SimBoxx Talks To Andy Clarke

Ben at Simboxx was lucky enough to chat to one of the voices from Sky Sports boxing and one half of the Macklin’s take podcast!

BJ: Andy, its great you have taken time to chat to me. For the boxing fans out there, tell us a bit about yourself?

AC: I grew up in a town called Shrewsbury in the West Midlands, not that far from Birmingham but kind of in the middle of nowhere. It was great. My Dad introduced me and my older brother Chris to sport as soon as we could walk and we were obsessed with it from day 1. I didn’t realise at the time what a huge part that would play in my life; competitive sport teaches you so much about so many things. I went to University in Cambridge and then moved to London straight after that so have been here for 20 years now. These days I live in East London with my wife, Amarachi.

SB: Where did your love of boxing come from Andy?

AC: It’s an interesting one. Even though I was obsessed with sport as a kid, I never boxed. It wasn’t in schools, I never saw a local club advertised and I didn’t know anybody else who did it so it just didn’t present itself as being something I could actually do, unlike football and cricket. But I was always fascinated by it so I admired it from afar in a way I guess and nobody else I knew was interested in it so it was kind of my secret obsession. I began to start thinking about working in boxing in my teens. I used to listen to Ian Darke commentating on Sky and just thought that must be the best job ever.

SB: So for anyone that doesn’t know, what’s your role at Sky and how did it come about?

AC: I worked at Talksport for about 10 years after I left university, learning how to be a broadcast journalist, reporter and commentator. It was a bit of a mad place but great fun and brilliant for me because I got to do things there much more quickly than I would have done anywhere else I’m sure. I then moved into TV and started commentating on football for Sky. My plan was always to try and break into the boxing department and once I had a season of football under my belt my mate Dave Finch, who I’d worked with at Talksport and was by then at Sky boxing, introduced me to the boxing team and I did my first thing for them in late 2011. I continued doing the odd thing, it came in fits and starts really, and then in summer 2016 I got a more solid role and it’s just grown from there really.

SB: Who do you enjoy working with most?

AC: There’s honestly nobody I don’t enjoy working with, Sky really is a great team to be a part of. We spend a lot of time together, especially during fight week and everyone gets on brilliantly. On air I work most with Matt Macklin and the two of us also do our own podcast together, Macklin’s Take, which is separate to Sky, so I get on really well with him. Someone who always makes me laugh is Carl Froch. Carl really isn’t the kind of man you meet every day and you know with 100% certainty that the conversation you’re about to have with him could be about almost anything and that it definitely won’t be dull. But the great thing about boxing is that there are so any good people. I did a fair bit of work at BoxNation so got to know Buncey, Barry Jones and Steve Lillis, all top blokes. Richie Woodhall’s another one. Big Ron McIntosh and Alex Steedman, although people might think we’re in competition as we’re all commentators, are really good mates too. In terms of camaraderie there’s nothing like boxing.

BJ: Everyone has an opinion on fight scoring, you score a lot from the commentary seat, is it done right? Do you get stick for your scoring?

AC: I honestly don’t know if I get much stick for the scores I give on Sky; everyone has an opinion and if I read one then I’d have to read them all so for my own sanity I try to read none! I know people won’t always agree with my score and that’s fine but what I also know, for absolutely certain, is that I have done my due diligence and that I know what I’m looking for when it comes to deciding who has won a round. And I trust my own judgement. I watch the 3 minutes of action, write down my score immediately without discussing it with anybody else and then wipe that slate clean and focus on the next 3 minutes and whatever score I end up with at the end of the fight is the score I end up with. I’ll never go back and change a round score as the judges don’t have that luxury and I don’t score drawn rounds as I believe over the course of the 3 minutes there are enough criteria to judge by to allow you to pick a winner, even if it’s by the barest of margins. I know at the end of the bout how I’ve reached my score and that it’s a completely honest, independent appraisal and that’s all I care about. People are then perfectly at liberty to say whatever they want about it and although I would never claim that my score is in any way definitive or that I’m always right, I’ll always be able to explain how I reached it. Scoring is subject of course but one thing I know for sure is that a lot of people who comment on scorecards don’t actually score the fight properly themselves and if you haven’t scored it round by round then you can’t really comment on cards. It’s no good watching the fight as a whole and then deciding who you think has won judging the outcome on the balance of one 36 minute round because that’s not how boxing is scored.

In terms of the scoring system, I don’t think there are many ways you can change it for the better. I would probably advocate judges being encouraged to give more 10-8 scores in rounds that don’t include knockdowns (it is allowed but hardly ever happens) because currently if a fighter nicks a round by a small margin then they win it 10-9 but equally if they batter their opponent all around the ring but don’t score a knockdown then they also win it 10-9. Understandably people struggle with that because it can result in a scenario where Fighter A wins 6 rounds by a wide margin and gives Fighter B some serious stick whilst Fighter B just shades the other 6 which under the present scoring system will result in a draw, 114-114, even though Fighter A on overall balance has clearly had the better of the action. I can see why that doesn’t seem fair and more 10-8 rounds in that scenario could solve that problem but then of course we’d get arguments over what does and what does not constitute a 10-8 round without a knockdown!

As for the standard of scoring, it always has been and always will be a topic of debate. It’s not an easy job but sanctioning bodies/Federations/Commissions have to be more ruthless when it comes to weeding out consistently poor judging. Scoring isn’t always subjective, some scores are just wrong and if a judge gets it wrong too often then they need to be removed. Fighters careers and prosperity depend on them getting it right.

SB: Finally Andy, who stood out for you in 2019 and who should we look out for in 2020?

AC: Internationally for me it was Naoya Inoue and Josh Taylor, they both achieved great things in great style whilst domestically I’d pick Scott Fitzgerald.

Next year look out for the Uzbeks. I follow international amateur boxing closely and a whole host of former top Uzbek amateurs are now making waves in the pros. Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Shakhram Giyasov, Bektemir Melikuziev, Bakhodir Jalolov, Israil Madrimov, Shohajon Ergashev, Shakhobidin Zoirov, Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, Hasanboy Dusmatov, Elnur Abduraimov. They could all end up winning world titles at some point.

BJ: Again Andy, thanks for your time, your a true gent.

AC – You’re more than welcome, and everyone keep listening to Macklin’s Take.

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