I didn’t expect to be at the Opening Ceremony. I didn’t think we would be allowed to go. But the opportunity came, I wasn’t boxing for six days and I thought this is once in a lifetime, let’s go and do it. I’m glad I did, my kids saw me on TV. I had to do something to get on TV. I’d seen the Uzbeks chanting, the Uruguayans dancing and I thought I’ve got to do something or we’re going to be put to shame here.
The main objective for this Games is get here, get your medal and get home safely. You can’t mix in the Athletes Village. Covid’s already ruined enough stuff, you’d hate to get this far and then be ruled out because you had a positive test. I’m very proud to be part of this team that’s actually here. It’s fantastic. I’m so glad I’m here but it would have been lovely to get involved with everyone else and see the different cultures. I looked off my balcony before the Opening Ceremony and the Americans, as Americans do, had their whole team in a big circle on the grass singing the national anthem at the top of their voices. It was quite special. The New Zealanders were doing the Haka. The Aussies were just smiling at each other. It was a good day.
Peter McGrail losing, I take it quite badly. These are my mates, I see what they put in, it’s difficult. But at the same, as I tried to explain to all the others, that’s not the way I would have liked it to go but that’s the wake up call and that’s the reality of boxing at the Olympics. No fight’s easy. Every fight’s going to be difficult. So if you don’t get it 100% right then, you’re not going to get it. It’s a horrible way to learn the lesson and a harsh way to learn the lesson, with someone who’s so good. But the only thing the rest of the team can do now is learn from that. Peter McGrail is probably the leader of the pack when it comes to being a skillful boxer, look at what he’s achieved. But it just wasn’t to be. I’m just proud of him, a friend for life for me and I’m sure most of the squad.
Even compared to the qualifier in Paris, it was really different in the arena. Such a huge and wonderful stadium, awful shame it’s not going to be full, because it would have been electric in there.
We have to be selfish. We’re in there to get what we came for as individuals so tomorrow’s the time to switch on again.
I couldn’t be more focused. I’ve had a bit more time, just to finalise that sharpness and get the gameplan together. There’s also five or six boxers that have come out here as sparring partners and I’ve got the amazingly talented Delicious Orie who’s out here. He’s up and coming but I couldn’t ask for better rounds, a young lad with lots of ambition, lots of talent who’s in a way doing what I was trying to do for big Joe Joyce in Rio.
I feel relaxed, very confident. I know that I’m in there with quite a handful, Tsotne Rogava from Ukraine, to get started. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to hit the ground running. I don’t want to look too far ahead but after the first one I’m looking to get revenge for the defeat in Paris to Mourad Aliev because that’s who I imagine I would be boxing.
You want to test yourself against the best fighters in the world. At the Opening Ceremony, I was going into the toilet and I bumped into Bakhodir Jalolov, the number one super-heavyweight at the moment, and he said, “Clarke, do you fancy some light sparring tomorrow?” Are you joking, I thought, we’re going to fight each other next week. I didn’t know whether to take it as a compliment he wants to get some good work in or disrespect. Does he think I’m an easy touch that he wants to have a little sparring session with me?!
He’s going to have the shock of his life, I’m telling you.
On Thursday July 29 Frazer Clarke will box Tsotne Rogava in his first bout at the Olympic Games at 4.30am UK time. BBC, Eurosport and Discovery+ are screening the Olympics.