By Robert Hughes
Samuel ‘The Main Event’ Clarkson of Cedar Hill, Texas will take on undefeated Kyrgyz sensation Dmitry Bivol for Bivol’s WBA interim light-heavyweight belt. Fighting near Washington, D.C. on Showtime Friday night this is the best chance in three years for Clarkson to move his career along the champion’s path or lose and take it back to the clubs and arenas of Dallas, or elsewhere.
Clarkson gets this chance, again, with an opportunity on his plate than he hasn’t had since Jesse Hart denied him an NABF title at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas this week three years ago.
But up now in a similar role to challenge Clarkson [19-3-0, 12 KO] is the intimidating and untested Bivol [9-0-0, 7 KO] who has hundreds of amateur bouts but a mostly blank pro record. The scary-fast Bivol is from Tokmok, in the Chuy Valley of Kyrgyzstan.
A classic Russian beast of a fighter. And while Clarkson duly notes these facts he doesn’t seem worried.
“Bivol is a very talented guy,” Clarkson said. “He’s smart, he’s fast, he’s strong from what I’ve seen but we’ve trained with some strong guys, some very fast guys so I’m not much worried about what he has to throw – I’ll have an answer for everything that’ll be thrown at me.”
Training in New York City for Clarkson was at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn and Church Street Boxing Gym in Manhattan. While there he was sparring against some tough fighters – Sean Monaghan, Lennox Allen, Earl Newman, and Joe Smith, Jr., and others. These intense training sessions are good reasons Clarkson is feeling confident leading up to this event.
“I feel the fight will actually work in my favor,” he said. “I’m working on a lot of new stuff – every counter punch he throws at me I’ll have a counter to him.”
Clarkson said as soon as he got the call for the fight he trained four weeks in Dallas before moving camp to New York for four more weeks.
“Training out here in New York is awesome,” Clarkson said. “Training at the Gleason’s gym has been a challenge, I’ve gotten exactly what I’ve been looking for, taken out of my comfort zone. They’ve opened their arms up to me, so we’ve been training really, really hard on everything from sprints to bag work to sparring with top-quality guys.”
The idea to move Clarkson’s camp from Big D to the Big City was a collaborative call that Sam was fully behind.
Trying to change up his routine Clarkson, his trainer/father Samuel ‘Pops’ Clarkson, Sr. and Uprising Promotions camped out a block away from the Brooklyn Bridge at the legendary gym on Water Street hoping for a change of scenery in the ring.
“I was used to the guys I was sparring with so I wanted to see more of a European style of fighter,” Clarkson said. “So my coach, my team and my father and Uprising decided to come out here to see different looks. I didn’t want to be in my comfort zone, at all.”
Just as tall, just as strong and with hands of speed that weigh almost 200 pounds Bivol is undefeated and can’t be thinking ‘The Main Event’ will be his first loss.
But like Bivol, Clarkson has been here before, once. Three years ago when he was pushed around for 12 rounds by still-undefeated Jesse Hart for a shot at the NABF Jr. super-middleweight belt.
That fight did not go well, with an ugly fourth round that saw Clarkson go down twice. He did an amazing job keeping the round going to the bell and made it the distance but lost a unanimous decision to Hart.
Now Clarkson is focused on this battle, one that looks to be a good style match for Clarkson who is disciplined enough to keep his hands up high where they’ll need to be. Combined with his southpaw those defensive hands will be an asset against Bivol’s amazing ability to run opponents into the ropes and knock them out with high-flying combos.
As much as Bivol is a shooting star who has yet to be challenged in the ring since he turned pro 29 months ago, Clarkson’s career has been a bit of a saga for a 26-year-old who has 23 fights across almost six years, occasionally against stout competition.
Aside from a solid performance against Cedric Agnew in which he was knocked down but still won a split-decision, Clarkson’s tougher fights against Hart and a peaking Donald Mouton didn’t turn out in his favor.
Even though he has hundreds of amateur fights and the blue-chip amateur resume to go with them, Bivol’s professional record is only 9-0, with one quality win, seven weeks ago against Robert Berridge.
“I don’t really look at it as being my toughest shot, it’s a big opportunity to fight for the belt but I’ve fought tough top-quality people before,” Clarkson said. “He’s fought people with good records but nowhere near the level of people I’ve fought.”
With ‘Pops’ in his corner Clarkson is very upbeat and expects to win Friday night and his family, including his son Samuel A. Clarkson III and his girlfriend, Andrea, will be there ringside cheering him on.
No surprise in New York City ‘The Main Event’ said he was dreaming about pizza, and after he makes weight he likes to eat ‘anything greasy.’ He said he expects to step into the ring on fight night around 190-something, maybe at 200 pounds.
The Main Event has been here before – a lot to gain if he can win a big fight against a big-time opponent, or more main events on non-televised cards if the man from Kyrgyzstan hands him a dreaded fourth loss.
“I’m not really worried about what’s happening next – Bivol is the main focus,” he said. “My team will handle all the stuff that comes after.”
“I think it’s gonna be a real awesome fight,” Clarkson said. “I think we’re gonna shock the world.”