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Fabio Wardley and the art of laughing through the pain | Boxing News


FOR most of us, the prospect of looking in the mirror and seeing a disfigured version of ourselves staring back would be reason enough to look away, cry, or never again do the thing that resulted in this disfigurement.

However, for boxers, both the level of shock and the overall reaction is decidedly different. Take someone like Fabio Wardley, for example, the British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion. Unrecognisable following a 12-round war with Frazer Clarke at the end of March, Wardley got to know the contours of his new face immediately after the fight by staring in a bathroom mirror, at which point he became oddly amused by his discovery. Around the eyes, nose, forehead and mouth were various marks new to Wardley, each souvenirs of a recent and arduous excursion, and yet only the pain associated with these souvenirs interrupted what was, to him, one big joke.

“They were f***ing painful,” he said of the injuries. “I felt like I had been hit by a train. It was just an all-round achiness really. Every bone and every muscle you could think of would ache. You got up and it hurt; you sat down and it hurt; you rolled over in bed and it hurt; you woke up in the morning and it hurt. This went on for a good week, just pure pain and whatever else.

“But it was funny, also. I might be a bit mental, but I just kept laughing to myself about it. I was almost proud of myself to be wearing the battle scars. I would look at myself in the mirror and see my face all puffy and I would giggle and think, Yeah, mate, you’ve had a hell of a fight, haven’t you? I wouldn’t say it was a pat on the back, but more like a little a nod or a head raise, as if to say, ‘Yeah, you stuck it all on the line that night. You had a good go.’

“Whether it was a lump, or something else, I would look at these little memories of being punched upside the head and consider them great memories.”

Wardley against Clarke (James Chance/Getty Images)

Such is the nature of a fight, this very personal battle between men or women, the memories of its participants will always be different than ours; those granted the luxury of watching from outside the ropes. In the case of Wardley and Clarke, the memories of their draw will be significantly deeper and more resonant, carrying with them a meaning and feeling the rest of us will never understand. They are likely to stick around, too, these memories. They will no doubt follow both boxers for the rest of their careers, becoming constant reminders of where they have been, what they went through, and what they did to each other.

“First of all, I was really proud of the occasion and the event it became and the coverage it got and the viewer base that it had,” said Wardley. “I really felt that we did both the event and the belt proud in terms of the fight itself and how it played out. I’ve had so many people stop me since then and say that the fight was one of the best they have seen in a long time.

“Don’t get me wrong, winning titles and being champion is great, but, for me, being known as a true fighter and someone who is willing to put it all on the line and throw it all out there is something I really pride myself on. So those comments from other people carry a lot more weight than some of the other ones I may have received.”

Wardley continued: “I’ve watched it (the fight) back once, quite casually, and haven’t really paid any detailed attention to it. Me and the team are going to arrange a time to really sit down and assess it properly, but for now I have kind of left it a bit open in my brain as far as how I feel about it. I know there were a lot of mistakes made but also a lot of positives to take from it. Either way, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Wardley and Clarke go to war (James Chance/Getty Images)

The bulk of this work will happen in time, of course, with Wardley only too aware of the importance of rest and recuperation.

“I’ve had a lot of rest and a lot of downtime,” he said. “Obviously after a fight like that it’s needed. You need to make sure you are looking after your body and you need to make sure you are giving it time to recover. I’ve still been in the gym training and ticking over, tweaking and adjusting some bits, so I’m still on the ball, but just haven’t been going crazy.”

As for what the future holds, it would seem remiss of both Wardley and Clarke, as well as their respective teams, for a rematch not to follow such a compelling first fight. Yet this is boxing, remember; a sport in which what’s right, or what appears natural, is rarely the thing that actually happens.

“I don’t know,” said Wardley when asked about the possibility of a Clarke rematch. “I’ve heard rumours from their side that they are looking at other options for him, so I really don’t know. We had a little thing on Sky the other day and he said he wants it again, but then I’ve heard from other parties that he is actually looking at other options for his next fight. I’m not sure at this stage.

“At some point, even if it wasn’t immediately, I would feel begrudged if we didn’t go again. I said to my team on the night, ‘We’re not celebrating a draw. A draw isn’t a win. I know I’ve still got my belts and that’s all great, but ultimately I did not win, so we’re not celebrating. There’s nothing to celebrate here.’ So, yeah, I probably would feel a little begrudged if we didn’t settle the score. There’s still a lot there between us.”

Wardley and Clarke settle for a draw (James Chance/Getty Images)

If Clarke has options, the same can be said for Wardley, this anomaly who has somehow managed to beat the system and ensure he maintains complete control over his own destiny. That is a skill – closer to a trick – Wardley needs to not only fully exploit going forward but perhaps even teach younger boxers when the time is right.

“Ultimately, I’m still very highly ranked with a number of the sanctioning bodies, I still have my belts, and I’m still in pole position. I’m also still a free agent, so I can go anywhere, fight anywhere, fight anyone and do anything,” he said. “I probably have the most options in the heavyweight division right now. It might be a weird statement to make, but I’ve got the most freedom out of anyone as it stands. So, yeah, I’ve got a bunch of options to look at and we’re exploring all of them. We’re just playing around with ideas at the moment; nothing at all is set in stone or solid.”

All he knows at this stage is that August or September sounds like a good time to again set foot in a boxing ring. Whether that’s to fight Frazer Clarke for a second time is anyone’s guess, but Wardley, 17-0-1 (16), wouldn’t like to leave it much longer than that. “Ideally, I’d like to do three (fights) a year, so I would want to allow myself enough time to do that,” he said. “I only had two fights last year and I don’t really want to move into the realm of only having two fights a year. I want to stay pretty busy.”

Reminded then that the Frazer Clarke fight in March was essentially a two-for-the-price-of-one deal, Wardley produced a laugh similar to the ones he has spent the past few weeks producing whenever seeing his own face in the bathroom mirror. “You’re not wrong, to be fair,” he said. “If there was ever going to be a year when I only fought twice, it would probably be this one.”



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