“I called it, didn’t I?!”
Lennox Clarke certainly did. The Halesowen man can now proudly call himself the new British and Commonwealth super-middleweight champion following his superb fifth-round stoppage victory over Willy Hutchinson last weekend and in the process has found himself a legion of new followers on social media and beyond.
Hutchinson was the backed man. Frank Warren had big plans for him and the young Scot, as well as his team at the Ingle Gym in Sheffield, already thought they were beyond the likes of Clarke. Talk of emulating Joe Calzaghe’s feat of winning the Lonsdale Belt in his 14th fight seemed to be the line that was being pushed. Clarke, however, made sure the talk remained just that. Talk.
The previously unbeaten Hutchinson started well before unravelling under pressure. He looked to be in cruise control in the second round and it seemed the hype may well be justified. Then he suffered a cut and Clarke pressed on. In the fifth, a flush right hand separated Hutchinson from his senses and two follow-up shots collapsed him into the corner. He rose to his feet to his credit, but the fight was correctly stopped and Clarke could revel in the celebrations.
In his catch-up chat with Boxing Social after predicting his upset victory on this site 11 days ago, Clarke was, unsurprisingly, ecstatic. He pronounced: “I went back to the corner at the end of the second and they told me that I’d taken his best shots and now was the time to answer back. I knew if I just kept chipping away at him, he would mentally crumble but I’d be lying if I thought that the stoppage would come as early as it did. I thought it would come later or I would just take over the longer it went.
“The story still ended the same way I believed it always would. I was always going to beat him. He was portrayed as a bit of a beast. But he was never stopping me. It serves them right for overlooking me. He’s going to have to rebuild now and he’ll have a huge question mark over his head. I don’t want to say he has no chin as I think that those shots would have hurt or put away many fighters, but he’s going to have to get used to those questions.”
Now for Clarke, the question he will be posed is ‘where does he goes from here?’ But Clarke (20-1-1, 8 KOs) is now just focused on keeping his new-found momentum rolling.
There is a potential rematch with Lerrone Richards (reportedly fighting for the European title against Giovanni De Carolis on May 15) who won a split decision against Clarke in November 2019; however, the newly-crowned champion is confident that won’t be happening in the near future. Instead, Clarke has turned his attention towards a summer date, following a chat with promoter Frank Warren.
“I want to move on now. It’s been a stop-start career due to injuries, illness and Covid, so now the plan is to box as often as possible, solidify my name and show I’m a serious contender,” said Clarke. “I’m 29 now, so winning the British outright might not be the best plan. If I was a couple of years younger, then yes, but I’m no spring chicken in boxing terms. I’ll keep ticking over in the gym and then I’ll be ready for when the date comes.
“I’m looking to be out properly in the summer, but I’ll have to chat with Frank, tell him what’s what and see what he has planned. I’d love to run it back with Lerrone, considering last time I had no right hand [in a split decision loss in November 2019], which is the shot you need to beat a southpaw. But his manager Sam Jones messaged me and said I’m an animal and that fight wasn’t happening soon, so we’ll be going a different route for now.”
Clarke hasn’t followed the normal path to the top. Whereas Hutchinson has always been pushed following a successful career in the amateurs, Clarke was slogging away on the white-collar circuit. Despite the different ways they found themselves in the sport, Clarke is the man at the summit, which is of no surprise to him as he has always known he would eventually get there.
A major reason for Clarke’s success is the team that he has around him. He was quick to praise them following his win, mentioning one of his coaches who had sadly just lost a family member in the days leading up to the fight. The 29-year-old was also happy to give some recognition to his manager Errol Johnson, who doesn’t receive the same praise as some of the more well-known trainers and managers in British boxing circles.
“Let’s be honest, [Hutchinson] had the ideal path and he ended up losing to a self-proclaimed white collar dosser! At the end of the day, I’m in the same place as everyone else and it feels good to finally have some people talking about me,” said Clarke. “I always believed I was at this level and possibly beyond it. Now I want to try and get amongst the top names. I know from sparring whoever and all over the place, I’m a serious competitor but now the proof is there for all to see.
“A large part of that is down to my team. We’re extremely tight knit and they have some serious patience because they had to put up with me in that bubble for a week! They train me like a Trojan and for the likes of Errol Johnson, this is what he deserves. He doesn’t get the press or recognition that he should because people don’t realise what he does behind the scenes. He does it all from the small hall to matchmaking Frank Warren’s fighters. He’s a true credit to the sport.”
Clarke has shown himself to be a genuinely likeable character in the fight game and, in true fashion, he had a final message of encouragement for Hutchinson.
“Look, he’s 22 and in the build-up there was a fair bit of banter going back and forward. He was a bit cheeky, in fact a bit arrogant at times, but it came back on him. He’s a very good fighter and I will never take that away from him,” said the new champion. “The shots I caught him with would have taken most people out, so I’m sure that Willy Hutchinson will come back very soon and do well. In fact, I really hope that he does.”
Main image and all photos: Queensberry Promotions.