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Frazer Clarke vs Fabio Wardley saga explained? Why did the fight collapse and who is responsible?

The much-hyped all-British clash between Frazer Clarke and Fabio Wardley is off. Here's the lowdown on a bizarre few days in the sport of boxing.

The boxing news cycle has been dominated by the collapse of a much-anticipated British heavyweight title fight between Fabio Wardley and Frazer Clarke. 

Just moments before purse bids were set to take place for the all-British showdown, Clarke was pulled out of the bout by his promoter Ben Shalom.

The fallout from the controversial decision has continued over recent days, with Shalom taking the brunt of the criticism.

As the story continues to unfold, here's a closer look at the situation.

Background

Fabio Wardley claimed the British heavyweight championship back in November with a third-round knockout victory over Nathan Gorman.

The 28-year-old, who is 16-0 in his professional career with 15 knockout wins to his name, is promoted by Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing and is arguably one of the most exciting upcoming British heavyweights.

Frazer Clarke would also fit that description. Promoted by Ben Shalom's BOXXER, the 31-year-old is an Olympic bronze medallist with a tonne of promise in the professional ranks.
Since turning pro in 2022, Clarke has won all six of his bouts - five of them before the final bell.
A potential heavyweight clash between the two British stars had been hyped for months, with many expecting both men to square off some time this year.

What went wrong?

The fight between the two men was officially ordered by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) on April 13.
The board also issued a notice, ordering the fight to take place by the end of September 2023.

Ahead of Wednesday's purse bids, Shalom had entered negotiations with Wardley's team, though they were unable to reach a deal.

While the BOXXER chief claims to have offered the fighter his "career-highest payday", Wardley refuted that implication on social media, tweeting: "No they haven't, they offered me less than I got for my last fight. Tell Ben/BOXXER to post the number offered and I'll post my last purse invoice."
With no agreement made, Wednesday should've been the day when purse bids were due to take place. Instead, Shalom pulled Clarke out of the fight.

Wardley's promoter Eddie Hearn reacted on Twitter, saying: "Heard from the BBBofC that Boxxer has pulled @BigFrazeBoxer out of the @Fabio_Wardley purse bid today.

"What a complete joke and a waste of our time. Robbing the fighters of opportunity and the fans of a brilliant fight. Shambles."

Why did Ben Shalom pull the plug?

The man taking most of the heat following the collapse of the fight is promoter Shalom.

The BOXXER chief has since come out to defend his decision, underlining Clarke's limited experience in the pro ranks and his lack of rounds.
Shalom was eager for Clarke to have a 10-round warm-up fight before going into the 12-round British title bout.

Shalom revealed he was concerned that should another promoter had successfully bid for the fight, Clarke could have been thrown into the Wardley bout within just 21 days.

The BOXXER chief explained his decision to Sky Sports, saying: "The reason why we pulled him out the bid is he's fought [scheduled] six-rounders up until now.

"His last fight went two rounds. We're not going to sling him in. [If it went to purse bids] you'd have to be taking a 12-rounder potentially in three weeks' time, with no preparation.
"It's not that he won't beat Fabio Wardley, he'd beat Fabio Wardley on his first fight. But he's not going to be fighting a 12-rounder in three weeks' time. So that's why we've made the offer. He will be doing a 10-rounder first and we've made an offer to Fabio to take the fight [after].
"It's best for him to have a 10-rounder before he fights his first 12-rounder. Everyone that's ever put on a pair of gloves, or ever trained a fighter will tell you, you don't go from a six-rounder to a 12-rounder overnight, regardless of the quality of opponent."

Fabio Wardley bewildered

While Clarke is yet to state his side of the story, Wardley has been busy doing the media rounds, sharing his frustrations at the news.
The Ipswich-born boxer was perplexed at why Clarke's team pushed so hard for the fight, only to pull out at the final hour.

He told IFL TV: "We found out in the end that 258 [Clarke's management team], Frazer himself, those guys together, they lobbied the board [BBBofC]. They put a thing to the board specifically to say 'hey, we want a mandate for Wardley vs Clarke'.

"The board agreed. Fair enough. Done. Put it together. We get all the way here, to this point, all the build-up, everyone saying yes, they're going to do it.
"Next thing you know, not even days before but hours before, they pull out. It makes zero sense."

Why push for a fight in the first place?

One of the most obvious questions is why Clarke's team pushed for a fight with Wardley only to pull out in the final moments.

Shalom told Boxing News: "I think it's a question for his [Clarke's] management. I don't want to put anyone under the bus, I'm just going to say what my opinion is on the situation.

"We've since spoken and decided as a team that it's clearly not a smart boxing decision from a development perspective. Sometimes you have to make those bold decisions.
"I don't want to throw 258 under the bus. I don't want to question anything like that, that's not my job. I stand behind my decision and I know that was the right one. In six months' time, time will prove that."
When quizzed about the lack of communication between 258 MGT, Sky Sports and BOXXER, Shalom added: "When the purse bid was ordered, I didn't know.
"Again, I don't want to throw anyone under the bus. I didn't know. I'm left with a situation where I do what's right or do I do what's easy? I'm going to do what's right. That's the way I am. That's the values that I have. It doesn't matter how much heat I have to take. It doesn't matter what other people think.
"I believe that we know what we're doing. We have an experienced team and we're not going to go do something that isn't, in boxing terms, absolute stupidity."

Wardley defends Clarke

Wardley has defended his fellow pro and shifted all the blame at his team.

During his interview with IFL TV, he added: "The only credit I will give is to Frazer. I do genuinely believe he is a fighting man. I do genuinely believe that he does and would fight me. I think he's got the wrong people around him, the wrong team around him. Too many people in his ear.

"I think that affected his confidence with those people around him saying 'it's a bit soon for you, we don't think you're ready, maybe have a few more fights, maybe do it then'.
"I think that affected him to the point where he even though himself and put some self-doubt in his head."

Eddie Hearn hits back

Fabio Wardley's promoter Eddie Hearn described the whole situation as a 'shambles' during his interview with IFL TV.

The Matchroom boss revealed he was confident in winning the purse bid, and is now worried about the reputational damage for Frazer Clarke.
He said: "It was a big shellshock. Just the biggest shambles I've ever seen. It's so frustrating when you get a fighter who starts to become a bit of a star and then the politics of boxing and fights that are ordered as mandatory defences just get in the way of our plans. People start messing around, don't know what they're doing, it derails momentum.
"I'm not bothered about the fact Frazer Clarke pulled out, people who say they want to do things for the good of the sport, not about the politics. I'm just worried about Fabio Wardley.
"We could've just locked in a date. Now we're left with no fight and now we have to lock in a date for July. It's just a shambles.
"I feel for Frazer Clarke. Frazer Clarke's credibility, quite frankly, is on the floor. I feel like he's been hung out to dry. I know Frazer, Frazer wants to fight, he's a fighter. He's a very good fighter.
"That fight was a great fight. Now he's got to fight Harry Armstrong at York Hall on June 10. That's just going to get ridiculed. I don't understand the process in all honesty. I'm told Frazer's devastated, he was in tears in the office being told he couldn't take the fight."
He later added: "I don't understand. You asked to be mandated. Asked. I don't feel like they should've been mandated necessarily. But they were.
"All of a sudden, it starts, back and forth on social media. Two great lads. Great back and forth on social. Fifty-fifty fight. All of a sudden, interest, interest, they've both done a great job."
Hearn admitted Wardley could take on David Adeleye in the summer.

READ MORE: Lawrence Okolie sends chilling warning to Chris Billam-Smith ahead of title showdown

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