Britain’s Frazer Clarke says he is targeting a professional heavyweight world boxing title within four years, once he has claimed Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.
The Commonwealth champion is one of the favourites for the Games, but will need to wait until June to qualify, after last year’s event in London was postponed as coronavirus cases rose in the UK.
That tournament has been moved to Paris, and Clarke is tuning up at the Belgrade Winner Tournament in Serbia, which runs from tomorrow (Saturday April 24) until Wednesday (April 28).
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The 29-year-old has been around the British Olympic set-up for three cycles and has regularly sparred with three-belt world champion and London 2012 gold medallist Anthony Joshua. Emulating that success in Tokyo is Clarke’s big dream, but when the Games were postponed last year, he admits he had doubts about whether he could wait.
“I thought this was it, to be honest,” Clarke told Eurosport.
I was gutted because I thought I've been here for years trying to get to the Olympic Games and I'm not going to reach that goal anymore. I was pretty certain at one stage that I was going to turn professional.
"You have to follow your heart and I think I'd have been heartbroken watching the rest of the guys had I not waited, knowing what I've put into it. If I don't give it my all and do my best I'll be gutted, because I'm a patient person.
"People talk about my age and stuff, I'm going to be 30 this year. I feel I'm coming into the best years of my life now. My best days are definitely ahead of me.
The passion for winning Olympic gold has always come first. Money is a beautiful thing to have, it makes people's lives easier but when I'm looking in the mirror, could I forgive myself for not giving it all to the Olympic Games? I don't think so.
“The way I teach my kids is that if you've got ambitions, you have to go for it and give it a 100%, my dad said the same thing to me. It's just money. It'll come eventually. I'm good at what I do, you know? For now, it's following my passion, following the dream."
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Clarke believes by winning Olympic gold, doors will likely open quicker once he turns professional. He does not plan on hanging around when he does move on from amateur boxing.
“I think first and foremost, obviously you get the Olympics out of the way and that'll take up most of this year,” said Clarke.
“I'd like to make my professional debut before the year, who that will be against, when that will be, I don't know yet. Maybe the end of October, early November?
“We'll start moving through the domestic level, which I think I could do that pretty fast. No disrespect to anyone, I just feel with my experience I've gained as an amateur and my style of boxing, I think it's going to suit the professional game really well. We'll go the traditional route.
I think personally that I could become world champion in three years, maybe four. I've got a plan in my head to have the right team around me and we'll move the right way, in a smart way, to get to where I want to be and ultimately that's the world title.
“I've seen one of my friends recently, Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian, become a world champion, he's done it in a fantastic fashion so if I can emulate that, I'll be more than happy.”
Clarke says he is yet to speak to boxing promoters as he wants to focus fully on Tokyo, but has an idea of who he will try to go with. Given how well he knows Joshua, and the amount of time he has spent in the sparring ring with him, does he think he could beat him?
“We're all competitive people. I'm very competitive. AJ is a great guy, I look up to him. I think people see him on Instagram, in a professional fight with his top off, people see me in a fight with a vest on, and think that the old amateur-pro thing.
“What I can honestly tell you this, there's no one more professional than me in this team of boxers. We train as professionals, we are living as professionals.
“If we've got to compare, obviously he's got a lot more experience in the professional game, but I back myself against anyone in the world and that's in an amateur ring, professional ring and I'm only getting better so, to answer the question, yeah I'd probably do alright, it would probably be a draw.”
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