The higher reaches of the heavyweight division are the land of milk and honey – even fringe contenders command the type of purses that champions in lower weight divisions can only dream of. Unearthing a potential heavyweight star is the dream of boxing trainers around the world.

Robert Hodgins has perhaps found one.

Years of hard work contributed to the trainer guiding Fabio Wardley from the nightclubs and small halls of the white-collar boxing scene to the English heavyweight title. It was then that he decided that the time was right to enlist the help of one of British boxing’s most successful trainers, by handed over partial control of Wardley’s career to Ben Davison

Plenty would have allowed success to blind them and either been too stubborn to accept help or oblivious to the need for it, but despite his years of time and effort, Hodgins was smart enough to realise what he may have on his hands and wise enough to put his fighters’ needs first.

Davison first appeared in Wardley’s corner for his fight with Chris Healey in July 2022. Since then, the 29 year old has improved as a fighter and Hodgins has gained valuable experience from working alongside Davison and his talented stable.

On March 31 Wardley will defend his British and Commonwealth titles against Frazer Clarke and Hodgins will have his part to play in plotting the demise of an Olympic bronze medallist. 

“To be fair, coming up against Frazer is a good chance to pit our wits against him,” Hodgins told ProBox TV.

“We’ve got Ben Davison now who’s a great asset to the team and in my head he’s one of the best coaches in Britain.

“We’ll work together. I’ve known Fabio for about 15 years and Ben for about 10 years. We worked together when he was training Tom Little. The decision to go to Ben was made to progress us forward.”

The plan has certainly worked and the fact that Wardley goes into the fight with Clarke as a betting favourite is testament to that progress. The growth has been such that Hodgins believes that contrary to the lazy “white-collar-brawler-versus-Olympic-caliber-boxer” narrative that has quickly been built, Wardley will actually be better served by being patient and leaning on his skills and greater professional experience.

Clarke, at 32 three years older than Wardley, went to the well many a time during his successful amateur career but has yet to face any adversity as a professional. 

“Fabio’s gotta get his jab off early,” Hodgins said. “He can’t commit too early and swing with Frazer. He’s a lot quicker than Frazer. Get that jab off, move around and try and wear him down for the later rounds.

“They were saying that this’ll be the fastest time to win the British title but he [Clarke has] gotta go for it. [Vasyl] Lomachenko fought for a world title after a couple of fights. If it’s not the right time now, it’ll never be the right time for Frazer. I wish him good luck but I think our man’s gonna do it."

If Wardley has grown into his role physically, he is also developing the aura and ego that successful heavyweights need.

The fight with Clarke grabbed the attention of boxing fans from the moment it was first rumoured this time last year, and by the time the first bell rings on March 31, the Sky Sports hype machine will have turned it into a must-see event.

In October 2023 Wardley’s British and Commonwealth title defence against David Adeleye was given a prime spot on the undercard of the massive showdown between the WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and the mixed martial artist Francis Ngannou

After a nasty build-up Wardley carried himself like a champion during some spectacular-yet-drawn-out fight week festivities, and he calmly dismantled the fiery Londoner in seven rounds. As an exercise in handling a big occasion it was invaluable.

Wardley won’t blink when he walks out into the bright lights of the O2 Arena on fight night.

“Fabio is one of the most calm, confident people I’ve ever met in my life,” Hodgins said. “I’ve know him since he was a kid when he first walked into the boxing gym. Nothing fazes him. Saudi was like water off a duck’s back. He soaked it all up, didn’t engage with any of the hoo-ha over there, and did his talking in the ring.

“He needs a challenge. Me and Ben have both said that we haven’t seen the best of Fabio yet. We’ve only seen about 50 or 60 per cent. There’s a lot more to show and a lot in the tank. I think this fight, Frazer will bring out the best Fabio Wardley you’ve seen.”