Ronnie “The Shark” Clark has just had his biggest win as a professional boxer to become the newly crowned IBF European Super Featherweight Champion.
Inviting me into his home in Dundee Ronnie was relaxed and in sparkling form, still showing the after-effects of the 12 round fight with a few bruises evident around his face he freely chatted about being expected to lose, the tricks that were played and what he is looking for in his future.
Your recent fight was a good win against Zelfa Barrett, is he the toughest guy you’ve been in with and would you rate this as your best performance?
“I think styles make fights so I wouldn’t necessarily say he was the toughest, it was a tough fight but I wouldn’t say he was the toughest. Ryan Walsh, he was very tough, Krzysztof Rogowski was tough as well, in fact, he has been the only guy that actually shook me in a fight. Obviously in the (Anthony) Cacace one I got stopped, but I genuinely don’t feel it was power that caused me to get stopped in that fight. I blame being dehydrated that caused me to get stopped there. I would say that it was the best part of me in this fight, I was more determined and in the right place mentally as well as physically. I still wouldn’t say that’s me at 100% as I think I’m better than that but yes it was a good performance. When I boxed I outboxed him and when I fought I outfought him”
There were a few low blows from Barrett in the fight, do you think they were deliberate to put you off or just an accident?
Ronnie smiled, “As they said in commentary that is his trademark shot, a couple of times they were flush but I was given time by the ref to make sure I was ok. I did mention to the referee before the fight about how bad his low blows were, I said watch out for the low shots when he came into the dressing room. I think points should have been deducted but he at least gave me the recovery time”
Being the away fighter, how difficult it was made for you prior to the fight?
“The world didn’t expect me to win this fight; I was 10 to 1 against at the bookies. Firstly, I was put in a hotel almost an hour from the venue so I had to get up at 7 in the morning for the check weight on the day of the fight. It was a long morning hanging about and then the travel back to the hotel, I just kept my head right and went with it. The thing is I’ve been the away fighter many times and I’ve seen how you get treated. When it came to fight night, I got to the dressing rooms and there was no fuse in the heater so the room was like an icebox. If that wasn’t bad enough there wasn’t room to swing a cat and I was sharing the dressing room with Tony Averlant who fought Anthony Yarde so it was frustrating”
“I never got the fight gloves until 50 minutes before the fight so I didn’t even know what type of gloves I was fighting in which you need to know for wrapping your hands. It’s the type of things they do that let you know they are trying to get in your head or make you lose focus. When it came to my ring music they had lost that so they couldn’t play my walk on song, the 2nd choice of music they couldn’t give me either. In the end I’m not even sure what I walked out to, I just went to do what I had to do and knew that no matter what was thrown at me I could do it. They tried to make me uncomfortable and put me off but I’m comfortable being uncomfortable. Let’s be honest I was given 18 days’ notice to get ready for the Barrett fight so he never got a fully prepared version of me. I really like Zelfa, he’s a nice polite talented guy but he’s not made for me”
Zelfa was touted as the next big thing and future world champ, how satisfying was it to get the win and prove people wrong?
“I’m confident with the right guidance and management that Zelfa will go on to eventually become a world champion, I just hope they move him the right way. If we go in there again I’m not going to have sympathy for him as I want that too and I think I want it more. There have been comments going around that if we fight again I’m going to end his career and stuff like that. I don’t necessarily agree that that’s the case, it’s just that I’ll put him on a road to nowhere. It also means a lot to get a true reading, the first judge scored it 114/114 it’s hard when you are in there to sometimes work out how the scoring is going but when I watched it back I thought I was a clear winner. I think 116/111 is a wide scoring but in the IBF you can’t score the rounds a draw so I believe I did enough in those rounds to win them. The 2 judges who weren’t from the UK both scored it the same so they must have seen the same thing”
Give us some insight into your team these days?
“I have a great team around me and everyone is so supportive behind the scenes. People don’t realise how much they do and what it means to me”
“My manager Mark Dunlop is amazing and for me, he is the best manager in British boxing at the moment, he works so hard and is constantly looking after his fighters. When I’m over in Belfast I’m around his family and they are a massive factor and make me feel at home. There are no outside distractions so I can just concentrate on training and resting. My trainer when I’m in Belfast is Tony Dunlop, he was brilliant in the run-up to the fight as he is funny and kept my spirits high”
“When I’m in Scotland I train out of the Lochend Boxing Club with Terry McCormack and he is the man, he has been an amazing influence to me. Terry helped me win this fight that is the long and short of it, him and Lewis Benson who helped a lot with sparring were a huge part in me winning. Lewis was a great help as he was able to replicate Zelfa except he’s bigger stronger and faster so he was brilliant”
You had some time out of the ring last year due to a short spell in prison, what did you learn about yourself there?
“It was a hard time to deal with things and my biggest downer on that was that it was hard to accept the lies that were told about me so firstly I had to get over that part. The time I had away I wasn’t punching; you couldn’t even shadow box as you would be reported for aggressive behavior. I worked as a PT instructor when I was at HM Prison in Kirkham so I was in the gym every day. That allowed me to train twice a day and I was able to surround myself with positive people. That might sound strange to say but you can have positive people anywhere and I met some great people while in there. I actually met Scott Cardle’s dad as his mum had a stroke and she would come to the gym for rehabilitation and I worked on that side, they were a lovely couple. I was involved in helping with the rehab and it was good to try and help people”
Looking ahead what would you ideally like to happen this year?
“I need to be professional and pick the right fights now rather than jump straight in and take on someone who will only get me 1 ranking point and then I maybe get injured or we clash heads or something. Being European champion seems like a lot but no matter what you get you want more and I’m no different. As soon as the opportunities come I will be ready, Ronnie smiles again, I’m actually the oldest of the top 20 British fighters but I probably act the youngest! Max Bowen is fighting Maxi Hughes for the British Title in April and I think a fight with the winner of those would be a good matchup. The Barrett rematch is obviously the first one to get out of the way now though”
As our interview comes to a close my eyes are drawn to his pride and joy. Not his European title belt, not any of his world kickboxing titles, but a sewing machine takes centre stage on the table.
“I got it for my Xmas and I love it, I make my own shorts now. I made the shorts I wore for the Barrett fight and I am just working on a new pair for my next fight which will be as colourful as I am. Once my boxing career is over I might start up Ronnie’s repairs he laughed”
Photo Credit: BoxNation
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