Undecided Frazer Clarke Favoring Oleksandr Usyk One Day, Tyson Fury the Next

Frazer Clarke has played down the potential advantage presented to Oleksandr Usyk over Tyson Fury by the Ukrainian's decorated amateur career.

The 37-year-old Usyk won an Olympic gold medal at London 2012, having also by then won gold medals at European and world championships, and concluded his amateur career with a reported record of 335-15.

Before his professional debut in 2013 he also competed at the highly regarded World Series of Boxing, making him, by the standards of the modern era, the most proven of amateur fighters. Given that Tyson Fury turned professional in 2008 having missed out on that year’s Olympic Games when he was overlooked in favor of David Price, it is tempting to conclude that when they fight on Saturday, Usyk is the one who will be better placed.

Clarke was eligible for three Olympic cycles, from London 2012 to Tokyo 2020 – where he won a bronze medal – and his amateur grounding was particularly influential when in March he was unfortunate not to be awarded victory when he drew with Fabio Wardley, his leading domestic rival.

He therefore understands more than most the benefits it can bring in the most competitive fights as a professional, but ahead of the undisputed heavyweight title fight at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, he believes that the 35-year-old Fury has proven a sufficiently fine professional heavyweight that it will not prove key if Usyk is to win.

“Tyson was a good amateur as well – he represented the country a lot of times,” he said. “He was unfortunate not to go to [the 2008] Olympics. I can only speak of my personal experience – it helped me in certain situations as a pro, i.e. the Wardley fight. That big stage where everyone said, ‘That’s new to you’. It wasn’t quite as big as an Olympic semi final. 

“[But] in this fight it might be a little bit different – the amateur background definitely helps you, but with Tyson Fury, who was a really good amateur as well, and as a pro has all of the experience, I’m not sure it’s going to play much of a role. [Even if] I’d rather have it than not.

“I get [why Usyk said he will value his gold medal over the undisputed title]. When you represent your country it’s different. It hits different – forever and ever and ever. There’s world champions now that you won’t even know and I won’t even know. I know every Olympian from [Team] GB – the medalists; the boxers. You don’t forget it, so that just shows you how hard the Olympic medal is. It’s an absolute privilege.

“Usyk’s done it absolutely perfectly as a pro so far, but in the amateurs he was very good – but at the highest level you don’t walk through anyone. It was always big, big high stakes – just like on Saturday.

“Thank God I didn’t [fight him in the World Series of Boxing] – he was a nightmare. I could have. He was very good in that competition. He was a cruiserweight boxing at light heavyweight, so he gave everyone nightmares; he was fantastic.”

Clarke’s progress as a professional – he will be the favourite against Wardley if they enter a rematch for the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles – has been guided by Angel Fernandez, the trainer who worked with Anthony Joshua on the night in 2021 that Usyk inflicted the first of two defeats.

“We have general chit-chat in the gym all the time,” said Clarke. “It’s really apparent that the guy’s clever; his preparations are meticulous, and he doesn’t leave any stone unturned. What Angel said was he expects a 50-50 fight – a very good Usyk. ‘For the big occasion, the big men come out.’

“[Usyk’s] experience. His brain is brilliant. His movement; the way he puts punches together; sets things up; just the character, as well. You forget about the character in this – everyone’s looking in terms of hitting someone in the face, but he’s an individual if I’ve ever seen one in boxing. Brilliant.

“Apparently body shots [are a weakness] – so everyone seems to think. His size – [but] it could be a strength. We don’t know yet. The body shots is all we’ve seen so far.

“[Fury’s] confidence – the mindset – is fantastic. The fundamentals – the jab; the movement, for the size of him. Unbelievable. Fury’s a maverick. He really is one of a kind.

“The fitness side of things. He’s fitter than people give him credit for; he’s an absolute machine.

“You can talk about the cut [he suffered in sparring]. We’ve seen him put over in the past, but we’ve not seem him beat yet, so we never know. We will see Saturday night [if he’s in decline]. 

“I’ve [previously] chose Usyk. I’ve [previously] chose Fury. Gun to head, Tyson [wins].”