Gary Buckland says he won’t let the favorite tag stop him from making history in tomorrow night’s Prizefighter Lightweights III tournament at the York Hall, Bethnal Green. Buckland is looking to become the third fighter to win the title for a second time and the first two-weight champion, and is the bookies’ pick to triumph in the 34th edition of Matchroom Sport’s eight-man, one night event.
The Welshman triumphed here back in September 2010 in the Super Featherweights, stunning a star-studded field to take the title. ‘Dynamo’ edged out Stevie Bell in the quarter-finals before a brilliant first round KO of Gary Sykes landed him a place in the final against Derry Mathews, where he stopped the Scouser in the second round.
“It was four years ago and I only did five rounds on the night, because I was stopping them,” said Buckland. “That was good then but I wished I had the nine rounds now. There was no KO bonus then either! But I have that experience to call on and we’ve trained exactly the same way to get the same result. I don’t like being the favourite, last time out I was an outsider at 12/1 and I went and won it, I KO’d the favourite that night in Gary Sykes and Choi lost to Derry in a war before I beat him in the final, so the odds and who is the favourite doesn’t mean a thing, you just have to pour everything you have into every second.”
The 28 year old has happy memories of that night but his last outing was here too and ended in defeat to Richard Commey for the Commonwealth title. Buckland challenged the Ghanaian for the vacant belt, losing out on points, and having had two wars with fellow countryman Gavin Rees ahead of that defeat, the Cardiff man insists there’s still plenty left in the tank following those brutal distance battles.
“I shouldn’t have taken the fight with Commey in London really,” said Buckland. “Maybe had I boxed him in Wales it would’ve been different. It was a good experience and he’s a good fighter, I’d take a rematch tomorrow on neutral ground though. He’d had 17 fights and 17 KOs, he couldn’t KO me though and I think the fight was a lot closer than the scorecards suggested.
“I can only do what I can do, I feel good despite those fights with Gavin, they were brilliant battles but I have done 12 rounds since and I am as fit as a fiddle.”
Buckland beat Sykes again ten months after winning Prizefighter to land the British title and successfully defended it twice before losing it to Liverpool’s Stephen Smith – win in London, and that title will again be his focus.
“I would drop down to Super Featherweight and get my British title back,” said Buckland. “That’s the weight I belong at and that’s my title, and I want to get it back.”
Buckland could face second favourite Stephen Foster Jnr in the second semi-final, with Foster taking on Irishman Jono Carroll in the third quarter-final and Buckland facing big-punching Floyd Moore in the fourth quarter-final.
Craig Whyatt and Lee Martin kick off the action in quarter-final number one and the winner will face the victor of the rematch between Danny Connor and Michael Devine, who met in the same venue in September only for their ten-rounder to be halted prematurely when a clash of heads left Connor with a cut that he couldn’t continue to box with.
The draw plus weights:
- Quarter-final 1: Craig Whyatt (9st 9lbs) vs. Lee Martin (9st 9lbs)
- Quarter-final 2: Michael Devine (9st 10lbs) vs. Danny Connor (9st 10lbs)
- Quarter-final 3: Stephen Foster Jnr. (9st 10lbs) vs. Jono Carroll (9st 9lbs)
- Quarter-final 4: Gary Buckland (9st 9½lbs) vs. Floyd Moore (9st 10½lbs)
Also on the card…
Martin J. Ward believes he’ll have too much for Maxi Hughes to handle when the pair meet in a British Super Featherweight title eliminator.
Unbeaten Ward faces the Rossington man at the east London boxing mecca and while he rates his 24 year old opponent, he expects to overpower ‘Maximus’ in the later rounds as he faces his first southpaw in the paid ranks.
“He is an all-round pretty sound pro but he doesn’t have what I have got and I believe I have more than enough in the tank to beat him,” said Ward, who scaled 9st 3 ½lbs today, as did Hughes.
“He is a southpaw. A lot of orthodox fighters struggle with southpaws but I love fighting southpaws. He is not the most elusive of fights. He has a good boxing brain but I am going to be too quick, too sharp and hit too hard for him.
“I haven’t fought any southpaws as a pro but I used to love getting drawn to them. On the GB squad we used to spar southpaws and fight southpaws week in, week out. I used to love it because a backhand was a scoring point and I couldn’t miss them with a backhand.
“I believe I will come on stronger in the later rounds. Tony always trains you hard and over the years he builds an engine which stays inside you and the engine in have for this fight I could do 12 rounds. I will come on stronger later in the fight.
“It could go the distance. I am going to go out there and enjoy it. I am not going in there swinging and punching looking for a big knockout. I will keep my head on my shoulders and go and stick to my advice from Tony in the corner. But if he walks onto one he walks onto one and I have the power to knock him out.”
Ward and Hughes both faced Kakhaber Avetisian in their last outings – Ward stopping the experienced Georgian in the final round of eight at Wembley Arena on September 20, eight days after he’d taken Hughes ten rounds for the vacant International Masters Super Featherweight title in Sheffield, with Hughes winning every round.
“We both had the same opponent for our last fights and you can take a little bit from that,” said Ward. “Styles make fights and I believe my style is going to cause Maxi a world of trouble. I believe he is in for a hiding tomorrow.
“I step up with each fight that goes on because I am looking to get to the title stage and this is an eliminator for the British. He has proved himself over the ten-round distance that he is a decent ten-round fighter so he is a step up but it is one where I am excited to be able to show what I can do.
“I have been in a really hard camp for this fight, I have trained the hardest I ever have for a fight and I want to make a statement to every Super Featherweight in the country that I mean business. I want that British title around my waist by next summer.”
The title is now the property of Liam Walsh after the unbeaten Norfolk man took it from Gary Sykes in London last week, and Ward was a keen observer of their bout.
“Liam looked really good in winning it,” said Ward. “Sykes was a little bit off point to be honest, I wasn’t impressed with him, but Liam looked a good fighter. I cannot look past Maxi because I am in for a tough night’s work and I have put my body through hell over the last ten weeks for this and I am going to prove I am a legitimate challenger for the title and show that I am ready to take it home with me in the New Year.
“Every other Super Featherweight is going to be watching. If you are a Super Featherweight and there is somebody fighting for the British title or an eliminator, you are going to watch that fight and take interest in it. People in the weight division will be watching and I am going to show them what I am all about.
“I am strong and nice and big for the weight. It was the right move for me and I can make the weight comfortably. In the pro game you have to get every little extra you can and the move to Super Featherweight was definitely the right move for me.
“I am in there mixing it with some great fighters in the gym and in sparring. Sparring is different from fight night but the quality of sparring in the gym, I love it. I enjoy every moment of it and all the hard work is towards fight night and this is the enjoyable part of it.”