British heavyweight champion Fabio Wardley believes that he can follow in the footsteps of heavyweight greats Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua after his bloody war with Frazer Clarke.

Wardley and Clarke turned in an all-time British boxing classic on Sunday night (March 31st) when the two went at each other hammer and tongs for 12 bloody rounds. Wardley, drenched in blood, and Clarke, languishing on the ropes in exhaustion had given everything for the British heavyweight crown, and everyone tuned in to watch.

Sky Sports released that the fight had done record numbers with 1.7 million people tuning in to watch the event, the most for a heavyweight fight in a decade. The clash that ended in a draw recorded a peak audience of 746,000 and an average of 438,000 across the whole four-hour broadcast.

Wardley, who was boxing as the main event for the first time in his career, had planned to make the event a spectacle, but was pleasantly surprised with the figures, describing them as ridiculous.

“Yeah (I was surprised) to be honest,” Wardley told Mersey Sport Live. “It was my first headline, so you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know how it’s going to go. But we did a lot of promotion, we did a lot of build-up, a lot of people tuned in. I think we did quite well. But yeah, 1.7 million is ridiculous.

“I made a strong point of this fight being on mainstream TV and it being in terms of ticket sales, cheap for the fans because I wanted it to be an event. I wanted it to be watched, I wanted it to be seen. I wanted people to be able to attend because obviously a lot of the massive fights are now in Saudi. So having a big one in the UK, I wanted it to be accessible for the fans and for them to be able to be there.”

(Video courtesy of Sky Sports Boxing)

The numbers are a big boost to broadcasters who have lost some of British boxing’s biggest stars over the last few years. The likes of Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have become the only fighters capable of bringing in huge numbers, but Wardley now believes he could be the one to fill that mantle.

“I’m the next one that could be that guy,” said Wardley. “I could be the next Joshua, the next Fury. However, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m there yet. I think I’ve got a lot of time and a lot of things to tick off and do, but I’m well on my way.”

The violent exchanges with Clarke caused damage and a gruesome cut to appear on Wardley’s nose, covering the canvas and referee’s shirt with blood. After the fight Wardley revealed that he was thinking of his mother having to watch his blood spray around ringside. He has now said that his mother, who is his biggest fan, has recovered from the ordeal.

Fabio Wardley's bloody face in his fight against Frazer Clarke - credit ALAMY IMAGES
Fabio Wardley’s bloody face in his fight against Frazer Clarke – credit ALAMY IMAGES

“Yeah she’s fine, she’s fine,” Wardley said. “I know just during the fight, like my mum also is not a scaredy cat, she’s my biggest fan, she’s not hiding behind her fingers or trying to look away at all. She’s the biggest, the loudest, making the most noise, cheering up on her feet. I just knew that the state I looked in, which looked a lot worse than it actually was, would have caused her just a little bit of stress.

“I don’t want too many of those (fights). Look, it’s great fun. It’s fantastic for the fans. It’s created a lot of noise. People have been talking about it. It’s fantastic, but I want to live a nice long life, so I don’t want to knock too many years off.”

The bloody draw left fans craving more and the calls to see the encounter again have already started, but Wardley is considering other options. The British champion is well positioned for a world title shot if the belts become vacant after an undisputed fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk later this year.

“Look, I think I’m sixth with the WBO, 10th with the WBA, 15th maybe with the WBC,” Wardley said. “I’m in the mix for all of them to be honest. So, this is the other question in terms of obviously when people ask about the rematch and stuff.

“The other question is do I follow those routes? Do I try and track down one of [the world titles]? The belts are soon to fragment – do I want to position myself into trying to fight for a world title? So I’ve got options. So we’re going to assess and see what’s best for me.”

Wardley didn’t come through the traditional amateur boxing route, he instead found his way into white-collar boxing. Watch this video to find out how it all started:

(video courtesy of Tom Ivers Boxing)

A draw in boxing normally causes controversy, there is usually uproar from fans demanding a rematch after a fighter was robbed of a decision. Wardley though has not experienced that and explained that fans have been very appreciative of his performance, believing a draw was the correct call.

“I’ve never actually seen so many people say, ‘You know what? A draw was a fair result,’”‘ added Wardley. “I’ve rarely ever seen it in a boxing fight, to be honest. Because it was, it ebbed and flowed, it had ups and downs. I was up, he was up, the knockdown, the point, this, that, the other. There was a lot going on, it just adds more to make it even more of a classic.”

(Featured image under agreed ALAMY IMAGES licence)