Advice from a Wise Guy: Frank Buglioni interview
On the eve of a Monte Carlo or bust showdown against unbeaten Chinese southpaw Fenlong Meng, light heavyweight Frank Buglioni speaks to Shaun Brown...
The in-ring moniker of Frank Buglioni has taken on a whole new meaning nowadays.
On 5 November 2011 the Londoner made his professional bow at Wembley Arena against Sabie Montieth sporting the nickname of 'Wise Guy'. A respectful nod to his Italian heritage and a cinematic wink to Hollywood's glamourisation of the Mafia.
Fun and games, good stuff. No suit and Tommy Gun photo shoots, thankfully...
The former building surveyor traded shots with the game Monteith in a gung-ho manner which ended with Monteith sent sprawling after a Buglioni left hand wiped him out in the first round.
In the seven years since 'Wise Guy' now means something else entirely, and unintentionally. A career of hard knocks and setbacks, mixed in with a British title and a domestic fight of the decade has Buglioni speaking frankly and wisely about what he has experienced and had to overcome. The Londoner is philosophical, happier, relaxed and - with his 30th birthday six months away - talks like a man wise beyond his years.
The nickname remains, the references somewhat dissipated as Buglioni's knockout reputation, after a dozen fights, took a whack of its own courtesy of Sergey Khomitsky who took the Londoner's 0 with a sixth-round stoppage that looked damaging to Buglioni's career.
But the 29-year-old is nothing if not resolute. He bounced back, participating in battles with Andrew Robinson and Lee Markham, a win and a draw where he should have performed better and was expected to win more handsomely. Fedor Chudinov proved a step too far at super middleweight, new coaches came in after Buglioni parted ways with Mark Tibbs. Paschal and Steve Collins gave him spartan-style training in Ireland.
Now, with Don Charles in his corner, Buglioni is rebuilding again as he takes on a Monte Carlo or bust style challenge on Saturday night in amongst the wealth and wealthier where your money can disappear as fast as the cars can travel.
Inside the Casino de Monte Carlo Salle Medecin, Buglioni (22-3-1, 16 KOs) will gain a foothold in the IBF light-heavyweight rankings should he take the unbeaten record of unbeaten Chinese southpaw Fenlong Meng (13-0, 8 KOs) for the organisation's Inter-Continental belt.
It's a task well within the capabilities of Buglioni against a man who the Brit regards as not as talented as Hosea Burton, his old amateur foe and professional rival who Buglioni overcame in an edge of the seat thriller two years ago.
"I jumped at it, if I'm honest. I jumped at the opportunity. I thought it's an ideal opportunity. He's got a good ranking, he's got a good name and I thought why not," said Buglioni when Boxing Monthly asked him how he reacted to the offer of Monte Carlo and Meng.
"I had one look at one of his fights and thought yeah he's a decent fighter. Looked at his record, thought, yeah, he's a good guy, he's undefeated and poses a few threats but he's certainly a guy I need to be getting through if I want to be getting to the levels I see myself getting to."
The unique setting is an opportunity for Frank and his team to leave the hustle and bustle of the big smoke, allowing themselves to focus and talk boxing, free of distractions.
The riches of Monte Carlo don't appeal to Buglioni. Home is where the heart is with a mid-summer break to Sardinia to his three-year-old boxing academy thrown in. The emphasis in Italy on good eating, family and a more relaxed way of life definitely appeals to him.
"I love Sardinia and I've been going there for quite a few years and obviously I certainly feel connected to the Italian people when I go over there, I like the food and the culture, it certainly feels home but I would say I'm English first and foremost. London is my home and where I was born and raised."
"Probably the pace of life," he answered when asked about the differences between London and Italy.
"Also think there's a few things we could learn from them because their longevity and health and the way they go about things is more relaxed. It's a lovely culture to be around. I go over there and some things aren't too frantic and too hectic and I can just unwind, do a bit of training and eat really healthily and clean, it's ideal for me."
Health is wealth, according to Frank. Family is everything, too. But he hasn't forgotten about his goals outside of life happiness. The desire to become a big player, a world champion at 175lbs is greater than ever.
After his one round shoot-out loss to Callum Johnson back in March, some may scoff at Buglioni's chances in a division with strength in depth and a wealth of talent. It may be a struggle but that is a word that Buglioni thrives on. 'Struggle is what makes you great,' as the great middle-distance runner Roger Bannister once said, a phrase that Buglioni carries around with him from the gym to the ring.
"He [Bannister] was talking about his training and breaking through plateaus so struggle is certainly what makes you and Iwouldn't have it any other way."
And to those that may have written Buglioni off after his defeat to Johnson, he would like to draw your attention to Johnson's mini-war which he lost to Artur Beterbiev for the Russian's IBF light heavyweight title last month. A fight where both men suffered the rarity in their careers of being knocked down.
"Callum Johnson in his fight with Beterbiev showed what a devastating puncher he is. If he catches you early, I don't care who you are you're going over. I don't think he realised how much he hurt Beterbiev. Callum Johnson should be a world champion right now but that being said I still believe I have the beating of him.
"I still believe if it was a little bit later in the round or if the referee had given me a bit longer I think I would have come through it and certainly I've improved off the back of it. That being said I went into my last fight, I showed a little bit more boxing, I was a bit more patient and I felt very good in there. But I've never felt as good as I've felt recently."
His last fight, in July, against Emmanuel Feuzeu, at the same venue where he lost to Johnson, shook off the cliched ring rust and exorcised a few demons that may have been lingering from earlier in the year.
earning curves have been plentiful in Buglioni's career. Machismo and perhaps over confidence have stopped him in his tracks leading to a few setbacks, but the ups and downs are what have made him the man he is today. The fighter is still learning, they rarely stop picking up bits and bobs, but outside of the demands and rigours of boxing there is peace within his own life. And although there have been bumps en route, to where he is now, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"There's a few things that I've done wrong but I wouldn't change them," he said. "They've made me who I am. Some of the setbacks I've had have shown me there's ways round things and it makes you the man you are now, and gives you a new appreciation for people who've suffered and been through certain things.
"I can go 'Ok, I know how you feel there'. It gives you that empathy. I wouldn't change anything. If I knew what I knew now and went back there's no doubt in my mind I could be a two-weight world champion by now with the knowledge I have, the experience, and how to do things properly from the get go. But whose to say I wouldn't have went off the rails and found things too easy?"
So, if like Frank once was, a 12-0 unbeaten prospect - before running into Khomitsky - with a reputation for knocking people over for fun, and your confidence is sky high and the world is at your feet here are some words of advice from the 'Wise Guy'.
"I'd say certainly keep your feet on the ground. You've got to be preparing for every fight like it's your world championship fight. But there's so much more to it that's helped me in terms of nutrition, training, mindset and I think a lot of the time it does, it does come with experience.
"And certainly the mindset and the psychological stuff. Because without being in the situation where you're 10-12 pounds overweight with three days to go and you've never experienced that panic and then got through it, because you experienced the panic and got through it you think 'You know what I can do it'.
"So, if it does happen again you don't panic, you know the systems, you know the protocols and the same with training. You might get run down or you don't feel up for it, or up for a spar or you get cut or something, because you've had it all you can't teach that experience. Once you've been there, and you've felt it and come through it it just gives you another strength. As I say I've had plenty of setbacks and plenty of things go wrong and I've come through them and it's just given me added strength every time."
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