I don’t know if anyone at ringside could explain what being the Super-Featherweight champion of the East/West of Europe, as sanctioned by the International Boxing Federation, actually means or define the area it covers nor or how effectively it places the custodian in any regional or global hierarchy. A cynic may ask if the East/West of the title’s, erm, title suggests it doesn’t include Northern Europe and subsequently enquire how Ronnie Clark was fighting for it, given he is a born and bred product of one of the continent’s most Northerly cities.
However, the primal scream the eccentric 33-year-old from Dundee let out at the announcement he’d beaten the highly favoured Zelfa Barrett by split decision to earn the honour illustrated, that to him at least, it meant the world. You’ll have to pardon the awful misappropriation.Few sobriquets could summarise the rugged Scotsman who undoubtedly has a flare for the unorthodox which reaches far beyond his Southpaw stance. A leather thong his regular garb for weigh-ins and his demonic stare and grinning dervish persona all add to his notoriety. Those around boxing know the appearance or history of a man needn’t offer much insight into the depth of either his talent or resolve but Clark possesses a demeanour that is entirely reflective of his fighting heart.
I’ve seen Clark fight a handful of times, and he offers spite, defiance and no short amount of ability at around British title level. A mixed ledger illustrative of the calibre of fighter he encounters and equally, his tendency to be the opponent, the away fighter in terms of geography and, more crucially, promotionally too.
In tonight’s 12 round clash with the likeable Barrett, nephew of Pat Barrett who trains and corners him, Clark provided his usual compound of aggressive offensive style and smiling, madman defiance. In the sixth he floored Barrett with an uppercut and the youngster showed barrels of his own resilience to climb up and continue.
Throughout the fight, Clark, his luminous green dreadlocks lashed tightly to his crown, hit the taller man with lead lefts and straight rights. In the closing rounds his accuracy improved still further, he simply couldn’t miss with straight punches, and the tiring Barrett grew ever wilder with left hooks which travelled almost 180 degrees, leaving his bruised and bleeding face open to yet more leads and counters.
Across the last two rounds, despite the obvious fatigue, Barrett worked hard to find a blow which would change the impetus Clark had built and the point or two advantage he’d secured on my card. On the final bell, Pat Barrett raised him aloft, he may need to help him sip his tea tomorrow, but though aware of the benefit of doubt often afforded promoter’s prospects there was a sense the Barrett camp knew it had slipped away.
Clark, peered down, stomach and mind churning at the thought of another narrow loss, another decision not going his way. One 114-114 card led the way, but scores of 116-111 hinted, because of the 10-8 6th round, that he’d got the nod. The guttural scream felt, if not heard, by those of us sitting at home restored faith in the objectivity of those with the cards to fill.
The right man won. Barrett can learn, can rebuild, can do better. He needs to work on maintaining distance, bringing his hands back better, jabbing more and resisting the temptation to swing from the fences. When someone as shrewd and focussed as Clark is weaving and countering on the front foot, that wildness will cost dearly.