Commonwealth Games: Anthony Joshua will inspire us in Australia, says Frazer Clarke

Frazer Clarke did not make the 2016 Olympic boxing team but still went to Rio as a sparring partner
Frazer Clarke did not make the 2016 Olympic boxing team but still went to Rio as a sparring partner

World champion Anthony Joshua's latest success can only inspire his sparring partner Frazer Clarke when his hunt for a Commonwealth Games gold medal begins on the Gold Coast this Friday.

The 26-year-old Midlander's opening bout in the superheavyweight 91-plus kg category will come barely five days after Joshua's win over Joseph Parker.

"He's doing great things for boxing and for our country," said Clarke.

"Having sparred with him gives me a confidence boost ahead of any fight."

Clarke has been friends with Joshua for almost a decade, since they first sparred together in 2009, in Clarke's home town of Burton-on-Trent, in Staffordshire.

He told BBC Sport: "I remember this shadow standing over me, a guy who looked like he'd been chiselled out of stone. Straight away I knew this was a proper fighter who would go a long way.

"But, as he's got better, I've got better. We've pushed each other on."

Frazer Clarke still spars with Anthony Joshua and fought Joseph Parker when he was an amateur
Frazer Clarke still spars with Anthony Joshua and fought Joseph Parker when he was an amateur

Joshua, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist and now a holder of three world professional heavyweight title belts, still trains at the Great Britain amateur boxing team's base in Sheffield, where his coach Rob McCracken also oversees the GB Olympic and Commonwealth programme.

"Knowing that I've done rounds with the heavyweight champion of the world - and a lot of tough rounds too - is a good feeling," said Clarke.

"I'm like a sponge when I'm around him, being able to deal with the cameras, picking up from one of the best."

Clarke, who has even worked as a bodyguard at Joshua's fights, also once fought New Zealander Parker, his old mate's latest victim. "When I was on the Great Britain squad, in India," he said. "It was close and he got it on points."

Although he was already down under in Queensland preparing for the Commonwealth Games and unable to attend Joshua's latest moment of glory, he was an excited observer watching him beat Parker on TV.

Having only been part of the British boxing team's back-up crew in Rio in 2016, as one of the sparring partners, he has now stepped up in importance.

Frazer Clarke trains in Sheffield with the rest of Rob McCracken's GB squad
Frazer Clarke trains in Sheffield with the rest of Rob McCracken's GB squad

Just a year ago, he was still getting over the shock of witnessing the terror attack on Westminster while on a trip to the Commons with the British Lionhearts amateur team.

Now, having recovered from a hand operation to make the team, he has a chance of individual glory as England bid to overhaul the five gold medals they won in the ring in Glasgow four years ago.

"That was a great experience in Rio," he said. "Being around different athletes from different sports from different nations.

"But I'm not here down under to make up the numbers. I really think I can win the gold medal."

In the land of Vegemite, Clarke has headed down under proud that he hails from Burton, the home of Marmite. But he is also well aware that his home town has other claims to fame too.

"Burton's the home of Marmite but it's also the home of beer," he said. "And hopefully there'll be a lot of people in the pubs watching."

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