Wardley vs Clarke result: Heavyweights fight to stalemate in brutal and brilliant battle

The wait for this fight endured for 12 months, and the bout itself endured for all 12 rounds. Fabio Wardley vs Frazer Clarke, a fight billed as “Bad Blood”, ended with plenty spilt – much of it splattered on the referee’s shirt, most of it leaking from Wardley’s malformed nose, which caused him major difficulties and might just have cost him victory.

After 36 minutes of attritional brutality, which for these heavyweights might have felt even longer than the year-long delay to this fight, Wardley and Clarke failed to settle their feud, battling to a draw. In a scintillating main event at London’s O2 Arena, Wardley retained his British and Commonwealth titles, as the judges scored the bout 114-113, 112-115, 113-113.

Although a collective drone of disappointment greeted the result, it felt an appropriate one, with neither boxer deserving to lose his unbeaten record. While Wardley dropped Clarke somewhere amid the violence, and while Clarke was docked a point for a low blow, the latter dealt out his fair share of damage, too.

Clarke, the Olympic bronze medalist, arguably took three of the first four rounds, landing jolting jabs on repeat, driving uppercuts through Wardley’s guard, and forcing the champion to miss. Wardley’s nose received treatment before round three even, but he improved in that frame and grew into the fight further.

In round five, Wardley’s momentum reached a critical point, as he chased Clarke around the ring with violent vim and put the Olympian off balance with a left hand. The came the right, with floored “Big Fraze”, who managed to beat the referee’s count just in time for the bell. Wardley’s speed and explosivity were frustrating Clarke, who lost a point in the seventh round after a second low blow and who was losing control of the contest.

The 32-year-old visibly bit down on his gumshield late in the round, threatening to chew clean through it as he tried to arrest momentum, and he might just have done that, as he seemed to embark upon an encouraging run of rounds. By the ninth round, Clarke was taking advantage of Wardley’s seemingly creeping fatigue, which was surely brought on by breathing issues caused by the 29-year-old’s busted nose.

That nose required further treatment in the tenth round, yet that did not prevent Wardley from mustering a brilliant barrage, which was only halted when Clarke lost his gumshield at an opportune moment. Clarke hit back in the 11th frame, getting the better of the exchanges and sending Wardley’s blood spraying on multiple occasions.

Still, Wardley finished the round well, and both boxers were given a standing ovation as they began the final frame. Clarke continued to beat Wardley to the punch, leaving the Ipswich fighter grimacing in the clinch, and Wardley was wearing a crimson mask by the time the final bell sounded. Even then, the champion was still throwing punches.

As the referee separated the heavyweights one final time, Wardley – there somewhere, underneath the blood – returned to his corner. Clarke, meanwhile, melted towards the canvas in exhaustion. Despite his team’s best efforts, they could not get him up. In that moment, Big Fraze had never looked so small.

But he had earned his moment of reflection, having fought for his redemption after suffering a knockdown and docked point, and he had earned his draw. Some will argue he had even earned a win, and others will argue the same in Wardley’s favour. Respect was surely earned on both sides.

Perhaps it was fairest that neither man lost his zero on this night; perhaps it is the perfect set-up for a rematch that will be even more highly anticipated than this first chapter. Bad blood was spilt, and the smart money says it will be again.

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