Australian prospect Clay Waterman rides confidence high heading into U.S. debut
Clay Waterman had boxed all over the world as an amateur. The 27-year-old light heavyweight prospect had traded punches in Germany, Poland, China and Serbia, and even became the first Australian to win an amateur world championship when he won gold at the 2011 AIBA World Junior Championships in Kazakhstan.
This Friday, Waterman will get a new stamp on his boxing passport when he faces fellow unbeaten light heavyweight prospect Kenmon Evans in an eight-round bout at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, N.Y. The fight will open up a ShoBox: The New Generation triple header, beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
“This is something that I’ve always dreamed of ever since I started boxing as a young kid,” said Waterman (10-0, 8 knockouts) of Logan City, Australia, a city of over 340,000 which sits in between Brisbane and the Gold Coast in Queensland state. “I feel like it’s somewhere that I belong. I can’t wait to get in there.”
For Waterman, nothing affirmed that he belonged quite like sharing a ring with the division’s unified titleholder. Waterman spent three weeks in Montreal last December, sparring between 30 to 40 rounds total with Artur Beterbiev as he prepared for his IBF/WBO/WBC light heavyweight title defense against Anthony Yarde.
“Ever since working with him, I’ve gained a whole new level of confidence. I feel like it’s somewhere that I’m meant to be. I’m meant to be moving and working with the top level people in the world. That’s not Australia, that’s here,” said Waterman, who is of Aboriginal, Maori and European descent.
Waterman’s showing in camp impressed many in the gym, including Beterbiev’s assistant trainer John “The Iceman” Scully.
“I was very impressed with his attitude, determination and his world class jab. I immediately thought that if given a chance he could blossom into a definite world class fighter,” said the boxing veteran Scully, who will work Waterman’s corner alongside his father, Mark, who trains Clay out of the shed in their backyard.
Waterman has been in combat sports since he first became school aged. A self-described “competitive and feisty kid,” his parents enrolled him in martial arts when he was 5, before he picked up boxing at age 9. Waterman says he knew he wanted to be a fighter from the first time he stepped in the ring.
He’d step in the ring another 159 times as an amateur, going a reported 147-13 in a decorated amateur run that saw him earn bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, among other accolades.
He came up just short of making Australia’s 2020 Olympic squad after he lost a split decision to Paulo Aokuso in the finals of the Olympic trials.
“I think there was so much more potential in my amateur career, but we’ll blame the politics for that. Everything happens for a reason. I’m a professional now and that’s all that matters,” said Waterman, who lists Mike Tyson, Roy Jones Jr. and Julian Jackson as his favorite boxers.
Within months, he made his professional debut, stopping Ethan Andrell after the first in February of 2020. His activity would be slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic which went global the following month. He made up for that lull with five wins in 2022, and won the Australian light heavyweight title in his last fight, stopping Mark Lucas in five rounds in March.
With nothing further to prove at home, manager Brendan Bourke says the plan is to go where the action is.
“We’re definitely looking to come to the U.S. three times a year to fight,” said Bourke.
His first test stateside comes against Evans (10-0-1, 3 KOs), a 31-year-old from Port Orange, Fla. who also fought twice for Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship. Evans, who is promoted by International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Christy Martin, has won seven straight since his lone career blemish, a draw against David Murray in 2016.
Waterman says he knows very little about his opponent, other than he’d prefer to win than lose. What he does know is that getting a chance to showcase his skills on premium cable could garner him attention from the influential promoters who can lead him to the opportunities every boxer covets.
“We’re looking to make some statements and get a little publicity with TV air time and then we’re gonna talk to promoters that are interested. If we’re going to sign with someone we want a promoter that is highly interested in Clay,” said Bourke.
Bourke is confident that promoters and television executives will like what they see on Friday.
“Clay’s style is exciting, very explosive, he’s got power in both hands. He has a very fluid style of boxing,” said Bourke.
“Most of all I think he’s gonna be an entertainer, because of his power.”
Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].