Clarke leads the way as fight­ers en­joy finest day

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Ben Bloom

Frazer Clarke has spent more than 50 rounds in the ring with An­thony Joshua and had the priv­i­leged po­si­tion of watch­ing the world heavy­weight cham­pion’s ti­tle fights up close thanks to his work as a ring­side se­cu­rity guard.

At times he thought his mo­ment would never come, but yes­ter­day Clarke took the first step in em­u­lat­ing his great friend by claim­ing gold in the Gold Coast to round off Eng­land box­ing’s great­est day at the Com­mon­wealth Games.

A hulk­ing brute of a man, Clarke first boxed in­ter­na­tion­ally as a 16-year-old and had de­signs on com­pet­ing as a su­per-heavy­weight at the Lon­don 2012 Olympics. That slot in­stead went to Joshua, who won gold, and the same fate be­fell Clarke four years later when Joe Joyce was se­lected ahead of him.

Two years on from that snub, Clarke, 26, emerged from a tough en­counter with In­dia’s Satish Ku­mar to claim Com­mon­wealth gold by unan­i­mous points de­ci­sion, be­fore in­sist­ing that he will em­u­late Joshua by win­ning Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020. “There were times when I thought maybe this is not for me,” he said. “I had the in­juries, knock backs and I’ve been pipped to the Olympics twice. “Both times when I sit back and think about it I wasn’t ready. Could I have won gold in Lon­don? No. Could I have won gold in Rio? Maybe. I had a bet­ter chance than in Lon­don. “But the right two lads got picked for the job and served our coun­try very well. My time will be in Tokyo.” Since first spar­ring with Joshua in 2009 – when he re­calls lay­ing eyes on a man who “looked like he’d been chis­elled out of stone” – Clarke says he has used his friend’s suc­cess as a model to repli­cate, watch­ing ev­ery de­tail from how much water he drinks to the way he stretches. The pair shared a ring to­gether the day be­fore Clarke flew out to Aus­tralia and he said: “I hope peo­ple know me now and recog­nise me. I’m Frazer Clarke, Big Fraze from a lit­tle town, Bur­ton-on-Trent. If you don’t know me now then get to know me be­cause you’re go­ing to be see­ing a lot more of me over the next few years.”

Team Eng­land came to the Gold Coast with high hopes and se­cured nine box­ing medals from their 12 fight­ers yes­ter­day. Clarke was one of six Eng­land gold medal­lists as Lisa White­side, Sandy Ryan, Galal Yafai, Peter McGrail and Pat McCor­mack helped beat the coun­try’s pre­vi­ous Com­mon­wealth Games record of five.

Hav­ing watched from the side­lines as her former team-mate and dou­ble Olympic cham­pion Ni­cola Adams swept all be­fore her, White­side fi­nally took ad­van­tage of her time to shine to win fly­weight gold.

With Adams now op­er­at­ing in the pro­fes­sional ranks, White­side seized her chance with vic­tory over North­ern Ire­land’s Carly Mc­Naul.

“I’ve al­ways been so close to stand­ing on the top of that podium,” said White­side, 32. “I’ve had to bide my time, I’ve had to take knocks, I’ve had to be sat in the shad­ows. But now it’s about me, Lisa White­side, and I’m No1 at the Com­mon­wealth Games.”

Away from the box­ing ring there was dou­ble suc­cess for Eng­land’s sprint re­lay run­ners with both men’s and women’s 4x100me­tres re­lay teams beat­ing Ja­maica to gold.

Vic­tory was some re­demp­tion for Zhar­nel Hughes, who thought he had won 200m gold ear­lier in the week only to be dis­qual­i­fied af­ter the race.

“It’s been a long week, but I’m still a gold medal­list,” he said, af­ter tri­umph­ing along­side Reuben Arthur, Richard Kilty and Harry Aikines-Ary­eetey.

Their fe­male coun­ter­parts ran the fastest time in English his­tory, de­spite reg­u­lars Asha Philip, Dina Asher-Smith and Bianca Wil­liams be­ing joined by long jumper Lor­raine Ugen, who was parachuted in at short notice.

There were fur­ther gold medals for Eng­land’s David Luck­man in the shoot­ing Queen’s prize in­di­vid­ual and men’s ta­ble ten­nis dou­bles pair Liam Pitch­ford and Paul Drinkhall.

Mean­while, Eng­land’s men and women rugby sevens teams are both guar­an­teed the chance of fight­ing for a medal to­day af­ter ad­vanc­ing safely to semi-fi­nals against New Zealand.

On the up: Frazer Clarke is tar­get­ing Tokyo

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