In this business occasionally you need to take a punt and I admit matching my fighter Frank Buglioni with the unbeaten Fedor Chudinov for the Russian’s newly-acquired WBA world super-middleweight title may seem bit of a gamble.
But sometimes what appear to be long shots come off and with British boxing on a roll I believe Buglioni has the skill and the temperament to join the current momentum.
Before Britain’s Got Talent hit our screens there was a popular TV show called Opportunity Knocks, and right now opportunity is knocking loudly on the Enfield door of the lad who has the most raucous following in boxing since Ricky Hatton’s Manucunian army.
He has already taken £100,000 worth of tickets and with his huge phalanx of noisy fans roaring him on, and home advantage at the SSE Arena, Wembley, on Friday 24 July, I believe he has a seriously good chance.
That’s why I had no hesitation in making the fight and why Frank almost snatched my hand off when I offered it to him.
Sometimes, getting a surprise shot like this can work in a fighter’s favour. History shows there are many – not least Leon Spinks, who had had only seven fights when he defeated Muhammad Ali – who grabbed their chance when least expected.
Steve Robinson is a good British example. He was working in Debenhams as a storeman in Cardiff, when, with just two days’ notice, he accepted the fight against John Davison in 1993 for the vacant WBO World Featherweight title, and won. More recently Jamie McDonnell and Stuey Hall are other Brits who defied the odds to become world champions.
Buglioni, known as the Wise Guy, is no mug in the ring or out. In this situation and with his Italian heritage he likens himself to Rocky. But better Rocky than cocky.
At 26 he’s a bright, good-looking, level headed lad with a strong family background who went to Westminster University and has put his day job as a surveyor on hold while he chases what will be a glittering ring career should he win this one.
Like me he’s rolling the dice and if they fall well for him he’ll be up there as a major player in the big league of super-middleweights, which is surely the sexiest division in world boxing these days.
He’s been beaten once in his 18 fights by Sergey Khomitsky, a big puncher from Minsk, but these off nights can happen in boxing and last month’s draw with Lee Markham in their WBO European championship bout must be a contender for fight of the year.
Originally we had booked Markham for a return, but he has stepped aside and will fight on the Wembley bill with a promise from Buglioni – should Frank win – that he will be in line for a crack at the world title.
Chudinov, who has had only 13 bouts himself in a career which began in the United States, is actually on paper less experienced professionally than Buglioni though he claims never to have been beaten in 175 fights as an amateur.
He was an underdog himself when he did brilliantly to get a split decision over Felix Sturm for the vacant title Germany last month and happily has not been deterred from coming to London after his elder brother Dmitri, who was also unbeaten, lost to Chris Eubank Jnr. in their WBA interim middleweight title fight in February.
Buglioni against Chudinov headlines a packed BoxNation-televised fight card that also features Eubank’s’ nemesis Billy Joe Saunders in a warm-up for own forthcoming middleweight world title tilt against Andy Lee, plus Ovill McKenzie, Mitchell Smith, Lewis Pettitt and Lee Markham, all in championship fights.
Buglioni’s problem is that sometimes he lets his heart rule his head – a bit like Amir Khan – and gets involved when he shouldn’t. He must avoid playing Russian roulette.
But is all about seizing the moment and with the dice in my hand I’m feeling lucky. The Wise Guy could be in the right place at the right time.
Just for a second or so, my old spar-mate Don King must have thought he was back in the big-time when Deontay Wilder’s legs wobbled in the third round as he was caught by Eric Molina, a big lump from Texas last weekend.
I bet his old heart skipped a beat, as the tubby Tex-Mex was King’s man, his only remaining world champion Bermane Stiverne having surrendered his WBA heavyweight title to Wilder six months before.
The Don may be nudging 84, but he doesn’t lie down easily. He was up there in the ring with Molina in Birmingham, Alabama his fists clutching and waving so many flags you’d have thought he was a peace envoy for the United Nations.
Unfortunately for him after momentarily looking vulnerable for the first time in his 34 fight career Wilder eventually did his usual demolition job in the ninth. But he was far from impressive.
After singing Wilder’s praises when he won the title, I was really disappointed with his performance against Molina. He looked apprehensive, hesitant and was clearly labouring at times, seeming nonplussed whenever he was put on the back foot by the crude forward charging of a foot soldier who supposedly was handpicked as no-hope opponent.
However he used his great asset – his crunching punching power – to finally do the job after Molina had been down four times.
On this evidence, Wilder did not look the heavyweight saviour the Americans have been yearning for.
On what we saw, I’d take Tyson Fury and several other top ten heavyweights to beat him though it could be that Wilder didn’t want to do a rush job in the first title fight in Alabama for years, needing to give the fans a show. Unfortunately he lost concentration in making his initial defence in his home state. It could well be different next time.
Last week I revealed that Naseem Hamed, who was inducted into boxing’s Hall of Fame on Sunday, said his biggest wish was to patch up the long-standing rift between him and veteran trainer Brendan Ingle. It was, he admitted, the greatest regret of his career that he had treated him so badly and they were no longer speaking.
Naz had a bitter split with his mentor in 1998 after Ingle had helped him to world championships and a personal fortune of millions.
In boxing breaking up is not hard to do, especially when fighters and their mentors or managers have differences-usually financial ones when the big money is rolling in and boxers’ families start to believe they know best.
Sometimes they get back together, as Naz and I did.
But it seems that is never going to happen with Naz and Brendan. The extended olive branch has been brusquely snapped in two as the Ingles insist the wounds run too deep to be healed.
They say Naz would not be welcomed if he knocked on Brendan’s front door in Sheffield’s Wincobank, as he wishes to do.
Brendan himself turns 75 this week and it does seem a shame that at this stage of his life there cannot be a rapprochment with the fabulous but sometimes irritating fighter he admits was more like a son to him before they famously fell out.
Congratulations to 31-year-old Lee “Playboy” Haskins who looked terrific in stopping Japan’s Ryosuke Iwasa in six rounds in front of his Bristol fans last Saturday to win the IBF interim bantamweight title. He’s been around a long time in his 35-fight career, always giving value for money, and it is good to see one of the game’s most redoubtable ringmasters finally get a fitting reward.
Haskins’ victory also capped a great fortnight for his trainer Chris Sanigar, another of boxing’s senior servants, as stablemate Lee Selby had become a world featherweight champion with a similarly stellar performance against defending champion Evgeny Gradovich, making him Britain’s sixth world champion.
The UK’s tally of current world champions and interim title holders now stands at an astonishing nine.
The last time the Brits held so many world belts so many was in 2007, when the list included Joe Calzaghe and David Haye.
Another quintet of British boxers, heavyweight Tyson Fury, super middleweight George Groves, middleweight Billy Joe Saunders and lightweights Terry Flanagan and Anthony Crolla, are all due to contest world titles in the next three months, while Derry Mathews, Chris Eubank Jnr and now Lee Haskins all hold interim world titles.
Yes, British boxing really has got talent and it is time to bang the drum. I look forward to Buglioni joining that elite band.
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