Samuel Clarkson is a light heavyweight contender with a 19-3 (12KOs) record who is just two days away from his very first shot at a world title belt when he faces undefeated Dmitry Bivol. While some might discount Clarkson’s skills based on his record, he has shown an ability to overcome the odds and is now just one win away from calling himself a world champion.
In my special “On The Ropes” interview with Samuel Clarkson, I discuss with him his upcoming world title shot and talk to him about overcoming the odds. Clarkson also talks about the current state of the sport and why he thinks fighters should be judged on their skills not their records. Additionally, Samuel shares his views on a potential Pacquiao-Crawford bout and gives his final thoughts before his own title shot Friday night. Here is what what Samuel Clarkson had to say.
Jenna J: You have a very big fight coming up this Friday, at the MGM National Harbor Casino in Maryland. Can you talk a little about the fight you have coming up?
Samuel Clarkson: Preparation for the fight has been great. Now that we are finally at the end of the camp, I’m ready to get my hands on him. We will definitely be under the weight, I’m looking forward to the fight and I’m excited. It’s been a long time coming but I’m here to prove to the world that I belong exactly where I’m supposed to be, holding the WBA championship.
Jenna J: What you know about your opponent, Dmitry Bivol?
Samuel Clarkson: I know he’s a very good fighter, he’s very smart. He’s from Russia and he had a very impressive amateur background. He likes to counter, he’s fast, he has nice good footwork, but we’ve matched that with the sparring partners I’ve had here in Brooklyn. Like I said, camp has been tremendous, we’re going to handle business. Hopefully he trained as hard as I did.
Jenna J: This opportunity is for the interim WBA light heavyweight championship. What will it mean to you to become a champion?
Samuel Clarkson: It will mean a lot. There’s a lot of fighters that have way more experience than me and never get a chance to fight for the position to be a world champion. For me to be able to fight for it and put it all out there in the ring, it’s a blessing for my son, my family and my father. My dad has been here, we’ve been away from our family for a month, so it will mean everything to me. I’m definitely going for it, and I’m not going home without my belt.
Jenna J: Lets talk about the sport for a bit. Boxing is in a bit of a transition point. Pacquiao is almost retired, Mayweather has been retired for a little bit. What do you think about where the sport is right now?
Samuel Clarkson: I think the sport is in a place where we can get people more involved in it. Not taking anything away from Mayweather, he’s the best of our times, but I don’t think people should put undefeated fighters on such a high pedestal. Just because certain fighters have losses doesn’t mean that they’re losers. Anything can happen in a fight.
I feel like right now we’re at a time where the best have to fight the best in order to prove that they’re the best. If the best fight the best and one loses, it doesn’t mean that he’s not great. I feel that boxing is at a place where if the right fights are set up in the right way, we can have more fans involved in boxing and boxing can be back where it used to be. That’s what I plan on doing on Friday. Dmitry Bivol is a great fighter, I’m a great fighter and I’m ready to put it to the test. If I believe that I’m the best and he believes that he’s the best, then it will be an exciting show.
Jenna J: One thing that MMA does that boxing doesn’t is that they’re not afraid to have their best fighters fight the best constantly and see their guys take losses. Do you think that’s something boxing can do going forward, to not derail a career because of a few losses?
Samuel Clarkson: Exactly, I really feel if a boxer leaves both of his balls in the ring and he loses, then his career shouldn’t be over with. I feel like that they may have another opportunity to redeem themselves. Any fighter that fights hard and trains hard and loses a decision or gets caught with a lucky punch, it shouldn’t be the end of their career, I don’t think that’s right at all. If you come back stronger, you just have to take what you want, and I think that’s how it should be.
Jenna J: There has been a lot of talk about a Crawford-Pacquiao fight. Do you think Crawford is at a point now where he can beat someone like Pacquiao?
Samuel Clarkson: Manny Pacquiao is great, but his prime is fading. He’s been at the top and he’s done impossible stuff but I feel that his window of opportunity is starting to close as he’s getting older. Terence Crawford is hungry and I feel if that fight were to happen, Terence Crawford would win that fight.
Jenna J: Back to your fight, how do you expect it to play out from the opening bell to the finish?
Samuel Clarkson: It’s going to be fireworks. If it goes the full twelve rounds, there won’t be a boring round. I’m excited for this fight. If he goes early, I’m definitely going for it, I know how to finish my opponent and I’m in shape to do it. If he’s as tough as the world says he is and he stands tall, I don’t mind beating him from round to round. I’m definitely coming home with my belt.
Jenna J: Are you looking for a knockout or will any win do?
Samuel Clarkson: Any win will matter. If I knock him out, that’s beautiful. If I don’t knock him out, it’s still beautiful. We’re prepared for it all. If he goes early, he goes early. If I catch him later, I’ll catch him later. I’m just excited to fight, I like being in the ring and fighting.