In boxing nothing sells better than a genuine grudge fight. Fieryexchanges have already heightened publicity for Saturday’s 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.
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.
Paul Butler Back on June 20th
Former IBF World Bantamweight Champion Paul Butler begins his comeback on Saturday June 20th at the Liverpool Olympia with a second world title still firmly in his sights.
Butler headlines the show with Chorley hot-shot Jack Catterall defending his WBO Intercontinental Light-Welterweight title in the chief-support, plus top talents Tom Stalker, Steven Lewis, Joe Costello and more on the undercard, live and exclusive on BoxNation.
The Ellesmere Port star is raring to return to action after suffering his first career loss to big-hitting Zolani Tete in March. Butler attempted to become the first British boxer in over 100 years to win a second world title at a lighter weight when he challenged for Tete’s IBF World Super-Flyweight crown, but was stopped in the eighth by the big-hitting South African.
Despite the hard loss, Butler has regrouped with trainer Anthony Farnell and is ready to make a second assault at a world super-flyweight title and become a double world champion.
“For me it’s about getting in the ring and firing back into action,” Said Butler.
“I can’t wait to return and start working my way into world title contention and proving to myself, my fans, the public and media that I’ll be world champion again,”
“It was hard to take in the loss to Tete, but I lost to a world class fighter, simple as that, what’s happened has happened and now it’s about picking myself up and dusting myself off and getting in the ring again,”
“The thought of quitting never went through my mind, I knew in my heart that I wanted to fight again, but I just had to get my head around the loss and get back in the gym which is what I did and I’m now ready to go,”
“I want to be world champion again and the road back starts at the Olympia on Saturday 20th June.”
Farnell added, “Paul lost to a great fighter, there’s not shame in that, he fought the best and came up short this time, but now we’re ready for a second run at the title,”
“A defeat can knock your confidence, but Paul went straight back into the gym after the Tete loss, he’s already been sparring, he’s got the bit between his teeth and I can see it in his eyes that he wants it bad.”
Red-hot talent Catterall makes the first defence of his WBO Intercontinental Light-Welterweight title that he won against Cesar David Inalef in March with a seventh round stoppage. The unbeaten ace already holds the WBO European crown and a win will see the 21-year-old move inside the top ten WBO rankings.
Top Merseyside talent on the show includes: lightweight Tom Stalker as he continues on his road towards a British title, plus big-hitting undefeated light-welterweight prospect Steven Lewis and flyweight ace Andrew Cain. An action packed undercard also features Manchester super-featherweight Adrian Gonzalez, Birmingham lightweight prospect Joe Costello, Manchester light-middleweight McCauley McGowan.
Mitchell Smith Wants To Light Up Wembley With Big Win
All the elements appear aligned for super-talent Mitchell Smith to explode onto the major title scene this year.
Now free from injury following knee surgery, and having graduated from a quality apprenticeship that brought 11 straight wins plus the Southern Area, English and WBO European super-feather titles, the 22 year old from Harrow Weald is focussed on converting rich potential into something more concrete.
After a four month hiatus, the boxer with the baby face and butchering fists reminded everyone of his pedigree in late March by bagging BoxNation’s inaugural ‘Knockout of the Month’ award, by wasting Croatia’s Antonio Horvatic with a blistering five shot blizzard at the York Hall.
On Saturday, at the SSE Arena in Wembley, mighty Mitch will now challenge for the Vacant WBO Intercontinental Super-Featherweight title against Cristian Palma, after initially announcing a move to featherweight.
‘It was probably the best combo I’ve landed in a pro fight and it stood out because it ended in a spectacular knockout,’ recalled the ‘Baby Faced Assassin’.
‘But it’s nothing I haven’t done before in the gym. I know what I’m capable of when I land clean. I throw all shots with speed and mean intentions. The end product just happened to be far more destructive because I was wearing 8oz gloves.
‘Now that I’m injury free, I’m capable of doing a lot more in the gym. As a consequence, I’m far fitter and far more confident.’
The knee problem and a prior stomach strain confined the 2011 ABA champion to just three gigs in a frustrating 2014 campaign so he is now eager to crack on.
He says: ‘After fighting on the Friday night, I was back in the gym sparring Josh Leather the following Monday morning, no pause. That’s exactly what I need; to keep busy and stay focussed. I was straight back eating clean. I’d no time to put unwanted weight on.’
While Smith has previously conquered a Latvian, an Estonian, a Hungarian and a Croat, Senor Palma – a 30 year old, 30 fight veteran who’s mixed in decent company – represents his first Latin American test.
Mitchell says: ‘There’ll be new challenges. I’ve studied Hispanic fighters for a long time and they seem tougher human beings than Europeans, they certainly hold a shot better.
‘Obviously I’ll be looking to hurt him as early as possible so I can have my own way but I doubt I’ll be able to just bully the lad. It’ll be more a gradual wearing down process.
‘The kid has 20 wins on his record so he’ll not just be coming to ‘guard up’. From tapes, he seems quite game, he’ll come with ambitions. He’s been in with some very good kids.’
The north Londoner knows that a sizzling show on Saturday will likely see him crash the sanctioning body’s world listings. However, more immediately, he eyes a more local prize.
‘I’m still a few fights off world level. I need more distance fights. But the British title is a prestigious belt that I definitely intend to win this year,’ he confides.
‘As Frank Warren won the purse bids for the vacant British title fight between Ryan Walsh and Samir (Mouneimne), it should be easy to match me with the winner. I expect that’ll be Walsh but he’s not exciting enough to be our champion.
‘He’s been trash talking me lately, saying my record is polished. But I’ve beaten more unbeaten fighters than he has.
‘I expect European Champion Josh Warrington to get hammered by Lee Selby later this year and when he drops back down to domestic level I’ll beat him comfortably too; I don’t rate him!
‘It’s my dream to top the bill at the O2 in London or even Wembley Stadium but you need a rivalry.”
But this weekend, young Smith has more immediate business to take care of and expects his own huge band of supporters to be out in full force.
‘I’ve already shifted over 400 off my own doorstep and no doubt more will walk up on the night,’ claims the man who offloaded a remarkable 1400 briefs for his WBO European title win in November.
‘It’s nice to be liked and I like to give back, meet up with my fans. I think they just see me as a ‘happy-go-lucky’ kid, who’s willing to learn and confident of his ability to produce and excite in the ring. They always know that, even if I’m not at my best, they’re in for a decent fight.
‘Come Saturday, I’ll be looking for another dominant, professional performance to show my class and light up Wembley.
‘If there’s a knockout, great. If not, it’s a big step up and some quality rounds in a new weight division. Win-win.’