Unbeaten Winchmore Hill super-middleweight Frank Buglioni is arguably the hottest rising commodity in British boxing.
Smart, personable, handsome, and with the hooks to match the looks, the 24-year-old former Westminster University undergraduate has already evolved into one of the biggest ticket sellers in the industry. And his fan base continues to expand with each passing fight.
But ĎThe Wise Guyí, a former national junior champion and seasoned amateur international is acutely aware that, first and foremost, he must deliver inside the ring if he is to realise his dreams of becoming one of the biggest names in the sport.
We should have a clearer indication of the true extent of the north Londonerís talent when he steps up to 10 round level on Saturday week to contest the vacant WBO European title against decent German Christian Pawlak.
Remaining tickets for the Rock The Box 2 show are available from the Eventim Box Office on 0844 249 1000 or at www.eventim.co.uk
Watch the whole Copper Box card Ė which also includes Dereck Chisora†and the tussle for the English welterweight title between Bradley Skeete and Colin Lynes Ė live and exclusive on BoxNation, The Channel of Champions on Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546.† Join at www.boxnation.com
As his preparations were winding down, boxing writer Glynn Evans cornered ĎThe Wise Guyí to evaluate his professional progress to date.
To what extent did your time on the GB Podium squad prepare you for a career as a pro? Is that a route that youíd recommend other talented young amateurs pursue?
It largely depends on the fighterís age. When I was involved, I was only 20, 21 and hadnít matured as a man so it was fabulous for me. I got two good years competing at a very high international level. In several countries where thereís limited pro boxing all their fighters are mature men. But whereas youíd struggle to contain them over six or eight rounds, youíre able to handle them over three, by outboxing them.
Also, as part of the Podium squad, we received a lot of publicity and exposure, not just in Britain but around the boxing world. We also got taught a lot about the importance of stretching, nutrition, dieting correctly.....
I had a great time being away from home and made some fabulous friends from all around the country. For me, Sheffield was a brilliant education. Provided a prospect isnít too old, Iíd recommend it highly.
Youíve had ten pro fights now. What have been the key factors in helping you to acclimatize?
Firstly, Iíve got to credit my trainer Mark Tibbs and his dad Jimmy who also offers advice. Mark has all the experience of being a very good amateur, a top pro and now a quality trainer. Youíd have trouble listening to someone barking orders at you if theyíd not really been through it themselves but Iíve a lot of respect for Mark.
He doesnít bark orders, anyway. He sits you down before a session and calmly discusses the pointers that I need to be focussing on. Neither he nor Jim are ones to scream or shout if they can see youíre giving 100%. Still youíd not want to upset Ďem, thatís for sure!
Itís also helped that Iíve been able to study my gym mates. Starting out, you had guys like Billy Joe Saunders and Kevin Mitchell to look up to and try to emulate. Iíd watch in amazement at their head movement, shot selection and how fluidly theyíd put combinations together. Phenomenal.
But I also learn from all of the other young prospects at the TKO Gym. For instance, Tom Baker has a really powerful jab and the best Ďone-twoí. Billy Morgan is a very smooth all rounder and I study the roughness and inside fighting of Gary Corcoran. I try to replicate little bits from each of them.
Iíve also had loads of quality sparring. Recently Iíve worked with old champions like Mark Prince and Bruce Scott at the TKO but Iíve also been away with the likes of Carl Froch, George Groves, James DeGale and Nathan Cleverly. Earlier in my career I did a lot with Darren Barker and Billy Joe. It can only hold me in good stead.
What Iíve really learned is how relaxed they remain inside the ring; how they exert no excess energy and just stay calm and patient. That comes over time and with experience, and I finally feel Iím getting there myself.
Earlier, Iíd get a bit excitable and try to win every round of every spar. Now I set myself specific goals each round; working my jab or avoiding punches. Lately, my movements have become far more subtle and less exaggerated. Iíve more disguise.
Finally, I gave up work (as a building surveyor) earlier this year to focus on the boxing full-time. It was okay when I was fighting at four and six round level but, as Iím advancing, I need more time to rest, more time to prepare the right foods. At eight and ten round level, boxing is far too hard not to focus full time.
By and large, are you happy with the way your ten fights have gone? Could you identify your most pleasing and sloppiest performances?
Overall, Iíve been happy. At the time, I was disappointed with myself against Ryan Clark (wpts4) in my third fight and against the Lithuanian Kirill Psonko (wpts8), last July.
But you learn a hell of a lot more from your bad performances. Iíd not change the valuable mistakes that Iíve made. Fighters who blast all their early opponents out can get beat, even hurt, once pitched with someone on the same level as them so Iím glad that Iíve made my mistakes early and had opportunities to work at eliminating them in the gym.
Iíd say my best performance was my last one (a two round demolition of Czech Bronislav Kubin) at the Copper Box in September. And thatís how Iíd like it to be every time. If you work hard at improving in the gym, your most recent fight should always be your best.
Youíve evolved into one of the most marketable fighters presently active in Britain. What doors has that opened for you?
Iíve done a bit of modelling on the catwalk and a few fashion shoots for mags like ĎLoadedí. Itís great for getting your name out there and itís nice to nick a few quid on the periods when youíre resting, immediately after fights rather than during the build-up.
But, trust me, Iíd far rather be at the gym. The life I enjoy is being in camp. All the other stuff has to fit in around my training. Boxing comes first, second and third in my life. The other stuff is nice but it has to come at the right time.
Your fan base has really snowballed during your two years as a pro. Does that add pressure with regard to both time and expectation?
Not especially. Last fight I shifted over 100 ringside (tickets) plus 5-600 in the block which is some going. Recently Iíve started selling tickets from my website. Iíve got good guys helping out and theyíve developed a very efficient system. We post Ďem out special delivery at no additional cost, undercut the big guys!
But I believe that professionals need to invest both time and money into promoting themselves outside of the boxing ring. I still get out and about to personally hand deliver the overwhelming majority of the tickets that I sell and I really enjoy that. Itís polite to meet the fans and have little chats with all the fans who support my career.
The 168lb super-middleweight class is one that Britain has historically been very strong in, with eight world champions. Who were your heroes from the division, growing up?
Iíve obviously seen tapes of all the Benn-Eubank-Collins-Watson fights and they were phenomenal but they were a bit before my time.
I was more the Carl Froch, (Joe) Calzaghe era and both were heroes. I loved Calzagheís workrate and showmanship. He had a real fan friendly style and was never scared of trading. Carl obviously is very tough and powerful and has been in so many phenomenal fights. The Ďtoe-to-toeí war with Jean Pascal is my personal favourite.
Youíve had first hand experience of sharing the ring with both Carl Froch and George Groves, who meet for the WBA and IBF titles in Manchester tomorrow evening. Who do you think will win?
Hard one to call.† My ability changed greatly between when I sparred Carl as an amateur at the English Institute of Sport up in Sheffield, and when Iíve sparred George as a pro. I had great spars with both.
Itís 50-50, for me. Carl has the edge in chin but George is fresher and I think heíll probably want it more at this stage of his career. Iím going for him to get his tactics right and win on points off the back foot. Plus heís a London boy!
What areas of your game do you still need to develop before youíre unleashed into the major titles?
Every part of my game requires improvement and I particularly need more experience which comes as youíre in the game longer. Itíll all pan out in time.
A lot of rivals dismiss me as a one trick pony, a left hook puncher, but theyíll come unstuck. In the amateurs, itís true I was never fussed too much with defence but the pros are a different story and Iím working on that and developing other skills all the time.
My promoter Frank Warren has all the experience in the world and has navigated the path of a lot of world champions.
Froch and Groves operate at world class and James DeGale is also on the periphery. Who do you expect to be in contention when you land at domestic title level?
Youíre right. Carl, George and James are a level above. But Iíd expect to be fighting at British or Commonwealth level in about a yearís time and, by then, should be ready for anyone else, including your Paul Smiths and Kenny Andersons.
Callum Smith and Hosea Burton will probably be my main rivals, possibly Rocky Fielding as well. I beat Hosea for the British title in the amateurs.
Callum and I were very good friends in the amateurs up in Sheffield but, since the professional rivalry has begun to build, neither of us has stayed in touch. You need to keep friendships aside in this business. Callumís a great fighter but I think the pros are more suited to me. Letís just say, Iím confident in my ability. At the rate which Iím improving, Iím sure Iíll be competitive with any of them when the time comes to make the push.
You excelled in your previous outing at The Copper Box slaughtering Kubin inside two rounds in September. How did you find the experience? Is the venue a good fit for boxing?
Itís a brilliant venue, part of our Olympic heritage, and easily accessible. The atmosphere last time was very good and, location wise, hopefully itíll be great for all my fans. A lot of future dates have already been confirmed and Iíd love to become a regular feature there.
Youíve still only got 30 rounds on your pro ledger yet are matched over 10 rounds against Germanyís decent Christian Pawlak (20-5-1, 11 stoppages) for the WBO European title on Saturday week. What gives you confidence that youíre ready for such a step up in level?
I just trust Mark and his methods. Each week in camp I can feel myself getting fitter and fitter. Every Saturday morning we do these mad sprints and each week I find them easier. Each week I manage to negotiate the longer rounds of sparring more comfortably. Iíve sparred 12 rounds at a hard pace in the gym on several occasions now and each time I feel more and more relaxed. Iím confident Iíll be able to hold everything together if the fight goes the full distance.
Finally, what would constitute a good nightís work for Frank Buglioni next Saturday?
A win in which I hold my concentration for however long the fight lasts.
I want to work off my jab and avoid taking any sloppy shots. If Iím to get caught, I want my opponent to have worked for it, rather than me having been careless.
I really hope my opponent has a good chin plus plenty of heart and toughness so that I get an opportunity to dissect them. I want to do the job properly.