Richard Riakporhe believes Sunday’s British and Commonwealth title fight between Fabio Wardley and Frazer Clarke will be won by whichever of the two heavyweights proves more composed.

They finally fight at The O2 Arena in London after a year in which Clarke has previously and harshly come to be perceived as reluctant to confront his leading rival and their rivalry has therefore intensified – and to the extent it once extended to Clarke’s promoters Boxxer and Matchroom, then promoting the defending champion.

The 34 year old Riakporhe trains alongside Clarke under Angel Fernandez at Loughborough University, but when, like was Wardley, he was managed by Dillian Whyte he also sparred Wardley.

Riakporhe is nearing a significant domestic title fight in June against the WBO cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith, who he previously outpointed in 2019, but having also sparred Clarke he struggles to determine a favourite for Sunday evening.

Wardley, at 29 three years younger than Clarke, is the more experienced professional, but Clarke, an Olympic bronze medallist, had considerably more experience as an amateur. Clarke – from whom Riakporhe has observed greater focus than ever – may also be the more naturally talented fighter, but he is perhaps too willing to brawl, and Riakporhe said: “Frazer’s seasoned. He might be emotional but that could be a power in the fight. Him and Fabio are quite similar. When [Wardley] gets hit, it’s almost like a switch gets turned on and he goes out and starts to fight you. Frazer has the same type of switch in him, which makes them quite similar. 

“This fight could depend on who keeps their calm and who’s the most patient and relaxed. Maybe they’ll get more advantage; the person who [shows] that switch might be more vulnerable.

“It’s definitely personal. Frazer wants something that Fabio has, and both of them are trying to take food off each other’s plate. It’s very personal. That’s how it is with fights.

“Frazer’s looking on point. He’s looking more focused than usual; sharp, hungry. He understands what’s at stake. He really wants to cement his name and legacy. He wants to win the British title for his family. I’ve never seen him so amped up – geared up – for a fight. Ever. 

“[Me and Wardley] used to spar a lot. When I was preparing for British title fights Fabio used to come and help me out a lot. 

“I’ve sparred [for this fight, Clarke] a bit, but he has his own sparring partners that he hired. More heavyweights, and more people he needed to practice certain strategies with.

“It’s a 50-50. Whoever shows up on the night [will win]. We can’t analyse it based on past successes. There’s certain variables that effect a result. This being Frazer’s first big fight – 12 rounder; British title fight – and it’s Fabio’s [first] big show as well. It’s him headlining. This is different. It’s about who turns up on the night; who wants it more. Sometimes you have to just dig deep. It’s just one of those type of fights.”

Potentially heightening the challenge Clarke faces in remaining calm is the criticism he received when his promoters prevented Sunday’s fight from happening in 2023. 

“He’s much better [for the delay],” Riakporhe continued. “With time you improve. There was a bit of a knock back, with the perception that he doesn’t want to take fights and stuff like that. A lot of the fans don’t understand the business and they don’t understand there’s certain powers that prevent things from happening. The fight’s happening now, and it was good for Frazer because he had some fights and he was able to develop – more mentally than anything. When you jump in the ring and fight you don’t know if you can go 12 rounds; 10 rounds; eight rounds, and those nerves make you stiff and don’t make you flow in a fight you should win easily. So the timing’s good.

“He was really upset. He’s the type of fighter that’s very prideful. He’d care more about his pride than his money, as crazy as that sounds; he cares about his perception more than anything, which is why he was pushing for the fight. 

“When it was ordered in the beginning he was pushing to make it happen. It’s funny, because he was getting a lot of the slander. He’s happy the fight’s happening and he gets to prove himself – and get paid.”