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Frazer Clarke wins Olympic debut

Frazer Clarke
LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images
'I know that on my day, if I get it right, I will go all the way,' says Frazer Clarke as he books a super-heavyweight quarterfinal showdown with a familiar rival

GB Boxing team captain, super-heavyweight Frazer Clarke won his Olympic debut at the Kokugukan Arena on Thursday (July 29). He was in control throughout against Tsotne Rogava, marshalling the Ukrainian with jabbing. Clarke maintained his form, cracking down his right cross when Rogava stepped in. The Ukrainian snuck hooks into the body but soon felt the weight of Clarke’s punches as the Briton landed the eye-catching shots. He won a 4-1 split decision and will advance to the quarterfinals.

“It’s a great feeling. Waiting is something I have become very good at, so an extra six days [after the Opening Ceremony] didn’t seem that long to be honest. I was itching to get in there and I had to ease back on the training I was so keen to let my hands go. But I had a couple of days off before this fight and it served me well, as once I got into the ring I was ready to go,” Clarke said. “I’d rate [my performance] probably a 6/10. There are a few more gears for me to go through yet. The first fight is always a bit nerve-racking but I went in there confident and trusting myself, trusting my coaching team and I think I did myself proud and that’s what I was aiming to do.”

Clarke is doing what he can to embrace the Olympic experience. “I’ve tried my best to get here [to the arena to support his teammates] when it’s not going to impact my performance. If I can be here, I will. I feel that’s the type of character I am. I represent Team GB Boxing and Team GB as whole. If you go in that village there are a lot of good atmospheres around but I feel and believe that ours is unique,” he said. “To be an Olympian is a very special thing for me and the smile it will put on the faces of people in Burton-on-Trent and my family back home, my mum and dad and my grandparents. Professionals will come but at the minute I am fully enjoying being Team GB boxing captain, willing everyone on and doing myself proud and doing my best.”

He’s also one win away from a super-heavyweight Olympic medal. He’ll box an old rival, France’s Mourad Aliev on Sunday (August 1) in the quarterfinals. “We’ve boxed a few times, it’s 2-1 to me. He beat me in the European final of the qualifiers the last time. We boxed only six weeks ago, something like that, so it will be an interesting battle again but I’ll right my wrongs, work with my team, and we’ll get the job done,” he said. “I’m just taking it one fight at a time to be honest. I’m trying not to think about the medal too much. I want to get to the final, I want to be the gold medallist, but we’ll take each one as it comes and get the victories. I believe in myself and my team and know that on my day, if I get it right, I will go all the way.”

But Charley Davison, the GB flyweight, saw her Olympic dream come to an end. Clipping her with sharp, hard to read shots, the unpredictable Chinese flyweight Chang Yuan, the number two seed, won a unanimous decision to eliminate the Briton. “You panic, you have to win that first round or you have to catch up. I think everything just got to me and I didn’t box how I would normally do. I should have got behind my jabs and taken my time but I didn’t, I got flustered and got beat,” she said. “I think the nerves got to me a little bit. I did not box to my ability, nowhere near and I think I was way off where I was in the first fight, it was a different opponent obviously.

“I came here for a medal, not to make up the numbers. I have gained all the experience I need for the future and I just can’t wait to get home now and see the kids, now that it’s done.”

Indian star, the legendary Mary Kom could not complete a fairytale Olympic story herself. The 38-year-old lost a split decision to Colombia’s Ingrit Valencia. “I stayed calm, focused. This is the third time I have fought her and when we were training in Italy we sparred each other,” Kom said. “I have the advantage of experience, but she is young, she is the future. Maybe she can improve a lot. For me, I have been fighting 20 years.

“It’s easy to count to 20, but when you’ve had that long career, competition, tournament, one or two days with the family, training. It’s not easy. I have four children. I am Member of Parliament as well.”

Considering the 2024 Olympics she said, “I don’t know, I’m sorry to say. There is an age limit [40 years old and Kom will be 41]. Maybe it will change, I don’t know. I’ve only just heard about it.

“But I’m still strong enough. It’s what’s in your heart and your mind. It’s about if you have the willpower, a strong mentality. Being focused, disciplined. For 20 years all my focus has been on fighting and I know all my country is with me. 

“When I look at my memories, it’s been incredible. It’s very easy to say I’m a one, two-time world champion, but in reality, doing that is not easy. You have to have a unique personality. 

“I hope there are so many young boxers coming up due to me but we want more to become champions. Maybe now it is a chance for the youngsters. I don’t know.”

American super-heavyweight hope Richard Torrez advanced to the quarterfinals. He dropped Algeria’s Chouaib Bouloudinats with a wicked southpaw left to the body in the first round and took a unanimous decision. US middleweight Troy Isley lost to top Russian Gleb Bakshi, a split decision that the latter rightfully won but the American was competitive. Experienced Bulgarian Stoyka Krasetva unanimously outpointed American flyweight Virginia Fuchs.

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