Gravesend boxer and Olympic hopeful admits pandemic struggle

Gravesend athlete and Tokyo Olympic propsect Cheavon Clarke says his sport’s “macho” image counts for nothing as he and his GB Boxing team-mates confront the same uncertainties surrounding this year’s delayed Olympic Games.

Clarke’s hopes of sealing his place in the Japanese capital have been left in limbo since the boxing qualifier was abruptly abandoned in London last March due to the encroaching threat of coronavirus.

And the Gravesend heavyweight boxer, who returned to competition last month for the first time in over a year, revealed it has been difficult to adjust to both the lockdown and the one-year Games delay.

Clarke told the PA news agency: “I’ve definitely been affected mentally and I think having such a good support network around me has really helped.

“I think it shows the importance of keeping in touch with your friends, because all it takes is a message from someone and a smile and it could make your day and change your mindset.

“In boxing most people think there is this macho thing, but we’re all human at the end of the day.”

Clarke is a British amateur boxer who is affiliated with Gravesham ABC. He competed for Jamaica in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but has since changed his allegiance to Great Britain / England, then went on to win a silver medal in the 2017 European Championships.

The 30-year-old said he has been able to keep training full-time with the rest of the squad throughout the second lockdown but has also had time to diversify into his other interests including a self-taught course in financial literacy, and the expansion of his ‘Level Up Nation’ clothing brand.

“I definitely feel the need to take opportunities to make myself entrepreneurial and build my career and my legacy, because as athletes our careers are only so long,” added Clarke.

“But boxing will always be my main focus and if anything was going to take away my focus from that, whatever it is, it would have to go.

“I have been working on a lot of things and I definitely feel that I’m a better athlete that I was a year ago.

“Having the time has helped me concentrate on my weaker areas and I’ll be going to Tokyo ready to go.”

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