Career wise, this is a real crossroads fight. There’s little margin for error if you’re to realise your goals of contesting the major international belts. Are you feeling added pressure?
No. If anything, I’m feeling less pressure. Gary’s the favourite with the bookies. He’s fighting in his home town. He has the chance to win the (Lonsdale) Belt outright. He’s mandatory for the European. He’s got the higher international rankings. For once, I feel no pressure on me.
August is traditionally a barren month for boxing so I’m sure you’ve monopolised your trainer’s attention. What specifically have you been working on together?
Actually all the lads are in the gym, ticking over. We’ve a great team spirit here and we all help each other out when there’s a big fight pending. But you’re right, I’ve been the priority. That said, I always get the attention I require and, if I felt that wasn’t the case, I’d move on.
Joe and me have been studying tapes of Buckland together. We think we’ve identified a lot of things that Garry does wrong and we’ve been practising the shots we need to throw to exploit his mistakes. Joe works really hard and I really think Saturday will prove a successful night for both of us.
Trust me, I’ve come on so much in the gym since losing to Selby. Today I’m a far better fighter than when I first held the Commonwealth and British (featherweight) titles. I’ve just not had the opportunities to prove it publically.
As an amateur you boxed in all corners of the globe and you won your first professional title by defeating Scottish Commonwealth champion John Simpson up in Glasgow. However, challenging Buckland in his home city must make your task more difficult, surely?
It’s really not a concern. Others might freeze but I’m not a nervous person. I boxed Indians in India, Poles in Poland. You either thrive in the lion’s den or you crumble and I showed in Glasgow that I wasn’t fazed. Besides, beating him in his backyard will just make the glory of my victory all the greater.
Buckland’s mentor Tony Borg masterminded your downfall against Lee Selby. Will it be unnerving having him in the opposite corner again on Saturday evening?
Not one bit. The Selby defeat had nothing to do with Tony Borg’s masterminding and everything to do with how bad I was. Buckland’s last loss was to John Murray and, that night, my trainer Joe Gallagher was working Murray’s corner.
I’ll not be going into this fight thinking about the loss to Lee Selby and I’m sure Gary wouldn’t be going in thinking about his defeat to John. I know my head will be 100% on the job at hand.
What’s your assessment of the champion? Stylistically, have you ever encountered anyone similar?
Given that we’ve been around at the same time, at the same weight, I’d studied Gary a lot when he was fighting on undercards, coming through. It was always in my mind that one day we might meet.
To be honest, he’s never changed too much. It’s the same old ‘Dynamo’. He’s a very fit lad who always tries very hard and throws a lot of shots. He’s a very good British level fighter, a very worthy champion. He has to be considered the toughest that I’ve faced as a pro. But challenging for a title, I’d not want it any other way.
But I’ve been in the ring with stacks similar to his style, yet even better, in the amateurs. The pressure he’ll undoubtedly apply should bring out the best in me.
What type of fight do you envisage and why are you so confident that you can upset the odds and get your hand raised once the dust has settled?
I can’t see Gary Buckland being in a cagey fight. It’s not his way. I expect it to be very exciting for the fans to watch with a lot of punches thrown and landed. No doubt Gary will give his best but skills pay the bills and I’ve got better all round ability.
What would you hope that a comprehensive victory on Saturday will lead to? You’re 28 now and need to be challenging for the major international belts, surely?
That’s up to Frank (Warren) but, though I’d probably assume Gary’s number one (contender) slot for the European, I’d actually love to own the Lonsdale Belt outright.
The winner of this has to entertain (mandatory challenger) Gary Sykes quite quickly. I’d be very confident of beating him but I daren’t look past August 17th.
I’m really looking forward to Saturday. This is the perfect opportunity, perfect opponent, to deliver the kind of performance to get everybody talking about me again. Then people will realise that the Selby defeat was just one bad night.
August 14, 2013