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Ryan Clark: Putting Jonjo Finnegan in hospital was tragic, but it will not stop me

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: October 09, 2012

  • Ryan Clark is now working hard ahead of fights, rather than taking them at short notice

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The great Brendan Ingle has always maintained that the only legal way to kill a man in this country is inside a boxing ring.

Some may dismiss such conviction as fight-game hyperbole, but Ryan Clark will not be challenging the beliefs of one of the sport's most experienced trainers.

It is now just over two months since he nearly killed Jonjo Finnegan, when a monstrous right hook retained the international masters title in devastating circumstances.

It was a punch thrown in the blink of an eye, but the aftermath continues to resonate.

Finnegan is still recovering from a severe bleed to the brain as emergency surgery saved him from becoming a grim statistic.

But that was only half the battle – he must now learn to walk again.

Given he was the man responsible, the last two months for Clark have been a severe test of character and a voyage of self discovery.

"For weeks after the fight I replayed what happened over and over and over again, it was like being on some kind of nightmarish loop," he says.

"As soon as I hit him, I just turned around and put my hands in the air, but then I heard the thud of the canvas.

"I did not even see him go down, but about 20 seconds later my trainer Carl Greaves told me it was not good.

"The celebrations were muted and when I saw his family and how upset they were, it was horrible.

"I'm just glad Jonjo is alive because he has two children and for them to lose their dad would have absolutely crushed me, no doubt about it.

"I felt so guilty and it has taken me a long time to come to terms with what happened.

"I even had a life coach just to talk to him about it and how I was feeling because my head was a train wreck.

"There is not one boxer who could say that hurting someone so bad that they needed a five-hour brain surgery would not have some kind of effect on you.

"It was terrible, but God bless him. Good luck to him and his family. I've spoken to them and there is no malice. They understand it's boxing and the fact it could have been anyone – including me.

"I have to say the support for Jonjo and myself has been outstanding. Boxing has really rallied and it showed that no matter what is said pre-fight, we are all friends.

"But ultimately, I have to move on and the sessions with the life coach have helped enormously. A new chapter awaits and I'm looking forward to writing it."

As much as Clark's victory over Finnegan commanded the headlines for all the wrong reasons, it did no harm to his rankings in the super middleweight division.

He is now 17th in this country, a fine achievement, especially on the back of 53 losses.

Upon inspection, it would be easy to glance at that record and dismiss his chances of fulfilling a dream of becoming a British champion.

But that would be doing the 23-year-old a disservice because the majority of those fights were taken at extremely short notice because 'the money was too good to refuse'.

Clark maintains you can earn a decent pay packet from being a punch bag, but to his credit he has only been stopped twice in 61 fights.

But the Finnegan fight has taught him the qualities of training properly for 10 weeks rather than a couple of days.

"People can look at my record and say what they like, it does not bother me one little bit," he said.

"I was taking fights at very short notice some of which were only a couple of days.

"In some cases I was saying yes to a fight when I had a slice of pizza in my hand.

"I was like Mr Blobby on occasions, but the money was good so it did not bother me.

"But even though I was so unfit at times, I've only ever been stopped twice and I've been in with some extremely good boxers.

"I hurt Frank Buglioni, who is in the top 10, and he has knocked out all and sundry, – he couldn't do it to me.

"The Jonjo fight proved that if I knuckle down and train and prepare properly then I can achieve anything.

"Because of my durability people don't like fighting me. Imagine you were punching the hell out of me and you gave everything, but I was still there in front of you?

"It would be disheartening wouldn't it?

"I would love the Lonsdale belt around my waist, but people will read this article and think 'whatever, look at his losses, he's got no chance'.

"But you watch me. All I can do is prove it to them."

Clark's love of pre-fight trash talk has quickly earned him a reputation for being extremely cocky, but behind that brash exterior hides a thoroughly decent young man. His dog Lenny, a youthful Rottweiler, is his best mate and a glass of rosé, rather than lager, is his tipple of choice.

He is a devoted family man, regularly shunning the nightlife of Lincoln for a quiet night at a country pub.

These activities are not usually part of a boxer's CV, but Clark does not like to conform to stereotypes.

Not many 23-year-old boxers can say they have fought more than 60 times in what has been a fascinating journey so far.

And if he has his way, it will be signposted to success.

"I love boxing," he said. "The Jonjo incident aside, I get such a buzz from it.

"I'm ranked in the top 20 in Britain and this is my chance to reach the top.

"But I couldn't do it without my family, friends and fans.

"My sponsors Ian Batchelor, Thorpe Park Lodges, CNP Professional, D White roofing, DPS gardening and Brant Road motor sales have been invaluable.

"They have been with me every step of the way and hopefully I can repay them by taking my chance to shine."

Clark is defending his international super middleweight title against Jack Sunderland on November 2 at the Magna Sports Centre, Newark.

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