Frazer Clarke has spent the past 12 years outside, looking inside. Always hopeful, sometimes desperate, his will was never compromised.
He missed qualifying for two Olympics, forced to watch his teeth clenched instead as Anthony Joshua won gold in London 2012, then controversial Joe Joyce was limited to silver at Rio 2016.
He was stabbed three times and was helpless when caught in the Westminster terror attack – so close he saw the assailant shot by police.
And he looked longingly at the ring during his role as a security guard, watching heavyweight fights and thinking, “I could beat this guy.”
Finally, it’s time for Clarke to revel in a spotlight he has pursued for over a decade. The wellness story and the captain of Britain’s team of 11 traveling boxers at Tokyo 2020 is super heavyweight Clarke who will fight for gold on his third (and final) attempt.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he told Sky Sports shyly, correcting himself by trying to politely describe the emotion. “Nice to meet you is a word I could use to describe him!” “
There were times, he said, when Team GB performance director Rob McCracken had to fight personally to keep Clarke around when it looked like he could never. realize that potential.
“If you don’t know my story? Please work hard and things will happen for you,” Clarke said.
He takes his role seriously as an example to others.
“You have to be consistent. Keep working. Believe in yourself and surround yourself with good people. It’s not over until it’s over. That’s a message I want to pass on to young people – sometimes you fail at first hurdle but you can get back down, start over.
“A huge weight was taken off my shoulders. I wanted it for a long time and I let the pressure go up and up. This journey is like snakes and ladders, there are ups and downs.
“GB Boxing allowed me to stay focused when I was not concentrating.
“I’m mature now. I understand what it takes, outside of the ring.”
Clarke enjoyed a beer and a pie, he freely admits. Now 29 and a father, this boy with a Del Boy tattoo from Only Fools and Horses has mellowed.
“For a long time, from Monday to Friday …”
Clarke tries to explain her less disciplined days but, with a wry smile, decides to be even more honest.
“No, not even Monday through Friday. I would train and then get out of the ring and lead a normal life,” he said.
“It took me a long time to realize that it’s not a game to be in the gym, it’s 24/7. You still have to live the life of an ultimate boxer, a professional. and an athlete. Maturity has certainly helped. The birth of my children has really changed me and my beautiful partner helps me a lot. “
He went through two life-threatening situations on this unique journey.
In 2016, a brawl in a nightclub resulted in his stabbing assault. He has since become a vocal anti-knife activist.
A year later, Clarke and three other GB boxers were caught in the Westminster terror attack where four people, plus the terrorist, were killed.
“I just scratched the skin on my teeth and went home to my family. Some people couldn’t do it that day,” he told Tokyo2020.org at the time.
I can never ignore what I just saw before my eyes in the House of Parliament in London … God be with the policeman
– Frazer Clarke (@BigFrazeBoxer) March 22, 2017
Clarke has made a name for himself as Anthony Joshua’s longtime training partner.
Even more painful was having to look out of the ring as Joshua and co stole the headlines. Clarke worked as a security guard in his early 20s, his height and physique making him a natural fit to restore order during chaotic boxing events.
When Joshua and Dillian Whyte (along with rabid members of their teams) brawled after the conclusion of the first round of their fight in 2015, it was a young Clarke who burst into the ring to separate the warring factions.
“I loved it. It was one of the best times of my life,” he says.
“As a boxing fan I was living a dream. I was a talented 17 year old boy but on the weekends I got things wrong.
“I saw the backstage firsthand and enjoyed it so much. I was there to keep people safe, but I had the best experience sitting at ringside watching the people I admire , the people I aspire [to be like].
“It was also a tough experience because it got to the point where I saw people get a lot of applause but I was like, ‘I can beat these guys!'”
Was he really standing there in silence in his uniform, thinking he could knock out the superstar heavyweights inside the ring?
“One hundred percent. We’re confident people. Ask me how I would fare against an 18-year-old Mike Tyson? I would say I would win. That’s how I am. Being there firsthand? thought to myself: ‘I’ll do well when the time is right’. “
Clarke enters an Olympic weight division where previous gold medalists included Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko.
But the greatest pressure can come from within – Joshua and Joyce, his super-heavyweight predecessors for the GB squad, came home with gold and silver and have since become formidable pros.
“You could call it pressure,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “They had their own journey and I have mine. I will do what I do – box well and win. I am an individual. They are fantastic but I will do it my way – I hope it will keep them entertained. people and will be successful as well. “
Clarke shared an amateur ring with current pros Joseph Parker, Tony Yoka, Sergey Kuzmkin and Otto Wallin.
Bakhodir Jalolov from Uzbekistan is the most formidable threat to gold at Tokyo 2020. He took advantage of the new rule that allows professional boxers to compete in the Olympics. Jalolov is the reigning amateur world champion, switched to professional boxing to win eight fights via quick knockouts, and will now return to the amateur rule game in Tokyo.
“It doesn’t suit me, personally,” Clarke says.
“I’m from the old school – you’re an Olympian, an amateur boxer. But the world is changing. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. But for me? You make the sacrifice and the stepping stones. learning then you get into professional boxing, it’s been like that forever.
“Amir Khan and James DeGale didn’t turn pro until they were successful at the Olympics. I would like it to continue like this, but the world is changing all the time.
“I don’t know what that will mean for the next Olympics.”
Justis Huni of Australia has won five professional fights in the past year and, like Jalolov, has plans to return to amateur code for the Olympics. But during his last professional fight, a knockout of a former rugby player, he injured his hand which will exclude him from Tokyo 2020.
So, is the swing between amateur and pro a drawback?
“It’s a different sport so it sure could be,” said Clarke.
Speaking of his gold medal rival Jalolov, Clarke says, “These guys are smart and are a good match. He was [into the fourth round just once]. So it won’t affect him that much. It’s a different rhythm and if your head is elsewhere? But these teams and these countries are not stupid. “
Clarke won the 2018 Commonwealth Games to represent a new dawn in his career, as he took himself seriously and therefore should be taken seriously by his rivals.
“I am a smart boxer, I am experienced,” he warns his rivals. “I probably need a better defense! I’m always in exciting fights, people tell me I’m exciting for one reason or another!
“I hand it out, I have quick hands, good thinking, good feet, I’m strong, I can really box. When it’s time to squeeze and bite the mouthguard? I can do that too.”
Clarke has been in and around the GB team’s training center in Sheffield since 2009 when he began a trip to the Olympics which collapsed twice.
Since then, Anthony Joshua’s photo has been added to the wall alongside Audley Harrison (2000 super-heavyweight gold medalist) and other Olympians whose legends are secure.
“It’s a dream,” Clarke says as he gazes wistfully at his heroes on the wall.
“The medal ceremony will be fantastic but, more than that? Coming back to that gym after 12 years and seeing these guys? Having my face in that gym?
“I would take my kids. I would bring half of Burton! They probably all thought it would never happen. Now it’s in my hands and I’m lucky to make it.”