Wardley, Clarke fight to bloody draw in epic

Boxing

Fabio Wardley finished the fight stumbling with exhaustion and with a mask of blood from a busted nose, but he held on to his British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles after a split points draw with Frazer Clarke on Sunday.

Judges saw the brutal and bloody battle 114-113 to Wardley, 115-112 to Clarke and 113-113 at the O2 arena in London, England. Despite being floored in the fifth round and then crucially docked a point for a low blow in Round 7, Clarke did enough to earn a draw which sets up a rematch between the English rivals for later this year.

Both Clarke (8-1-0, 6 KOs), 32, from Burton on Trent, and Wardley (17-1-0, 16 KOs), 29, from Ipswich, were on shaky legs at some point. It was such a savage fight that neither fighter was interviewed for television afterwards because they needed to be medically examined.

Clarke has fewer professional bouts behind him but had a distinguished amateur career, culminating in a bronze medal at the last Olympics. That pedigree was evident from the opening bell as Clarke established his jab amid some smart boxing.

At 266 pounds, Clarke outweighed Wardley by 23 pounds but he was quicker in the early rounds with his hands while Wardley, a former white collar boxer with no amateur boxing career but now No 6 with the WBO world governing body, looked to land with big hooks.

Wardley, who was making a second defence of his British and first defence of his Commonwealth titles, responded with more aggression in the second but Clarke got through with a couple of right uppercuts.

Later in Round 2, Wardley shook Clarke with a right hand but Clarke’s head cleared quickly and he finished the round firing back.

Clarke’s accuracy with his straight shots left Wardley with nose damage by the third round, but Wardley repeatedly landed the right hand in a good fifth round for the Ipswich-based boxer.

Late in the fifth, Wardley unloaded a volley of shots and pursued Clarke around the ring until he landed a short right to the jaw to send Clarke down for a count. The bell prevented Wardley from following up and Clarke recovered well in the seventh until he was docked a point for a low blow.

Clarke landed a great right hook in the eighth round, which Wardley ended weary and a bit vulnerable.

With blood streaming from his nose, Wardley became disorganised in Round 9 and the ringside doctor took a look at his injured nose in the tenth round. When the action resumed, Wardley launched an attack that seemed to catch Clarke by surprise and leave him on unsteady legs.

Both were exhausted in the later rounds of a close contest, which Clarke finished stronger with Wardley looking like he was about to fold.

Whittaker denied KO by Willings

Light-heavyweight contender Ben Whittaker was denied a highlight reel KO by the spirited resistance of Leon Willings.

Whittaker (7-0, 5 KOs), 26, has a huge social media following –1.1 million followers on Instagram — but he could not produce the finish he wanted and had to be content with a 78-73 points decision in an eight-round non-title fight.

Whittaker, 23, had superior speed, skills and punch variation but Willings recovered from an early knockdown to frustrate the Olympic silver medallist. Whittaker’s power did not trouble Willings after the first round and Willings had some success of his own in the later rounds.

Willings (7-2, 2 KOs), 23, from Widnes, touched down with a glove for a count with a minute remaining of the first round after being subjected to a blizzard of shots to head and body.

Willings made an aggressive start to the second but was later nailed by a series of chopping right hands. In the third, when Whittaker wasn’t talking to the referee, Willings’ corner and dancing, he landed some big body shots and fast combinations.

But Willings tightened up his defense and had his best round in the fifth when he landed shots on the counter, which he continued to do for the rest of the fight. Willings proved to be a nuisance for Whittaker, and he absorbed Whittaker’s power shots.

The West Bromwich-based boxer has a long list of flashy moves, and is as smart a talker as he is a boxer.

“I kind of let him hit me, I have a good chin and I wanted to show people that, I’m ready to go again next week,” Whittaker said.

Expect to hear a lot more about him in the coming years.

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