Ronnie “The Shark” Clark – Unmasked

Jon Bruce

Jon has been a fight fan for around 40 years, Jon has a Diploma in Freelance Journalism. As well as being an official with the British Boxing Board of Control, Jon is also a coach with the Declaration 1320 Boxing Club in Arbroath.

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Walking into the living room he is lying on the couch covered in a blanket, he looks tired and it’s obvious that the last 24 hours in particular has been an emotional time for Ronnie Clark IBF European Super Featherweight champion. After what has been a difficult few months Ronnie took the big decision to put his prized belt on eBay in order to help support his family over Xmas. What he didn’t expect was that fans and fellow boxers alike would plead with him not to sell leading to offers of help from around the UK. We met up to discuss what happened and the impact it has made on him.

First of all, he gave a bit of background to what led to him making the decision to sell his belt.

“I won the title in February against Zelfa Barrett but then I went and broke my hand from falling in the summer when I was moving house so had to pull out of my defence against David Oliver Joyce. My son Klay was born in July and myself and Sarah Jane also got married so it’s been eventful to say the least. I had very limited income and was also trying to make a house liveable conditions for a young baby as it needed a bit of work doing to it. I got the good news that I had been made mandatory for the British Title against Sam Bowen, I wasn’t given a date at first but I was eventually told it would be on the 15th December. The same week Sam got injured which is a pity as it would have been a great fight and one the fans would have loved. My manager Mark Dunlop managed to get me on a card in Aberdeen for a tune up fight to keep me in the rankings but with 2 days to go my opponent had to pull out and there was not enough time to get a replacement so that has left me without a fight since the title win”

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“When you are self-employed you don’t have anyone to fall back on, there is no sick pay and there is no insurance if someone pulls out a fight, if it’s off it’s off and the new date will not be until around March so that would be 13 months without a wage”

“I’ll be honest, I was massively struggling, when I go into fight camp, I use my credit card to pay my costs and then pay it off after the fight. People don’t realise the costs involved, even just things like going to the sauna cost around £40 a week along with the fuel for travel so it all adds up. My wife is on maternity leave at the moment and will have to go back to work early now. The plan was to have the big fight in December, then 3 months training and another big fight but with all that being up in smoke it left us in a position where I had to do something to keep our heads above water and provide for my family. With it being Klay’s first Xmas I understand people saying he won’t know any different but I still wanted to be able to buy him a few things.

It’s one thing thinking about selling a prized possession but can be different when it comes to actually doing it. How difficult was it mentally to put it up for sale?

“At the time I made the decision my thought process was that I would just win another belt. I never really understood the importance or the prestige of it and what it would mean further down the line to me or my family and when all the messages started to come in it was pretty overwhelming. In particular when Tommy Coyle said it was more than just a belt and that my son would be proud that really brought it home to me” Ronnie welled up as he spoke.

Moving to Ronnie’s wife I asked Sarah Jayne how she felt when he put the belt up for sale.

“I felt sad and just wanted it kept for Klay and also to remember his achievement, he looks so proud in the pictures with it and I didn’t want it taken away”

A lot of the public perception around boxers is that they are professional sportsmen and therefore must be millionaire’s or at the very least making a small fortune. Ronnie went on to highlight the stark reality for most boxers and the difference between the “established stars” and everyone else.

“I know everybody is under the impression that you get hundreds of thousands of pounds for a fight like this (European Title) but in all honesty it’s less than minimum wage. By the time I had paid my manager and trainer fees I was lucky if I had £6,000 left over but I still had to pay all my expenses like fuel and eating at the time as I didn’t have the food prep help”

Some boxers are lucky enough to have sponsorship deals to cover costs, Ronnie explained what help he gets.

“I only really have a few friends who help out with some sponsorship and whilst they have all been fantastic it would be great to get a big company involved, that’s not always possible though. I know I’m not the only one struggling and it is embarrassing but it’s hard. I live in a caravan through the week as otherwise I would have a 3 and half hour round trip to the gym for training so because of that I can’t work in another job like some do. I do get some physio treatment and my meals now so there are positives as well”

At a time like this it can show you how highly regarded you are and the boxing community and fans alike have come out with messages of support, offers of help and even some fans starting go fund or just giving pages. Ronnie was visibly taken aback by the number of messages he has received.

“It’s been mental and the people who stand out to me are Robbie Davies Jnr who has helped me get a new sponsor and Sunny Edwards, people like that reaching out means a lot as they are so talented but it just shows they are really genuine people. Dave Coldwell and Tommy Coyle offering to help was amazing and the texts they have sent me encouraging me mean more than money. I’m not very good at taking these things and prefer to be someone who gives to people rather than take. I have a fundraiser next week for a football team and I like doing things like that or going to the amateur gyms as the happiness I see in the kids faces means more than money. But when people try to help me or make me happy, I struggle to accept it for some reason and it’s frustrating”

“I’ve not been involved in any of the go fund me pages or things like that and to be honest I don’t want to be involved in that. Anyone looking to help can get in touch. I would love to get more sponsors involved in this part of my journey and anyone wanting to be a part of it can contact me on my Facebook page”

As we speak the phone rings and Billy Nelson also offers to help out which again goes to prove to how well thought of Ronnie is.

With the responses that he has had Ronnie opened up on how it has made him feel.

“I feel loved and cared about and I didn’t really know anyone out there cared, (Ronnie welled up at this stage again and was visibly upset). I’m glad they care and that I’ve realised what Klay may feel in the future, I won’t be selling the belt now, I can’t now that I understand the importance of it. In a few years’ time when he is old enough to know what I won I want to make sure he has more than just this belt to hold on to”
Whilst there has been a swell of goodwill towards Ronnie, I wanted to know what his manager and promoter had done to help out, like he does inside the ring Ronnie pulled no punches.

“Mark Dunlop has done what he can in terms of trying to arrange another fight it’s just unfortunate that they both fell through. I don’t think Frank Warren has my best interests at heart, he is meant to be my promoter but when you go onto Box Nation everyone else gets their profiles updated except me. I want to give the public what they deserve in boxing and be involved in real fights. I will lose my ranking position and be taken off Box Rec if I don’t fight by February as I will be classed as an inactive fighter. I obviously don’t want that to happen but Queensberry Promotions (Frank Warren) are making it difficult for me and I don’t think they want me to succeed and don’t want me to fight for the Lonsdale belt. Even for the proposed British Title fight I only got 4 weeks’ notice but that just makes me more determined, I’ve become used to being used as the away fighter. I really want the Sam Bowen fight to happen as its two real fighters who will go for it and it will be a cracker for the fans. He is undefeated and has some really good wins on his record so I wish him a speedy recovery and hope we can get it arranged as quickly as possible”

With everything that has gone on over the year, have you ever been tempted to quit?

“I’ve thought about it a few times as I could earn more by just getting a job but I feel I have more to offer still in boxing. I’ll be 34 in January but I feel I’m fresh as I live the life and will go on for a good while yet”

As he mentioned earlier Ronnie has been living in a caravan recently to avoid a lengthy daily commute to training, he gave an insight to his life and what changes he is making at the moment.

“Living in the caravan is hard at the moment as it’s freezing in the winter parked at the sea, there was one morning I woke up and could see my breath it was that cold. My life is basically train back to the caravan to sleep and train again. I love it so much but at the same time I hate it, I miss out on a lot of family time which hurts. I’m actually making the upstairs changing room at the gym into my bedroom as it will be warmer for me through the winter. Terry McCormack has been incredible to me and it will give me more time in the gym with no travelling even from the caravan. What he means to me and the things he has done for me recently are immense, he genuinely makes me a better person. When you gel with someone like we have it’s fantastic and I know with him around I will succeed. In fact, if he ever left boxing then that would be the reason I would quit, I will be with Terry until the end of my career. He has brought something back to me and that along with sparring guys like Josh Taylor and Lewis Benson have really helped too”

Giving a final message to fans, friends and the wider boxing family Ronnie gave his final thoughts.
“I genuinely didn’t realise the response this would get, I also didn’t realise how important the belt would be (welling up again Ronnie went on to say). I realise now it’s not my belt it’s Klays and I can’t sell it, it won’t be going anywhere, it’s worth much more to us all than I originally thought. I still can’t believe so many people want to help and the messages of support I’ve had, it’s touching and so nice. Thanks massively for the support, it’s been emotional and really overwhelming. It’s been really positive though and remember that good always brings good. Everything that has happened has made me even more determined to be successful”

Anyone looking to get in touch with Ronnie to offer further hep or sponsorship opportunities can get in touch with him via his Facebook page.

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