By Elliot Worsell


MOST of them looked the same. They were bald, as wide as they were long, and firmly of the belief that a scowl says a thousand words.

As if created from the same recipe, or mould, these men would stand with their arms crossed, biceps bulging inside a too-small polo shirt, and simultaneously puff out their chests and narrow their eyes, all in the hope of sniffing out danger before anyone else. Some of them came from up north; others from down south; destined to meet somewhere in the middle (Derby, to be exact). Some saw smiling as a weakness; others saw it as a great strength. Some had finished their fighting days; others were just getting started.

One of these men was known as “Fraze” or “Big Fraze”. Quieter than the rest, he would often be seen standing by a ring post during public workouts, or on fight night itself, and was, although bald like the others, conspicuous for a couple of reasons. He was (a) clearly younger than his comrades and (b) a security guard with boxing aspirations of his own.

That, as a concept, was quite novel. After all, while you would typically find ex-boxers taking up security roles, rarely would you stumble upon an active boxer – an amateur at that – going into security work to supplement their income. He was good, too, they said, this Frazer Clarke; at boxing, that is. Time and time again, in fact, you would hear his colleagues speak of how much potential he had and how in a matter of years he would not only compete at the Olympic Games but win a medal and then turn professional. Mostly, when hearing this sort of talk, you just rolled your eyes, thinking, Yeah, yeah, not another one.

In the meantime, Clarke was content to listen and learn, patrolling large arenas not as the headline act – that was to come – but as one of the men attempting to keep everybody safe. He was, in his role as fight-night security guard, responsible for keeping the peace rather than creating violence; quite the paradox.

“He enjoyed the job,” says Simon Roberts, formerly of Security Alert UK (SAUK). “He enjoyed boxing and he enjoyed security and this was an example of the two worlds coming together. It served multiple purposes.

“We decided to bring him into the business, one, to supplement his income, and two, to get him out there. In 10- or 12-years’ time, he was going to turn pro, and this just helped him spend time on the scene. He was mixing on the scene not only as a very good amateur boxer but cutting his teeth in boxing security.”

Olympic boxing schedule Frazer Clarke

Frazer Clarke (Barrington Coombs/Getty Images/BOA)

Clarke started working security between 2009 and 2010 and would continue doing so for the best part of a decade. In that time, he worked on numerous big events, both at home and abroad, and became a familiar face in the sport long before receiving deserved recognition for his own fighting prowess.

Now, as a pro boxer with an 8-0 record, Clarke stands on the cusp of winning the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles in a headline fight at the O2 Arena. This arena, of course, is not only one in which Clarke has previously provided security, but is also one his old colleagues, those of SAUK, will secure when Clarke fights Fabio Wardley, the current champion, on Sunday night.

Even before that, there are constant reminders of Clarke’s previous life everywhere he looks. The afternoon we speak, for example, he finds himself surrounded by friends striving to maintain a sense of order at the pre-fight press conference, each of them wearing black shirts sporting the SAUK logo.

“I’ve got to thank Clifton (Mitchell) for the job,” Clarke, now 32, tells me. “Between him and Simon (Roberts), they’ve seen a 17-year-old lad who wanted to box and was boxing but was also probably doing a bit of naughtiness on the weekends. They gave me the opportunity to instead go to boxing events on the weekend and called it ‘working’.

“I think Clifton deep down knew he was taking me on an apprenticeship. When everyone else was told to look at the crowd, I would be looking at the boxing. It was a great time in my life and it has made events like this one (on Sunday) very familiar to me. When I see these guys from SAUK, it’s like walking among friends. I know the rules and all the dos and don’ts.”

Clifton Mitchell, himself a former pro boxer, runs SAUK and has known Clarke and his family, particularly his father, for over 40 years. He has witnessed Frazer the baby, Frazer the young boy, Frazer the tearaway, and Frazer the boxer. He is also the one responsible for helping create Frazer the protector.

“He was big and strong but beyond that you have to talk about his personality, his ability to speak to people, and his ability to deal with a situation without using violence,” says Mitchell. “That’s an example of control. A lot of people don’t have that. When people threaten you, you can either react and regret it or you can stand there and smile. You can see that Frazer is someone who is very controlled. You don’t see any pushing and shoving at all with these two (Clarke and Wardley). He’s a more rounded fighter because of the work he did as a security guard. He’s had to deal with different situations and learn self-control. That’s the key.”

Roberts agrees. He, like Mitchell, saw the development in Clarke from boy to man and knows, having spent much of his own youth partying with the heavyweight, what Clarke may have become had he not learned self-control and discipline through both work and sport.

“He is the complete, and I’ll tell you why,” says Roberts. “He’s big, but with security it’s always talk first until it gets to the point of no return. Frazer, for his size, is such a likeable person. He can talk to anyone.

“Any security team in the world is stronger with Frazer Clarke in it. It’s as simple as that. It’s not just about his strength, either. I’m talking his all-round qualities. He is a nice lad; one of the best men I know. He is strong as an ox and hits like a bull.”

In many respects, it’s hard to imagine Frazer Clarke in his role as security guard. He speaks as well as anyone in boxing, especially when pressed on its more contentious issues (see his quite brilliant analysis of Anthony Joshua’s post-fight meltdown against Oleksandr Usyk) or assessing his own failings, and he also has a smile more commonly found on stuffed toys in the arms of children. In his presence, never do you feel threatened or even so much as intimated; this despite the damage he can do with his two hands. Which, of course, is the very point. The very skill he has learned.

“I think I learned how to talk and communicate, which is a good thing,” Clarke says. “I also learned a few dos and don’ts on fight week. As you see, I don’t come with a big crowd of people. I don’t want a big entourage. I’m quite low maintenance. I’m not a superstar or trying to act like one. I’m a normal person and I give everyone respect, from the security to the staff to the public.”

The Clarke smile (Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

Indeed, if anybody involved with fight week is going to know both the value of and difficulties faced by security guards it is Frazer Clarke. He has been where they have been and he has fought the same kind of fights, either with the security of rival teams or inebriated fans on fight night.

“I go back to one incident,” says Roberts. “There was a Prizefighter event at Wolverhampton Civic in 2012 and it absolutely went off. There were a load of Wolverhampton football hooligans there and it got very moody. There were seven or eight of us on the floor and there were 50 or 60 Wolverhampton fans and somehow we were able to defend ourselves and stop it. But Frazer was just so strong in that situation. He definitely had to use a few of his amateur boxing skills that night, let’s put it like that. John Wischhusen, who was working for Matchroom back then, said, ‘I have never seen security deal with that many people so quickly.’ Frazer was definitely responsible for at least 20 of them on his own.”

Reminded of this story today, Clarke laughs, his face becoming even less threatening than when straight and serious. It is, for him, a surprisingly fond memory.

“That was a mad one,” he says. “All the Wolves lads, the football lads, they kicked off big time. That was one of my first events and because I was young I was half wanting it to go off. Basically, it’s gone off – chairs and tables, the lot – and a lot of them were fighting against security. As a young lad, you’re just thinking, Great, I get to throw hands here and won’t get in trouble with the police because I’m doing security. It was good. It was fun. But ultimately as you grow up you realise it’s not fun, it’s dangerous. Eventually my days as a security guard became about looking after people and making sure they have a good time rather than getting in fist-fights with football hooligans.”

A couple of years after Wolverhampton, Clarke, with his newfound approach and mindset, was faced with an altogether different challenge – and unlikelier one – when, on stage, he was greeted by the prospect of a fist-fight with a variety of fellow security guards. As if part of some ill-conceived computer game, Clarke found himself alone, on stage, tasked with holding back the rush of between 15 and 20 men all intent on getting beyond him, The Final Boss, and entering the stage to claim what for them was the prize: an ego boost.

“We discussed multiple times with Carl’s (Froch) camp and George’s (Groves) camp the idea of only having two members of security on stage, but then George turned up with about 20 of his own bodyguards,” recalls Roberts. “It was obviously all mind games and what have you, but they’ve all rushed the stage and Frazer Clarke has basically become a one-man army and stopped at least 10 of George’s bodyguards from getting on stage. It was amazing to witness.”

“Oh my God,” says Clarke, just as enthused by the memory. “He had a few serious heavies with him and Clifton told me, ‘Only two people on stage.’ They tried to take about 15 on there and I just stood on the top of the stairs and said, ‘Look, two have gone past, no more are coming through.’ I was just a young lad in my early twenties and obviously I had a lot of people trying to throw shots at me and the only thing I could do was throw shots back. We got into it a little bit; nothing too mad but we definitely got into it. I got a lot of respect for that from a lot of people. But ultimately I was just doing as I was told.”

Respect’s the word. Quickly, in boxing circles, the Frazer Clarke legend started to grow and grow as a result of that incident. One source formerly of Matchroom tells me, “Frazer was always so professional, with great attention to detail, and was brilliant at his job. Frazer stood at the top of the stairs that day and singlehandedly stood up to 20 security guards. That will always stand in my memory as a good representation of him.”

As well as growing his reputation in the world of security, Clarke’s reputation as a boxer was growing at a similar rate. Soon he knew there would be a difficult choice to make.

“He stopped (working security) around the time he got elite funding from GB, which was probably six or seven years ago,” says Roberts. “You can’t be doing both at that stage. With those shows, it’s a full day – or sometimes week – out of your life. You can’t eat properly. You’re not training. It came to its natural end but it served a very good purpose.”

Clarke adds: “I was on the GB squad and going to the Commonwealth Games and stuff and Rob McCracken said, ‘Look, I see you at shows on the weekends, it’s probably time we take this really seriously and rest at the weekends.’ I had a word with Clifton, he understood and wished me the best, and that was it. We’re family anyway. The security days are over but even on a day like today, at an event like this, I’m still on edge. I’m still looking around and scanning the room for trouble.”

Clarke assess the room (Jess Hornby/Getty Images)

In other words, working security has given Clarke an awareness bordering on paranoia normally associated with retired gangsters who prefer taking the seat in the restaurant facing away from the wall. He likes to see everything; he likes to know who is coming and going and the reasons for both. More than anything, he is a man now utterly comfortable in all environments and around all types of people. He is comfortable when watching big fights in big arenas and doing all he can to prevent trouble, and he is every bit as comfortable when preparing to fight in big arenas and doing all he can to cause the very thing he once looked to avert.

“He has been AJ’s (Anthony Joshua) sparring partner and has also been there and seen it at the big events,” says Mitchell. “He has been backstage, worked big fight nights, and been ringside with AJ. None of this is new to Frazer. People might say this is a big event for him, but nothing’s bigger than going to the Olympics, and he’s done that. Everything he has done so far has led him to this point and I think he’s well and truly ready for it. The security has helped with that. This is not the first time he is coming to the dance.”

“I was around a lot of world champions during that time (in security),” says Clarke. “I was around Carl Froch and Anthony Joshua. Also, Luke Campbell and Khalid Yafai. You learn a lot from guys like that and these events are second nature to me now. It’s not a problem.

“One of the great moments for me was doing the whole camp with Anthony Joshua before his fight with Wladimir Klitschko (in 2017) and people thinking I’m just a security guard and then at the end of the fight he brought me in the ring and gave me the belt and said, ‘You deserve to be in the ring because you helped me.’”

Experience is invaluable in boxing, as it is in any walk of life, and it has again been a buzzword ahead of Sunday’s battle between Clarke and Wardley. Some say Clarke’s amateur experience trumps Wardley’s pro experience, while others point to Clarke’s mere eight pro fights and suggest Wardley’s 17 – against marginally better opposition – gives the Ipswich man an advantage. Whatever the truth, there is one edge Clarke has over Wardley nobody can dispute.

“Working security got Frazer used to that big-fight experience before he had been involved in a big fight of his own,” says Roberts. “I remember Conor Benn, on his debut at the O2, being a bit nervous and saying to me, ‘Simon, can you take me over to the venue?’ I took him over there and I remember walking into the O2 with him and his manager and seeing Conor’s face change as soon as he entered. It was like he had never seen something that big in his life.

“Frazer, on the other hand, had his debut on the undercard of (Kell) Brook vs. (Amir) Khan. It was a sold-out arena and he probably did between 500 and 1,000 tickets himself. You know what? You couldn’t see a nerve in his body. I think that was from him being around Sky (Sports) and being around so many big events over the years. He knew exactly what to expect.

“Although Frazer has only had eight fights and Fabio has had 17, Frazer’s pro experience from being around security is more than what people think it is. People can freeze in these big fights. This is Fabio Wardley’s biggest fight on the biggest stage and it’s also the same for Frazer. But Frazer has been around and involved in much bigger events than this one and therefore knows what it’s all about.”

My contact at Matchroom goes one step further. “You would have thought in his day job that he had to learn how to control his emotions and his aggression when dealing with difficult situations,” he says. “I think if you could choose an apprenticeship to get you ready for events like this, without actually being an amateur boxer, it would probably be a security guard. There is no better preparation for events like this than to have been a security guard for the same kind of events. He has been immersed in this experience in every possible way.”

Now, having watched fights in big arenas, prevented fights in big arenas, and defused fights in big arenas, all Frazer Clarke has to do is tick one final box to complete the set: win a pro fight in a big arena.