Boxing: Clarke revelling in chance to fight in front of home crowd

China Clarke.
China Clarke.
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LEEDS ace China Clarke says he will fulfil a dream when boxing at Leeds Arena tonight.

Crusierweight Clarke will take on Courtney Richards in a bid to add another win to his ledger before pushing on for a crack at British champion Jon-Lewis Dickinson. It is of holding that Lonsdale belt that Clarke dreams of but merely fighting in Leeds this evening will fulfil a boyhood wish. Clarke, who is now 34, grew up in Leeds desperate to showcase his talents to a home crowd on a big stage.

The cruiserweight has been a regular performer at Leeds United’s Banqueting Suite at Elland Road where he defeated Lithuanian Remigijus Ziausys last month. Yet there is no denying that tonight’s outing at the Leeds Arena is the big one and Clarke cannot wait to get cracking.

“I’ve always thought to myself, ‘I hope an arena gets built in Leeds, because then I can live the dream of boxing on a huge show in my home city’” said Clarke.

“I did box at Wembley, but it wasn’t Leeds and if the arena is sold out and rammed, I’ll be so excited.

“It feels great that it’s in Leeds and I’m a strong believer in getting behind Leeds, whether that be United or the Rhinos, to support the city’s economy.

“I’m representing Leeds, and it’s important as a resident to sell the City of Leeds. We have so much to be proud of and it’s important that we attract massive events like this to show off. It’s the first ever arena show in Leeds, and I’m hoping to make history.

“When I first started boxing we didn’t have an arena and I always wondered if I’d have to go away to London or Manchester for the big fights.

“I’m massively looking forward to the show.”

Clarke forms part of the undercard to Stuart Hall’s clash with Vusi Malinga for the IBF world bantamweight title. Clarke has had just a single defeat in 15 outings with his big breakthrough coming earlier this year when, in a battle of undefeated boxers, he overcame big-punching Londoner Wadi Camacho in seven rounds to take the vacant English title. A loss to another smart prospect followed when the 34-year-old was beaten by Blackpool’s Matty Askin in his first defence, but two wins have followed and Clarke is now looking at a career-defining 2014.

“My goals are to get more titles,” he said.

“Even though I suffered my first loss in 2013 it has still been a great year for me.”

Trained by Mark Bateson, father of amateur star Jack, the Yorkshireman has also since added triathlon training to his fitness regime and believes this will make all the difference to his future performances.

Clarke added: “I’ve now changed things behind the scenes and have added the triathlon type training into my boxing and it’s made a huge difference.

“Jon-Lewis Dickinson defends his British title against Neil Dawson in March next year, and I would love to take on the winner.

“I know where I’m at now so if that shot at the British title came up, or any title shot for that matter, then it would be fantastic because I’m at that level. It needs to happen.”

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