In boxing nothing sells better than a genuine grudge fight.
Fiery social media exchanges have already heightened publicity for Saturday’s spicy looking WBO European super-middle spat between amateur adversaries Frank Buglioni from Enfield and Grays rival Lee Markham.
However, victory for the latter at Wembley’s SSE Arena would catapult the gritty 27 year old crowd pleaser from the minor belts right up into the ‘Big Time’.
Markham, mentored by colourful ex-heavyweight Dom Negus, knows this could be his one and only shot. Speaking to boxing writer Glynn Evans last week, the man they call ‘Banjo’ insists he has no intention to profligate.
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Lee Markham Q&A
What sparked your interest in boxing?
As a kid, I was never a bully but I always enjoyed fighting at school and in the streets and I always came out pretty well. I also got up in the middle of the night to watch the Tyson fights.
But it was only after watching a friend of a friend in an ‘unlicensed’ fight that I decided: ‘I fancy a bit of that.’ I walked into the Five Star ABC gym at 17 and had my first bout at 18.
I won 30 of 43 amateur fights and, though I boxed for London teams, I never won anything in the amateurs. In addition to my two fights with Frank, I lost two close decisions to John Ryder and reached a couple of London novice finals.
What’s your recollection of your two amateur fights with Buglioni, in the London Novices?
They were both very good fights. First year, three of us entered and Frank drew the bye so I’d already boxed three rounds that night before we met and he just pipped me on a majority. Following year, we met in the semis and I won a majority. Style wise, we were pretty similar back then, both aggressive, steaming in, trying to hurt each other.
While you and Frank effectively share centre stage at Wembley on Saturday night, I understand you continue to work full-time. That must be difficult.
Yeah, it is. I’ll have fight week off but I’ve my own carpentry business so I’ve known nothing but working and training. Over time, my body has grown used to it. My job is very physical but I use that to my advantage, view all the heavy lugging as a work out.
Where did the ‘Banjo’ nickname originate? Closet musician?!
I wish it was cos I played the banjo. Dom says I resemble the ugly kid who plays banjo in the film ‘Deliverance’! Unfortunately it stuck. Shameful!
Both defeats on your 16 fight pro slate came by contentious decision. Do you still view yourself as unbeaten?
I never pretend that I’ll replicate Floyd Mayweather but, right now, yeah, I still feel undefeated. The fight I lost as the ‘away fighter’ to Gary Boulden (PTS6), the Boxing News report had me winning by four rounds!
The loss to Jahmaine (Smyle, PTS 10) for the vacant English title was closer but I still thought I was two or three rounds up at the end. Still, you sound an idiot if you moan so I just accept it.
Ultimately, what do you believe you’re capable of achieving in the sport of boxing?
I’m a realist, I’m not going to scream about world titles but I definitely believe I can be British championship level. I’d love to win a Lonsdale Belt. Carl Froch, George Groves and James DeGale are all world level but I’m willing to fight any of the others, given the chance.
There have been some vicious exchanges on the social media networks between Team Buglioni and Team Markham over the past 12 months which has added spice to Saturday’s showdown. From your end, what sparked the animosity?
After our amateur encounters, whenever I saw Frank about on the circuit, we’d say ‘Hello’. We never spoke bad of each other. I always followed his pro fights on BoxNation and thought he did very well.
But once I moved up to super-middle the comparisons started. I became mandatory when Frank was Southern Area champion. My team at the time called the fight on, Frank vacated to pursue other options and some said he was running scared.
As far as I’m concerned, now the fight is made, I’ve no reason to wind him up. Words mean nothing. It’ll get settled in the ring.
Though you’ve previously won British and International Masters belts and challenged for the English title, does Saturday’s collision with Buglioni represent the stiffest test of your career, thus far?
Without a doubt. I expect Frank to prove my best opponent and to give me my toughest fight.
I need to be very mindful of his strength and power – he’s got a lot of knockouts – and he’s very big for the weight. From that regard, the fight with Jahmaine is ideal prep. It’s defensively where Frank comes up a bit short.
I always train very hard but since the fight was announced there’s even more enthusiasm. I’m excited to have this chance and I want to be as fit as possible. I’m punching the bags and pads that bit harder, really pushing myself. Dom’s good to have around. There’s plenty of banter and he works me very hard.
Finally, how do you expect Saturday’s bash to pan out? What gives you confidence that you can spring an upset?
Everything’s gone very well in preparation and I’m expecting over 200 fans to support me, with 25 at ringside.
Trust me, I’m up for it. I intend to smash Buglioni and take the opportunities that Mr Warren had planned for him.
Obviously I don’t know Frank’s game plan. It’ll certainly make things easier for me if he meets me mid ring. He might try to keep things long and run in the early rounds but I’ll patiently walk him down until his legs slow then we’ll have to slug it out. Once he gets clipped, the red mist will descend and he’ll play to his crowd. He’ll become wild and reckless. That’s when I’ll capitalise.
Because of the way my two defeats went against me, I know I’ll have to knock Frank out to win and that’s what I intend to do. No controversy. I can’t afford to let the judges decide if I win or lose.