Fabio Wardley vs Frazer Clarke: An old-school clash built on setbacks and suspicion

It was almost exactly one year ago that Fabio Wardley was ordered to defend the British heavyweight title against Frazer Clarke. At the time, the fight frankly made too much sense for a business as convoluted as boxing.

With match-ups as rational and rousing as this one, discussions come first, then delays. But 12 months on, Wardley and Clarke have arrived at a fight with major ramifications – for the heavyweight division, and their legacies.

This bout, which will headline at London’s O2 Arena on Easter Sunday, marks the end of the first phase of each man’s professional career. Both boxers will enter the dome by the Thames with a valuable zero on their record; Wardley, at 17-0 (16 knockouts), has the greater experience in the pro ranks, while Clarke (8-0, 6 KOs) is newer to this field but has plenty of amateur pedigree – including a bronze-medal venture at the Tokyo Olympics.

Contrasting routes but common world-title aspirations almost led Wardley and Clarke to one another in 2023, but “Big Fraze”’s team removed their fighter from purse bids. Wardley took aim at Clarke over the episode; Clarke took aim at his own aides. Wardley went on to finish David Adeleye and pick up the Commonwealth belt; Clarke went on to beat Mariusz Wach and David Allen. Finally, in February, these rivals shared a ring, facing off at Wembley Arena to confirm their title fight.

Days later, Wardley and Clarke took turns speaking to The Independent about the saga – one that Clarke insists is not built on “hate or bitterness”, though Wardley seems spikier towards his opponent. “I was probably slightly suspicious about whether we’d really get it over the line,” said the champion, 29. “I probably still have 10 per cent reservation at the moment, but overall I’m excited. It’s a big fight on a massive stage; they’re all fantastic milestones and boxes that I’m ticking off in my career. Just fingers, toes and everything else crossed that Frazer gets there.”

Wardley (left) and Clarke facing off before Joshua Buatsi’s win over Dan Azeez (Getty Images)
Wardley (left) and Clarke facing off before Joshua Buatsi’s win over Dan Azeez (Getty Images)

Reflecting on the moment when the fight was finally signed, Clarke said: “I don’t think relief [is the right word], because I thought it was a fight that would be made for the sake of British boxing and the division, but I was happy that we finally got it over the line, because I’m a massive boxing fan. I was glad for myself, Fabio, the broadcaster and promoter. It put a bit of a dark light on myself, Sky and Boxxer last year.

“British boxing is in a good place, but it can be better,” the 32-year-old continued. “We have a few global superstars, and the unfortunate reality is that we’re gonna lose a few of them to overseas fights. So, as the up-and-coming fighters, we have a responsibility to fight here and let the adoring fans come and watch. There’s no atmosphere in the world like at a British title fight. If mega-fights are going to be made overseas, I think British title fights should definitely be done here.”

Wardley, whose fight with Adeleye was held in Saudi Arabia, admitted: “I think British fans felt a bit irked by my first defence being overseas. They feel entitled – and deservedly so, I guess – to be able to buy tickets and see it. With this one, it was a big factor to make sure it was a home fight, to give back to the fans.”

Wardley (left) with Clarke (right) and Boxxer chief Ben Shalom (Getty Images)
Wardley (left) with Clarke (right) and Boxxer chief Ben Shalom (Getty Images)

While Wardley and Clarke are on the same page about the destination of their bout, they are still reading from different scripts when it comes to the journey to get there. “In the days after [the purse-bid episode], there was still an offer that went to Fabio,” Clarke claimed. “So, it wasn’t as if I went away from the idea of this fight; it was still something I firmly wanted, but I had to be patient. I was just cracking on and training, knowing this fight could be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and they managed to get the business together – more so on Fabio’s side than mine, because I agreed to the fight this time last year.”

“I wasn’t the one who pulled out first time around,” Wardley hit back. “I was ready and waiting. Ultimately, if you want to fight, you can make it happen. For whatever reason, a decision made by him or his team, it didn’t happen. They didn’t want it, [but] they feel like he’s ready now. Fine, no problem, ready to go.”

So often with pairings like this, however, there are problems, as there were one year ago. Key figures can be risk-averse – usually not the boxers, but rather their agents and promoters. So, what enabled Wardley and Clarke to overcome such obstacles?

Fabio Wardley

Frazer Clarke




Pro record

17-0 (16 KOs)

8-0 (6 KOs)










Fighting out of

Ipswich, Suffolk

Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire

“I think ambition and self-confidence, especially on my part,” Wardley suggested, perhaps snidely. “I’ve proven before: As long as it’s a big fight and a good scrap, I’m happy to be there. And to Frazer’s credit somewhat, he has – at least now – come across the same mentality. He’s ready to risk it, put it to chance, and see how he comes up.”

“It’s just a professional rivalry, where he’s eager to move on and I’m eager to be British champion,” Clarke said, unmoved. “I’m a traditional fighter and grew up watching people win the British title while they were coming up. It’s part of the journey, it was almost a dream when I was younger. And my dreams go further than that, but it’s obviously one of them.”

Clarke can realise that dream on Easter Sunday, but Wardley can thwart it. The loser may find himself needing a career resurrection.

The undercard action starts at 6pm on Sunday 31 March on Sky Sports Action, with the main fight expected at 10.30pm on Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Main Event