Frazer Clarke on his Olympics, his team and his bronze medal. He speaks to John Dennen from Tokyo
FRAZER CLARKE has 25 stitches in the cuts healing over his eyes and a broad smile across his face. Not yet, but soon, he’ll have a bronze medal around his neck. The big man from Burton has had a good Olympic Games. The cuts came from the headbutts that got Mourad Aliev disqualified in their quarterfinal, his satisfaction from the sterling efforts that led to his semi-final against impressive Uzbek Bakhodir Jalolov.
Clarke lost the first two rounds against the Uzbek in their semi-final, but not before shaking Jalolov and handing him a standing count in the second. A big punch had reopened the cut over his right eye. Their bout had to be stopped and Jalolov is a worthy finalist.
“I’ve had seven, eight and 10 [stitches], so there’s a lot of stitches in my face at the minute,” he tells Boxing News. “I knew it was bad. If you watch the fight back, you probably won’t have noticed, a lot of people won’t but I’m literally trying to blindside the referee. I’m an experienced fighter, I’m trying to get round the referee and use my experience. Because I know if he sees that cut, [it’s over]. I didn’t know the extent of it but I knew it was bad because I could see the blood going onto Jalolov’s shoulder when we were in the clinch. So that only comes from a bad cut. So I was trying to stay on the blindside of him for as long as I could. I think I got an extra minute out of it. Obviously the task in front of me and the man that is Jalolov, you’re going to need more than a minute to try and get rid of him because he’s a good fighter. It’s one of them things.”
“[Jalolov] was winning the fight, I’m not delusional. He’s a huge man. I boxed him before. I boxed him when he was a kid, [which Clarke won]. This is six years later and the difference is unbelievable. He was heavy handed and he was long and rangy and he moved well. He made it difficult for me. I couldn’t really get my jab off. I would like to go again because I feel like if I got my tactics right, I could do better. That’s just me as a person. Landing that one right hand [in the second round], I was still losing the round. I’ve had a few people saying to me, you should have won the second,” Frazer said. “It wasn’t enough to win the round. I’m just dead honest. He was winning the fight. The third round I felt like I was going to have a right good go. I had nothing to lose, you’re boxing the number one seed, you’re losing, two rounds down, you’ve got to go for it. I had a little go, the referee’s seen me bleeding everywhere and stopped it, there’s not a lot more I can do is there.”
He had certainly shown the weight of his own punches in that bout. “I’ve got the power. I’ve never doubted it and those that have – they’ve never been in the ring with me. But I’ve definitely got the power, the experience, the skills so I’m looking forward to the next step. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I’ve almost got to go back to school now, I’ve got to start from scratch. I’ve got to get a team together, learn new skills. I’ve got experience but you have to learn new skills, learn a new way of boxing. I probably should try and find some abs in this body. It’s going to be difficult considering I never found them yet but apparently if you work hard and stop eating crap, they are in there,” he laughed. “I can fight that’s the most important thing.”
His Olympics is over, he’s fought his last amateur contest but before he returns from Tokyo, he’ll roar his last two competing team-mates on in their finals on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s over. The journey’s over. A couple of days ago I couldn’t say that you because I was getting teary every time that people mentioned that that was my last amateur bout. It hit me right in the heart and it hurt. It’s a good feeling,” he explained. “So I’m over the moon. I’m buzzing. I haven’t got my medal yet, I’ll get it on Sunday but right now I’m more concerned about Galal [Yafai] being in the final and Lauren [Price]. I’m over the moon for them two,” Clarke said.
He took even more satisfaction at seeing Yafai guarantee himself at least a silver than he did at securing his own bronze. “It was 100% the best moment of my Games,” Frazer insisted. “The way I did get my medal, the fight with Aliev, it wasn’t the way I wanted to get it. I can’t celebrate a disqualification. I just couldn’t do it. So it was a strange one. It’s a great feeling now but I’m a competitor. I wanted to win that fight the right way. Even though it was out of my hands, I’m in there to box. Galal winning yesterday meant more to me than that day. Now it won’t do eventually but at the time it was fantastic.”
Clarke is the captain of this Tokyo squad, the most successful British Olympic boxing team in a hundred years. He has shown real leadership himself in the process. “The team have done so well and I’ll have a big smile on my face but at the same time a heavy heart, gutted for Chev [Clarke], Charley [Davison], Caroline [Dubois], Peter [McGrail. They’ve done fantastic but it just wasn’t to be for them,” Frazer said. “I had the experience and I feel like people could speak to me. It’s a skill which I’ve got without actually knowing I’ve got. I don’t try, it’s something that comes naturally to me and if people enjoy it and people are willing to listen to me and let me be a leader, I’ll do that no problem. But it’s natural and, like I say, I’m surrounded by leaders. I might be the biggest and the loudest but in the background they’re all helping each other and that’s the truth.”
“I’m just enjoying being part of Team GB. Being part of GB Boxing. I’m a little bit stuck for what I do now. I’m dragging Tokyo out as much as I can because I’m going to be lost when I get back. Without being part of this team, I’m going to be a bit lost,” he adds. “The thought of not being part of GB Boxing anymore, it hits me right in the heart, honestly. A third of my life I’ve been through and they’ve seen me through, both my kids have been born and they’ve seen me through that, helped me through the good times, the bad times, people have been there for me. I’ve seen them more than my family. Amazing.”
But one day, who knows, perhaps after his professional career, he might return as coach or performance director like Rob McCracken is now. “I feel like I’ve got experience and knowledge which I could definitely pass on,” he suggests. “One day I reckon I’ll be walking through that gym in Sheffield with a cup of tea and a biscuit a bit like Rob.”
On Sunday, in the final act of this Olympic tournament, he’ll step on to the podium to receive his super-heavyweight bronze medal. “I’ve been myself. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve done it all with a smile on my face. I’ll go on that podium like I’ve won the gold medal. I’ll have a bigger smile than anyone. Because I’m happy person, I’m healthy, my family have supported me. The thing I’m most happy about is the team,” Clarke said. “[The medal] I think it represents quite a few things. Not giving up and believing in yourself when maybe not so many people did. Definitely, definitely, very proud of it and I’ll continue to be very proud of it. It’s more what it means to my family. My family are so proud, to see my nan and grandad crying on facetime… Them moments will be in my heart forever. So it means the world to me.”