On a Hectic Boxing Weekend, Fabio Wardley and Frazer Clarke Saved the Best for Last


By Arne K. Lang

One of the busiest boxing weekends in recent memory concluded at London’s O2 Arena on Easter Sunday where undefeated British heavyweights Fabio Wardley and Frazer Clarke battled in a 12-round contest with a convoy of domestic and regional belts on the line. This was the most compelling fight of this description since former amateur rivals Daniel Dubois and Nathan Gorman clashed at this same venue in July of 2019.

Dubois vs Gorman was a one-sided affair. Dubois, dominant from the get-go, eliminated the Irish Traveler in the fifth frame. Wardley vs Clarke was a horse of a different color. At the end of the bruising battle, the judges could not agree on the winner.

Fabio Wardley, a Dillian Whyte protégé from the clammy seaport city of Ipswich, was 17-0 heading in and had knocked out 16 straight after hearing the final bell in his pro debut, a 4-rounder. In his previous bout, he had won the vacant BBBofC heavyweight title with a 7th-round stoppage of previously undefeated David Adeleye.

Frazer Clarke, three years older at age 32, had only eight fights under his belt, but was more experienced. A bronze medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, the Londoner’s deep amateur background included an 8-0 mark in 5-round fights. By contrast, Wardley had no amateur fights whatsoever unless one included a brief fling with so-called white-collar boxing.

Early on, it was apparent that the ex-Olympian was the better boxer. Clarke punched straight from the shoulder in the classic British way, whereas Wardley’s punches had more loop to them. But the Ipswich man, a small favorite in the betting, was the aggressor and more heavy-handed. Near the end of the fifth round, he caught the retreating Clarke with a right hand that put the Londoner on the canvas.

Wardley had another 10-8 round in the seventh when Clarke had a point deducted for a low blow. But Clarke certainly had his moments and it was Wardley who ended the fight more marked-up with a leaky nose and a purplish lump under his right eye. The scores were 115-112 Clarke, 114-113 Wardley, and 113-113.

Not all draws are fan-friendly, but this one certainly was. In post-fight reports, the word “classic” is being bandied about.

The entertaining mill begs for a do-over. Frazer Clarke would welcome it. “I should have done more,” he said, “[but] the rounds I won I won a lot more clear.”

Fabio Wardley indicated that he planned to take a less thorny assignment in his next fight. “I don’t know if I can do too many of these in my career, take off too much, put my family and friends through too much panic,” he said.

Over in Saudi Arabia where Wardley reportedly earned his biggest payday for the Adeleye match (on the undercard of the crossover fight between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou), there’s a fellow who could likely make Wardley reconsider and proceed directly to a rematch. That fellow would be HE Turki Alalshikh, a man infatuated with heavyweights and the possessor of a bottomless bankroll as the chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority.


Another heavyweight of note, Kubrat Pulev, was also in action this past weekend. Fighting on his home turf in Sofia, Bulgaria, Pulev won a 12-round decision over German-Ukrainian hulk Ihor Shavadzutskyi. Pulev won nine of the 12 rounds on all three cards, boosting his record to 31-3 (14 KOs). His first two losses came in world title fights with Wladimir Klitschko (TKO by 5) and Anthony Joshua (KO by 9). His other setback was a loss by split decision to Derek Chisora.

With the victory, Pulev may go on to latch hold of a good payday against a more reputable opponent, but time is running out for him. He’s now 42 years old.

Shavadzutskyi, who was 11-1 heading in, filled the breach when Mahmoud Charr was forced to pull out after suffering an injury to his left biceps in training. Had Charr been fit to fight, their match would have been sanctioned for a version of the world heavyweight title by the onerous WBA. It would have been Charr’s first defense of the title he won six-and-a-half years ago.
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