by Frank Warren
Like the rest of the sporting world I was stunned when Japan pulled off what Sir Clive Woodward called the greatest single moment in the history of the rugby World Cup by snatching an historic and enthralling victory over mighty South Africa last weekend.
As sporting earthquakes go, it was atop the Richter Scale. This was a team which had won only one previous World Cup match in history hailing from a nation where sumo and sushi are far more familiar to the average Japanese than a scrum.
Indeed, the Land of the Rising Sun hasn’t experienced such a seismic shock in sport since tubby American heavyweight boxer James ‘Buster’ Douglas left Iron Mike Tyson scrabbling around on his knees in the ring at the Tokyo Dome 25 years ago like a drunk searching for a dropped cigarette butt on a pub floor.
Such sensations are the meat and drink, as well as the magic, of sport, and there have been numerous in boxing like the then Cassius Clay’s conquest if Sonny Liston, later, as Muhammad Ali, to be defeated by fellow Olympic champion Leon Spinks who was having only his eighth pro fight. Then, among many others there was Lloyd Honeyghan’s astonishing conquest of Don Curry.
These all confirm that sport thrives on tales of the unexpected.
Now, not for a moment am I suggesting that should Frank Buglioni overcome the unbeaten Russian Fedor Chudinov to claim the WBA world super-middleweight title on Saturday it will would be anywhere near the same league as the Japanese upset.
But we know, and he knows, that he is the underdog yet as the world has witnessed on so many occasions every underdog can have his day.
That’s one reason why I give him one hell of fighting chance.
Sometimes fairytales do come true when you work it at realising them. And Frank really has, even using the same sports psychologist his tutor Steve Collins employed ahead of his fight with Chris Eubank 20 years ago.
It worked for the Irish legend. Let’s hope it does for Frank. Sometimes in boxing it is as much in the mind as it is in the fists.
What he has lacked in the past is discipline, letting his heart rule his head, and I hope and believe that Collins has instilled this vital cautionary ingredient into him. With fellow former world champion Roy Jones in the opposite corner, mentoring Chudinov, this is going to be as much a battle of tactics as skill and big punching, as intriguing as it is potentially exciting.
Who has improved who the most? I know it was a short-notice opponent, but in Buglioni’s last fight I saw that he did go out there and stuck to his game plan, doing what he was told to do by his corner. Hopefully it will be the same on his big night.
Of course, it is not just following instructions, but improvising when things happen, often when you least expect it. In some ways I liken this fight for Buglioni to what Frank Bruno had to do when he won the world heavyweight title from Oliver McCall. He needs to have the same sort of controlled mindset Frank sensibly encompassed on that memorable September night at in 1995.
Buglioni is sounding more confident than I have ever known him to be. Chudinov, 28, whose younger brother Dmitry lost at Wembley to Chris Eubank Jnr, has an impeccable amateur and pro record, culminating in that impressive split decision victory over home favourite Felix Sturm in Germany in only his 13th pro contest.
But good as he is, he does not seem to fight that well inside so what Buglioni needs to do is jab his way inside, do his work and then with his longer reach keep out of distance and not get in range or involved in a punch-up. Also he can bang, which is something else in his favour.
I also hope he becomes champion for another reason. He’s a decent, respectable young man with a brilliant image and it will be good for boxing to see someone of his character as a world champion, someone for kids to look up to, particularly if they are from a similar background, fairly well to do and with a good education.
The fight game is no longer the preserve of those who have to use their fists in the ring to climb out from poorer backgrounds. It is now an attractive sport for every aspiring youngster whether their collars are white or blue.
It would also show that boxing can be about someone who was born to be a fighter. Enfield’s Frank could have carved out a good career as a quantity surveyor, but boxing has always been his great passion.
What if boils down to is that if he ensures he isn’t caught off guard early on like George Groves, boxes calmly and intelligently, keeps his head and stays out of trouble, the title and status he cherishes can be his.
Moreover the deafening support of his huge army of his faithful followers could intimidate Chudinov and perhaps even sway the judges in a tight finish should it go the distance.
I do not know what the psychologist has told him but as the estimable Clive Woodward, arguably the greatest sports motivator of them all, said after Japan’s stunning triumph:”Underdogs can become world beaters if you truly believe.”
Hope you are listening, Wise Guy.
As the late, great boxing commentator Harry Carpenter once famously urged Bruno: “Get in there, Frank!”