Clarke has ‘not missed a session’ beside Joshua ahead of the former’s second pro fight, adding that Joshua could not be in a better set-up
Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Frazer Clarke has witnessed the intimate details of Anthony Joshua’s training camp first hand in Loughborough for the last ten weeks and explained on Saturday that his fellow British heavyweight has worked on “out-hustling Oleksandr Usyk with educated pressure” in their sequel in Saudi Arabia on August 20 for three of the world heavyweight title belts.
Clarke has “not missed a session” at Loughborough University, alongside Joshua, ahead of his second professional fight next weekend in Bournemouth against Latvian Igors Vasiljevs, but the 6ft 7ins tall 250lbs fighter told The Telegraph in an exclusive interview that Joshua could not have been in a better environment under new trainer Robert Garcia, as he heads into the high-risk, high-reward battle for redemption which could make or break the two-time heavyweight champion’s career.
“Loughborough is a great set-up, one of the best set-ups in the world. It’s full of inspiring people, full of winning sports people, like Adam Peaty, the swimmer,” Clarke told The Telegraph. “He’s an absolute beast, seeing him in the gym is absolutely inspiring and I love being in this environment.”
Joshua has thrived there, too, outlined Clarke. “I’ve tried to cheer him on – not that he needs motivation – he’s very motivated for this fight but it’s good to be in there around Robert Garcia, around Angel Fernandez, and I think he appreciates having the opinion of another fighter. I’m brutally honest with him, I’ll tell him when he’s looking really good and I’ll tell him when he needs to pick it up. I’ve been in the gym every day with him, I don’t think I’ve missed a session of his, I’ve been there watching him every single day. I’m eager to learn and he’s a good friend of mine, and I think everyone in the gym needs that person.”
“All focus has been on Usyk, and on out-hustling him with educated pressure. Although this is an awkward fight against a very skilled heavyweight, just like Tyson Fury is, AJ has his mind on the game for this,” added Clarke. Victory would propel Joshua into the richest fight in British boxing history, with Fury.
“Listen, the words Tyson Fury haven’t even been muttered in our gym because we know that the job at hand is a difficult one,” explained Clarke. “There’s no two ways about it, Usyk is one of the more skilful heavyweight champions we’ve had in recent years. On a skill level, Usyk and Fury are at the top of the tree, even if you go back in history. Just going in there and mauling him like people are suggesting, it’s never going to happen. Nor will trying to outbox him. AJ will definitely take a more positive approach from him, and we know Usyk can be out-hustled. We saw that in his fights against Derek Chisora, and his first heavyweight opponent, Chaz Witherspoon. Let’s be honest, this isn’t an amateur fight, this is professional fighting, this is street fighting with a referee and gloves and rules so you’ve got to do whatever you can to unsettle this man and use all your attributes.”
“I feel like with the team behind AJ, they’re filling him with confidence, but not false confidence, a real confidence, reminding him that he has been the Olympic champion, the heavyweight champion twice, and although Usyk is a skilled southpaw, [he’s got] two arms two legs and a jaw like everyone else, and if Anthony Joshua hits you on the jaw once, he’s going to hurt you. You have to be superhuman to withstand a barrage from AJ, and this is a fight in which he will leave it all in there.”
Clarke, whose own journey through the paid ranks has been halted since his debut in February through hand surgery, will be looking for a statement finish in Bournemouth live on Sky Sports next weekend, along rising prospects Caroline Dubois, younger sister of heavyweight Daniel, and light heavyweight Ben Whittaker, an Olympic silver medallist in Tokyo last year. “Being around AJ and Angel Fernandez is a huge plus for me, understanding the pro game doesn’t come overnight and I’ve spent the last six months honing my skills – mentally and physically.”