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‘Gutted’ Clarke Targets Rematch After Draw With Wardley

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Frazer Clarke targeted a rematch with Fabio Wardley after blaming himself for the fact his rival retained the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles at the conclusion of their entertaining draw.

The finest British heavyweight title fight since that between Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte in 2015 was scored 114-113 for Wardley, 115-112 for Clarke and 113-113 at London’s O2 Arena and proved sufficiently competitive a rematch immediately became both fighters’ biggest possible fight.

Clarke, 32, responded convincingly to being knocked down in the fifth round and being deducted a point in the seventh, and to the extent he was unfortunate not to be awarded victory and therefore to inflict Wardley’s first defeat. 

He had entered the fight as a narrow underdog but his superior boxing abilities often made Wardley, 29 and bleeding heavily from his nose from the third round, look raw.

“I’m gutted,” Clarke 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 and I wanted them titles for my kids. 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. I wouldn’t say he’s the biggest puncher I’ve ever been in with, but he definitely hits hard enough to make you wary of going at him like that.

“He definitely hit me with a shot [in the fifth round]. I was going backwards. The point deduction, there was definitely no intentional low blow there – that’s not me. I’ve got a lot of respect for the authorities in this game. The referees. The judges. I just think there might have been a little bit of inconsistency – he got warned three or four times for the back hand. Maybe if he gets a point off for consistently doing that, then, who knows?”

Clarke had been criticised when attempts to make the fight between the rivals a year ago proved unsuccessful, but his performance would make him the favourite in the event of a rematch.

“Winning the fight would have really rubbed it in [the critics’] faces,” he said. “I didn’t win. I drew. People can talk about being proud – this and that – at the end of the day the titles aren’t coming back with me. It’s not a loss; it’s a draw. I’ve spoken to the team. ‘Let’s keep our chin up – we’ll build on this.’ For everyone who doubted me, my heart and stuff – I’m a Clarke, I come from my dad. If there’s one thing I’ve got it’s the heart of a lion.

“We all thought I did enough. The rounds I won I won a lot more clear. I know he had a few attacks and he’s got a big crowd in there – every time he throws the right hand they go crazy. If that’s an empty stadium, is it scored differently? Possibly. But like I say, I respect the authorities in boxing. Gutted, yes. I take full responsibility for my hand not being raised. I should have done more, and I would have been a champion.

“I’ve gotta believe in myself a little bit more. It’s my first 12-rounder; my ninth fight. Going forward, you’ll see that. 

“Fabio’s done fantastic in his career so far but I thought I was the better man. Such is life. Such is boxing. You need the right dance partner, and I had it [in Wardley].” 

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