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‘Modern-Day Classic’ Fabio Wardley-Frazer Clark Comes at Opportune Time for U.K. Boxing

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Boxxer promoter Ben Shalom hailed Sunday’s “modern-day classic” between heavyweights Fabio Wardley and Frazer Clarke, as well as its influence on British boxing, at a time when the domestic fight scene is under threat from the ambitions of Saudi Arabia.

Frank Warren (Queensberry Promotions) and Eddie Hearn (Matchroom) have long been Britain’s most influential fight promoters, but the vast riches on offer in Saudi Arabia appear to make what remains such a young a fight culture increasingly appear a priority – and potentially to the detriment of boxing in the U.K.

Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, compatriots of Wardley and Clarke, are two of the world’s three leading heavyweights – yet they are set to fight each other in Saudi Arabia rather than the U.K., should they agree a date in future. Lower-profile but talented fighters like Hamzah Sheeraz have similarly made little secret of their desire to fight in the Middle East soon.

Wardley, whose nose was bleeding heavily from the third round on, and Clarke, who recovered from a knockdown in the fifth, enhanced their profiles and reputations when they fought to a draw via scores of 114-113, 112-115 and 113-113. Shalom was also under pressure after delaying a fight between the long-term rivals for a year, in the belief that Clarke, 32, needed more experience.

“It was significant for British boxing … with everything going on in the Middle East,” Shalom said. “Which is great, to show what a British title can deliver in The O2, the biggest [indoor] arena we’ve got in this country; and to have an atmosphere like that was special.

Shalom believes Wardley-Clarke figures to be remembered for quite some time.

“As a fan, it was incredible,” he said. “Frazer did enough [to deserve victory] so I’m slightly gutted, but it was a fantastic fight and that’s all you can hope for.

“No one can prepare for something like that. That was very, very unique. Very unique. One of the best fights I’ve ever seen live.”

Referencing Dillian WhyteAnthony Joshua in 2015 as the last great British heavyweight fight, Shalom said Wardley-Clarke was “definitely” better.

“It was Frazer’s to win,” he said. “A little more experience, and without the point deduction – he did get caught on that knockdown – then he does win the fight. It is his to win.”

Such recognition came two weeks after Brad Pauls and Nathan Heaney fought to a similarly entertaining draw for the British middleweight title.

Shalom, relatively reserved under usual circumstances, was among those regularly out of his seat towards the end of Sunday’s fight, to remonstrate referee Steve Gray and encourage Clarke. Whyte was among those seated ringside and behaving similarly in support of Wardley, 29, who retained his British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles.

“It was intense,” Shalom said. “It was intense. It was a fucking crazy night. I’m close to Frazer, and it’s like what Fabio said – it’s a great fight for the fans, but when it’s someone you both care about, it’s a lot of punishment they’ve both taken. I’m in awe of both of them. Not many people do that for a living; they put it all on the line. Thank God they came out safe.

“It was on a knife edge, wasn’t it, from Round 1? There’s so much on the line there. Small details matter. That low blow cost Frazer the fight, which is disappointing. It’s the small details. Everyone was invested, and it was just a great fight.”

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