BRITAIN’S biggest men were under the greatest pressure on Sunday at the European Olympic qualification at the Le Grand Dôme in Villebon-sur-Yvette on the outskirts of Paris, France. Frazer Clarke and Cheavon Clarke, at super-heavyweight and 91kgs respectively, had to finish in the final four in their divisions to win a place at the Tokyo Games. It meant they had to win their quarter-final. There would be no second chance for either man.
Frazer had a rambunctious Turk to contend with. Berat Acar charged through the GB super-heavyweight’s jabs to sling overarm shots at Clarke. But Frazer, edging ahead after the first round, unleashed his power punches in the second, giving Acar a standing count. The two finished the contest slugging hefty hooks into one another but Clarke would not be derailed. He took the decision unanimously and his place at the Olympic Games. This was no ordinary victory for Frazer Clarke. It was a result a decade in the making. In the London 2012 Olympic cycle he had been Anthony Joshua’s understudy, he had vied with Joe Joyce to go to Rio 2016. Now he is an Olympian in his own right.
As is Cheavon Clarke. The heavyweight had to work for it. Young Greek Vagkhan Nanitzanian was active and strong. But Cheavon was that touch more clever with his jab, his movement and the placement of heavy right crosses. He varied attacks to the body as well as the head and took a split decision win.
Pat McCormack didn’t have leave it to a welterweight box off or a quota place based off his world ranking. He confirmed his place at the Tokyo Olympics with a clear unanimous victory over Georgia’s Eskerhan Madiev. Pat was fast, accurate and timed his combination attacks well to become a two-time Olympian.
GB has the McCormack twins qualified, Ireland’s brother and sister duo, Aidan Walsh and Michaela Walsh, also secured places at the Olympics in July. Aidan boxed with his hands low, staying mobile as he popped in punches. His reluctance to engage enraged Ukraine’s Yevhenii Barabanov but the younger Walsh clung on in a desperate third round and won a split decision. Michaela Walsh was relaxed, countering Sweden’s Stephanie Thour and calmly outboxing her to receive a unanimous verdict and the ticket to her first Olympic Games.