna enjoy this one.’

“My nose has seen better days. It’s not broken. I’ve had a scar on there for a while now that keeps opening up; it’s not the most helpful in the middle of a fight but it’s not broken. It’s perfectly fine.

“That fight was one for the books. That British title brings out a lot in people, and definitely between me and Frazer, it brought out the best in us. One for the history [books], because we know how much that belt means to people and how much it means to people and means to us. We put on a hell of a show.”

It was in 2015 when Whyte so memorably went toe-to-toe with Anthony Joshua until being stopped in their fight for the British heavyweight title, and as a consequence he secured a rematch with Joshua in the summer of 2023 and only missed out when a failed drugs test meant he had to pull out.

Clarke is increasingly likelier to secure an immediate rematch, but couldn’t hide his disappointment despite, as the pre-fight narrow underdog, his reputation being considerably enhanced on the occasion of only his ninth fight.

“I’m gutted,” he said. “I went in there to take the titles back to my babies, and they’re not coming back. Hopefully we can run it back. I think we can do that again.

“I’m a winner, and I’m gutted. I wanted to take them titles back to Burton-on-Trent. This past week I’ve had people real close to me lose family members, so this is not pain. That’s real pain. I’m healthy. I’ve come through the fight. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve showed I can do something in this sport – I really can.

“I knew he was tough. We’ve seen it before – he gets hit and he comes alive, so I was expecting that. I’m kicking myself a little bit, thinking, ‘Why didn’t you just turn the screw a little bit?’. At one point – you feel someone’s energy just go. But this is a man that’s had so many knockouts – you’ve gotta be a bit wary.”

Clarke had been building a convincing lead when he was caught with a wild right hand towards the conclusion of the fifth round, and may reflect that he was saved by the bell to end the round so quickly following him meeting the referee’s count of eight. Wardley’s nose was by then already bleeding, owing to the consistency of Clarke’s jab, and on account of everything he can be expected to learn from a fight he appeared to have just done enough to have won would be the favourite to win a rematch.

It was at Tokyo 2020 where he won his Olympic bronze medal, and where Ben Whittaker also won silver. The talented Whittaker earlier won his seventh professional contest when he earned a score of 78-73 over fellow light heavyweight Leon Willings.

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