Frank Buglioni Q&A: ‘There’s not a domestic light-heavyweight that beats me’
By Ian Aldous: On Saturday March 24th, Frank Buglioni (21-2-1) will defend his British light-heavyweight championship against Callum Johnson (16-0), at the O2 Arena in London, live on Sky Sports. North London’s Buglioni faces his fourth consecutive undefeated opponent in a bout that will be the third defence of his crown and, if successful, will see him win the Lonsdale belt outright. This week, Frank took some time to talk with me over the phone just under a month away from fight night.
IA: Looking at Callum Johnson’s professional record, he’s not fought anyone that’s at your level. Do you think he’ll be out of his depth against you?
FB: He’s mixed at high calibre in the amateurs. Shihepo (whom Johnson defeated for the commonwealth title in 2016) is no fool and he done a good number on him. He’s in a decent gym with (Joe) Gallagher’s lot, so he’s obviously had good sparring with the Smith brothers and Hosea Burton. I think they’ve got a cruiserweight in there now, Sam Hyde, so I’m sure he’s mixed it in good company. Having said that, when you get in there and fight with the ten ounce gloves – with someone a little bit above your level, then you can often get found out very quickly.
IA: It’s coming up to almost eighteen months since he last fought. Do you expect him to be a little rusty?
FB: Without a doubt. I expect him to come in there and he’ll want to kind of feel himself out and get into his groove and I’ll make sure I start at a fast pace, as I always do. I start fast and I maintain that pace throughout the contest, and I end fast. He’s going to have to fight at a very high work rate, be sharp throughout and if there’s any lapses in concentration or fitness levels, which potentially there could be with such a long lay-out, then I’m going to get to him.
IA: You mentioned some of his sparring, I believe you’ve been sparring with Commonwealth cruiserweight champion, Luke Watkins?
FB: We’ve had some great spars, myself and Luke. We’ve done a little bit in prior camps as well and he’s continuing to improve, (he’s a) good friend of mine. I really enjoy the work with him, he’s a big old lump, very solid, very strong and I think he might be half an inch shorter than me, so he kind of replicates Callum Johnson but obviously he’s bigger and a lot more active. I would rate him higher than Callum Johnson and he can certainly whack, so it’s been ideal sparring.
IA: You’ve been a light-heavyweight for a while now, is it safe to say you’re loving life at 175lbs?
FB: To be honest, that’s the biggest asset for me, fighting at a weight that’s natural. It started off like that at super-middle and I simply outgrew it. But, because the fights were there and because I was very dedicated and could make the weight, (it) didn’t mean that I should’ve made the weight. I certainly felt lacklustre (during fights) compared to how I felt in the gym, when I was fourteen-sixteen pounds heavier than my fighting weight. I’m actually training at the same weight as I was when I was a super-middleweight. I’m not having to do such a large cut and I put the weight back on post weigh-in. I get in there and feel phenomenal. It was a very good move and, as I say, I’ve got the energy now to train really hard twice a day, six days a week and I’m loving it.
IA: Callum Johnson pulled out with an injury from your originally scheduled fight with him, Craig Richards came in and took you the distance (in front of 70,000+ fans in Cardiff on the Joshua/Takam undercard). Were you surprised at how durable Craig was?
FB: A little bit. I’ve sparred a lot with Craig and I sparred him when he was a super-middleweight, so what I see of him when I was sparring at super-middle probably wasn’t his best. I think the move up to light-heavyweight was a good call for him. Taking the fight with me, although a little bit too soon for him, has done him the world of good because he’s come in there and done twelve rounds with me and done better than Hosea Burton did against me, because he went the distance. He can certainly hold his head high and take confidence from that. I’m sure he’ll challenge for the British title when I move up again.
IA: So, Johnson will be the fourth undefeated opponent for you in a row. There must be something very satisfying about taking a fighter’s ‘0’?
FB: Yeah, without a doubt. To win it outright (the British title) against all undefeated fighters has never been done before in the history of the sport. I’ll be setting a record and that’s something I’ll be very proud to do. Also the fact that I’m fighting good calibre opponents, you can’t say they’re not because they haven’t been beat. Ricky Summers probably hasn’t mixed at high level, but Craig Richards beat Alan Higgins and Hosea Burton beat Miles Shinkwin, he was a former British champion and Callum Johnson was commonwealth champion in the amateurs and the pros. They’re good fighters and to go and beat them and take their ‘0’ is very satisfying.
IA: I’m guessing the only thought in your mind right now is winning the Lonsdale belt outright?
FB: Winning the Lonsdale outright and putting another title on the mantle with the commonwealth. Then either I’ll move upwards or I’ll go and scalp some more undefeated light-heavys in Britain.
IA: That brings me on perfectly to my next question. Last Saturday, your British rival, Anthony Yarde, defeated Tony Averlant. What did you make of his performance?
FB: It showed what I’ve been saying for a long time. He’s inexperienced. He’s done nothing wrong, he’s a good fighter for that level, but he’s not at British level and his lack of experience shows that. I’m not taking anything away from the guy, but if you put Anthony Yarde in the same ring as me, regardless of what his team and his camp thinks, he doesn’t make it to the twelfth round. I’ve seen a lot of chinks in his armour. The last fight he had wasn’t the first time I’ve seen these chinks and I’ve seen plenty of others that wasn’t highlighted that night. I’m confident of what I can do and I’ve mixed it at a much higher level, I’ve fought for a world title.
IA: It looked like a lot of people on twitter were saying they would pick you to beat him while they were watching the bout, judging by your retweets!
FB: The boxing world is very fickle. Someone has a bad night and their reputation is tarnished, someone has a good night and everyone jumps on it. Mark my words, I’ve been through the mill, I’ve had the ups and downs and I’m on a good run at the moment. I feel very comfortable at light-heavyweight. I feel very big and very strong. I’m training very hard and I’m making improvements day in and day out. I’ve made the mistakes and I’ve improved from them. There’s not a domestic light-heavyweight that beats me. I’ll gladly take these fights if they’re good pay days, but if they’re not and they don’t give me any opportunity to move onwards, then I’ll look at European and fringe world titles.
IA: There’s been a lot of talk previously about Frank Warren offering you the fight with Yarde. What’s the real story behind that?
FB: The fight was offered but I’d had to have vacated my British title, which is something I wasn’t happy to do. If I vacate the British title and go and beat Yarde – which I would have done, it would have left me in no-man’s land. I’d had to have gone back and fought someone else for the British title. It’s been my dream to win that British title. I did say I’d give Yarde a voluntary but then my mandatory got called and he didn’t want to fight his final eliminator, he didn’t want to fight Hosea Burton. Eddie Hearn offered Anthony the exact same money that Frank Warren offered me, to fight on Sky against me – they turned it down. As I say, once I’ve won this British outright, I’ll travel onto their channel in their backyard, but I have a very strong feeling there’ll be more excuses.
IA: Another guy who wants a piece of you, still, is Hosea Burton. Do you think he’ll manage to get in a position for a rematch with you?
FB: I’ll gladly fight Hosea Burton. I said in a prior interview that once I’ve beaten Callum Johnson, I’ll gladly give Hosea Burton the rematch. I said (to) stay relevant and fight contenders or decent fighters and he’s just been floating around in no-man’s land, doesn’t want to fight anyone and he’s been fighting journeymen and waiting on this payday with myself. He’s become a little bit irrelevant now, but having said that, if the money’s right I’ll fight Hosea Burton, then Anthony Yarde and then I’ll move onwards.
IA: What were your thoughts on Chris Eubank Jr. and the manner in which he lost to George Groves? Yourself and Jr. have shared words on twitter previously.
FB: I think Chris Eubank Jr. is a lot better version than Anthony Yarde. He’s a good fighter, he does the basics well providing that he fights guys that are tailor-made for him. When he fights a real boxer, a real champion, he got found out. The exact same will happen for Anthony Yarde. They haven’t got the schooling and the pedigree that George Groves has. I’m not at George Groves’ level and I’m not going to put myself in that same bracket, but I’ll say I’m one (level) underneath him. I wouldn’t say Anthony Yarde is as good as Eubank. Eubank has won a version of a world title and the British title, so he’s a much better fighter than Anthony Yarde, but he found his level and it wasn’t world level. Anthony Yarde is the same, he’s at his level and he’s not British level yet, certainly not if he fights me. He could fight a lower level British opponent and win that British title, but it won’t be Hosea Burton and it won’t be me.
IA: What can we expect on March 24th?
FB: I think a very conclusive win. If there is any ring rust or fragility around Callum Johnson, then I’ll expose it very quickly and very efficiently. If he’s done the correct training and he’s at the top of his game, then I think we’ll have a good fight and I’ll come through conclusively on points.
Buglioni vs. Johnson for the British light-heavyweight title serves as co-main event for the heavyweight battle between Dillian Whyte and Lucas Browne, at the O2 Arena, London, live on Sky Sports.
Tickets are available at stubhub.co.uk
You can follow Frank Buglioni on twitter: @frankbuglioni
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