An intriguing contest – billed as ‘Bad Blood’ – between two fighters with contrasting journeys, lived up to the hype.

Olympic bronze medallist Clarke, 32, honed his craft as part of the TeamGB set-up and through winning multiple amateur titles, whereas Wardley only began hitting a punchbag aged 22 while still working in recruitment.

Clarke’s schooling was apparent from the start, the amateur star winning the jab battle and landing uppercuts on the inside.

As blood from a cut in the second round dripped from Wardley’s nose on to his blue and white shorts, a nod to his beloved Ipswich Town Football Club, the 29-year-old came back fighting.

Wardley – who competed just four times on the unlicensed white-collar scene before turning pro – pounced on his opponent in the fifth, landing a short right as Clarke backpedalled and slumped to the floor.

Clarke was docked a point for a low blow in the seventh but found a second wind against a noticeably fatigued and bloodied opponent.

The doctor examined Wardley’s nose in the 10th, a swollen right eye also hindering his sight.

But just seconds after being given the green light to continue, he remarkably landed a flurry of shots as both men continued to trade in the championship rounds.

Staggered in the final minute of the contest by a huge right, Wardley somehow managed to stay on his feet, still throwing hands up until the last bell.

Wardley admitted a rematch is “an option” but wants to take “five minutes” to consider his next step with a fight at Portman Road, the home of Ipswich Town, still very much on his mind.

“Bringing a fight to Portman Road has been on the cards and I’ve been talking it about it for a long time now,” Wardley said.

“Whether it’s the rematch or something else, I’d like to tick that off before the end of my career.”

This was a bout a year in the making after they were ordered to fight in April 2023, only for Clarke’s promoters to withdraw him on the day of the purse bid.

They argued it was all about the timing, and the wait proved to be worth it.