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Tokyo 2020: Gravesend heavyweight Cheavon Clarke happy to delay switch to the professional ranks for a shot at Olympic glory

Cheavon Clarke is in no rush to turn professional – and why would he?

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are just months away and Clarke can book his place on the plane at European Qualifying in London later this month.

Gravesend boxer Cheavon Clarke has his sights set on the Tokyo Games
Gravesend boxer Cheavon Clarke has his sights set on the Tokyo Games

Ranked number one in Great Britain, there’s no reason why the heavyweight should not make the grade if he performs to his maximum.

With potential Olympic glory on the horizon, it’s a potential life-changing experience that money just can’t buy.

“It ain’t going to happen – they need to go and relax for now and save up their money!” said Clarke, talking on our Kent’s Sporting Dreams podcast.

“Save up their money and come back because right now they can’t afford me.

“Going to the Olympics, nobody can ever take that from you. Anybody can be a pro boxer – how many do you actually know have gone to the Olympics?

“No disrespect to anybody but there’s nothing special about being a pro, I can do that tomorrow. You can’t just go to the Olympics tomorrow.”

Turning professional is the dream of many boxers, but Clarke’s in no rush after some sound advice from Richie Woodhall.

After winning Commonwealth gold and bronze at the 1988 Olympics, Woodhall turned pro in 1990 and went on to become European and WBC champion.

“I’ve had opportunities to turn professional since I won my second novice title so that’s nothing new to me,” said 29-year-old Cheavon.

“I could have turned professional ages ago. Richie Woodhall said to me ‘I’ve done it all, don’t rush your pro career, get as much amateur experience as you can. Between 26 and 30 turn professional and you’ll have a much better career’.

“I didn’t plan it but it looks like it’s happening that way for me. Look how many guys turn professional young and wash out by the time they are 30.”

Right now, all of Clarke’s focus is on the Olympics.

He’s not short of confidence but it’s not arrogance, his relative late arrival to the sport means his feet are firmly on the ground.

“You’ve got to believe it before you can achieve it,” said Clarke.

“You’ve got to have a goal and you have to put steps in place to achieve it.

“If one thing doesn’t go right at least you can then do this and this to get to where you want to. The main thing is to have the goal and work towards it every day.”

Cheavon Clarke packing a punch in European Championship action
Cheavon Clarke packing a punch in European Championship action

Clarke learned his trade at Gravesend ABC. Now based in Sheffield, he’s made sacrifices along the way.

Many would expect him to feel the pressure but he can still relate back to his first time in the ring.

“I don’t feel any added pressure, to me it’s just another competition,” he explained, looking ahead to the qualifying tournament.

“There’s all the glitz and glamour around it but that’s just for other people. It’s no different to my first competition where I boxed in Gravesend in a little hall where there were 80 people – I just bring it back to that at every stage.

“For everyone else it’s big fun, but for me it’s just another day in the office.

“People sometimes forget my international experience is very small compared to most of the guys I’ve fought.

“My international experience is 25 fights which isn’t a lot, some of these guys you are talking 100, 150 fights, so in terms of international boxing I’m really a baby but that doesn’t matter. It’s what happens when you get in there that matters.

“I love being in there. The little things that you can do, the skills you perform, and people who know boxing they appreciate it.

“Every time you hit somebody and they cheer, you just want to keep hitting them, you want to keep getting that point. If you can hit somebody and they can’t hit you, that is the most joyous thing in the ring.

“I like outclassing somebody, to go the full fight and make them feel they were in way above their head. There’s nothing better than that. It shows how good you are.”

The qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Olympics is at the Copper Box Arena in London from March 14 to 24.

Cheavon Clarke was picked for the European Games in Minsk last year with team-mates Galal Yafai, Frazer Clarke and Benjamin Whittaker
Cheavon Clarke was picked for the European Games in Minsk last year with team-mates Galal Yafai, Frazer Clarke and Benjamin Whittaker

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