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 ‘The Wise Guy’, 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 Londoner’s talent when he steps up to 10 round level on Saturday week to contest the vacant WBO European title against decent German Christian Pawlak.
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As his preparations were winding down, boxing writer Glynn Evans cornered ‘The Wise Guy’ 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 you’d recommend other talented young amateurs pursue?
It largely depends on the fighter’s age. When I was involved, I was only 20, 21 and hadn’t 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 there’s limited pro boxing all their fighters are mature men. But whereas you’d struggle to contain them over six or eight rounds, you’re 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 isn’t too old, I’d recommend it highly.
You’ve had ten pro fights now. What have been the key factors in helping you to acclimatize?
Firstly, I’ve 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. You’d have trouble listening to someone barking orders at you if they’d not really been through it themselves but I’ve a lot of respect for Mark.
He doesn’t 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 you’re giving 100%. Still you’d not want to upset ‘em, that’s for sure!
It’s also helped that I’ve 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. I’d watch in amazement at their head movement, shot selection and how fluidly they’d 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 ‘one-two’. 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.
I’ve also had loads of quality sparring. Recently I’ve worked with old champions like Mark Prince and Bruce Scott at the TKO but I’ve 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 I’ve 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 I’m getting there myself.
Earlier, I’d 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. I’ve 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 I’m 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, I’ve 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. I’d not change the valuable mistakes that I’ve 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 I’m glad that I’ve made my mistakes early and had opportunities to work at eliminating them in the gym.
I’d say my best performance was my last one (a two round demolition of Czech Bronislav Kubin) at the Copper Box in September. And that’s how I’d like it to be every time. If you work hard at improving in the gym, your most recent fight should always be your best.
You’ve evolved into one of the most marketable fighters presently active in Britain. What doors has that opened for you?
I’ve done a bit of modelling on the catwalk and a few fashion shoots for mags like ‘Loaded’. It’s great for getting your name out there and it’s nice to nick a few quid on the periods when you’re resting, immediately after fights rather than during the build-up.
But, trust me, I’d 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 I’ve started selling tickets from my website. I’ve got good guys helping out and they’ve developed a very efficient system. We post ‘em 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. It’s 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?
I’ve 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 Calzaghe’s 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 ‘toe-to-toe’ war with Jean Pascal is my personal favourite.
You’ve 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 I’ve sparred George as a pro. I had great spars with both.
It’s 50-50, for me. Carl has the edge in chin but George is fresher and I think he’ll probably want it more at this stage of his career. I’m going for him to get his tactics right and win on points off the back foot. Plus he’s a London boy!
What areas of your game do you still need to develop before you’re unleashed into the major titles?
Every part of my game requires improvement and I particularly need more experience which comes as you’re in the game longer. It’ll all pan out in time.
A lot of rivals dismiss me as a one trick pony, a left hook puncher, but they’ll come unstuck. In the amateurs, it’s true I was never fussed too much with defence but the pros are a different story and I’m 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?
You’re right. Carl, George and James are a level above. But I’d expect to be fighting at British or Commonwealth level in about a year’s 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. Callum’s a great fighter but I think the pros are more suited to me. Let’s just say, I’m confident in my ability. At the rate which I’m improving, I’m sure I’ll 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?
It’s a brilliant venue, part of our Olympic heritage, and easily accessible. The atmosphere last time was very good and, location wise, hopefully it’ll be great for all my fans. A lot of future dates have already been confirmed and I’d love to become a regular feature there.
You’ve still only got 30 rounds on your pro ledger yet are matched over 10 rounds against Germany’s decent Christian Pawlak (20-5-1, 11 stoppages) for the WBO European title on Saturday week. What gives you confidence that you’re 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. I’ve sparred 12 rounds at a hard pace in the gym on several occasions now and each time I feel more and more relaxed. I’m confident I’ll be able to hold everything together if the fight goes the full distance.
Finally, what would constitute a good night’s 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 I’m 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.