Frazer Clarke has reportedly pulled out of the purse bids for an ordered fight with British heavyweight champion Fabio Wardley. The news came to light when Eddie Hearn, whose Matchroom Boxing were aiming to stage the contest, claimed on social media that rival promoters BOXXER had withdrawn their man from the fight.
Sky Sports, the exclusive broadcaster of BOXXER events, reported on Tuesday that promoter Ben Shalom was offering Wardley a “career-highest payday” and a “potential record purse for a British title fight” in order to face Clarke. But this bold statement was quickly shot down by Wardley himself, who replied “"No they haven't, they offered me less than I got for my last fight".
Obviously this offer being publicly rebuffed was the final straw for Shalom and BOXXER, with Clarke understood to be abdicating his position as British heavyweight championship mandatory. Hearn put it best in his Twitter statement when he said the move was “Robbing the fighters of opportunity and the fans of a brilliant fight.”
Fans are sadly becoming accustomed to having potentially exciting bouts ripped away from them. Tyson Fury is yet to engage either Oleksandr Usyk or Anthony Joshua despite frequently arguing he fancies the fights. Terence Crawford vs Errol Spence Jr is the most pendulous will they-won’t they since Ross and Rachel. Artur Beterbiev vs Dmitry Bivolm arguably the most obvious and satisfying match-up in boxing, is being risked to the whims of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
Clarke vs Wardley would have been a small-scale win for the long-suffering fan. A step up in class for the 16-0 Wardley who, despite having ten more fights, has never met a talent like the Olympic bronze medalist. But it would also have been a step-up for ‘Big Fraze’ in professional terms. While he has mixed with the world’s finest amateurs, his six opponents in the paid ranks have firmly been journeymen. While it is entirely normal for a novice pro to fight a few soft touches early on, fans were understandably excited to see Clarke step it up against a solid operator in Wardley.
But it looks like the public will have to wait a while longer to see the 31-year-old Team GB face a genuine challenge. Clarke steps through the ropes against 5-1-1 ‘Dirty’ Harry Armstrong in his next bout, which takes place in June. It was expected to be the final step on his road to a British title fight. Now it is just another one-sided, unsatisfying chapter in a stalling career.
The negotiating table is overtaking the boxing ring as the place where disputes are settled in the sport. It is mind-numbing for those that have devoted their lives to boxing. Wardley must now face an opponent sure to draw less mainstream attention than Clarke. ‘Big Fraze’ moves on to fights that won’t draw nearly the same interest. Even those holding the pursestrings lose out, with less lucrative options on the table for their respective clients.
Boxing simply has to stop doing this. The new generation of potential fans are voting with their feet. They love the framework of boxing. The rings, the rounds, the gloves. The conflict resolution in its most visceral form. The blood and the belief. But the fact these new fans are tuning in to watch Jake Paul, KSI, and Astrid Wett do what the professionals can’t is telling. Boxing will always be great as a sporting format, but the way it is delivered has to improve. The new generation would rather watch evenly-matched fights between interesting personalities than one-sided ones that feature a world class fighter. The Clarke-Wardley collapse is a symptom of a wider problem. If boxing can’t get its big fights in the ring soon, nobody will be around to watch them when they are eventually staged.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change