April 12th 2014 was a night that will live long in the memory of all members of Team Buglioni. Granted it was the night that Frank Buglioni lost his first professional fight to a world level and hugely experienced opponent in Sergey Khomitsky, a blow that would be hard to take for any professional fighter. But more importantly it was a night when the hugely loyal fan base that follow Frank at all of his fights had to ask themselves – what happens now?
It is inevitable that when someone who has burst into the professional arena in the way that Frank has comes up against a set back, people will be quick to stick the boot in, criticise preparation techniques or doubt whether or not this individual has what it takes to get to the top of the profession that they dedicate their lives to. The purpose of this piece is not to try and convert people’s opinions, everyone is entitled to their own, but perhaps more to offer an insight into the man that is Frank Buglioni and why I and many of his loyal fans know what’s in store!
To understand what makes Frank tick you have to go back to the beginning. Not to the GB boxing team, or even to his days with the formidable Repton Boys Amateur Boxing Club but to Waltham Forrest Gym at the age of 9 or 10 where it really began. Before boxing Frank and I played football for the same team and I think Frank would be the first one to admit that he was just never really that into it, football just didn’t push his buttons. Like most youngsters in our area you played football because your mates did and most of us enjoyed it so much that we continued to play for years to come. Frank just never really seemed that keen, in fact I think it would be fair to say that he played the last season just to keep me happy! So when he invited me along to Waltham Forrest on a freezing cold Tuesday night on the pretence of trying out a different type of training, I humoured him and tagged along.
From the second we stepped into that gym something changed in Frank. You could see that naturally he was at home. For me, the intensity of the training, the bullish nature of the ‘coaching’ just wasn’t my thing but for him the phrase ‘duck to water’ would be the understatement of the century! People that don’t know Frank outside of boxing may be surprised to learn that he is actually quite a placid individual and this has been a feature of his character for as long as I can remember, so despite his obvious natural ability for boxing, I didn’t expect it to be a permanent fixture in his life. I assumed that this would be a one time thing, how wrong could I be. Within a matter of weeks he had given up with football and had immersed himself in boxing.
He was training a couple of times a week at Waltham Forrest and before you could say ‘Joe Calzaghe’ the garage had been turned into a boxing gym and the nights of catching up after school invariably involved wearing head guards and hitting each other, Frank with far more conviction and power than myself it has to be said. But this was more than a hobby for Frank. He was running 3 or 4 times a week before school, training at Waltham Forrest, having boxing trainers come to him to perfect elements of his craft that he felt needed working on and this was all at the age of 12!
It was a different level of dedication at a very young age, more than anything I had witnessed before. I knew lads that we’re playing football at professional academies at the time but the determination to be the best that I saw in Frank during those years was something that I have never seen matched.
Fast forward through the next few years and with every progression that Frank made, the intensity was turned up. Through our latter teenage years you knew better than to invite Frank down the pub on a Friday night, you knew where he’d be and exactly what he’d be doing. Most people will look at a professional boxers lifestyle and think that it’s a glamorous affair, I would challenge those people to get up at 5am, day in day out, in the rain and sometimes snow and go for a 5 mile run before training (I know I still don’t really understand that one, but Frank insists that it’s necessary).
The driving force behind Frank’s rise into the professional boxing game has never been fame, glamour or money. It’s an unrelenting desire to be the best at what he does and to prove that at every level he can take people on and beat them. As an amateur he had a reputation for stopping people, but even after a convincing win he would not be out on the lash (as I would have much preferred) he’d be back home watching the video of the fight, meticulously analysing every detail in order to improve in any way he could for the next one.
When you have watched somebody close to you progress, mature and ultimately achieve what Frank has done it is difficult not to admire them. But what most people wont know about Frank is the journey that he has been through to get to the point he is at today, this is what I have tried to share in a very short trip down memory lane, but the point is this. When you are naturally gifted at something you will always do well in that arena, but when you couple that ability with grit, determination and the willingness to do what the other man will not, that is when you become the best and that is what I saw begin to develop in Frank the first time he walked into that boxing gym!
So when I stood in the Copper Box and watched Frank’s 1st professional defeat and looked around me at the dejected army of loyal followers who looked confused as well as saddened by the defeat I couldn’t help but stifle a grin. I knew what would be going on in his mind when the adrenalin had worn off and the stadium had emptied because I have seen the making of the man!
So, what happens next? I’m pretty certain that I know what happens next and I’m sure as hell glad that I won’t be the one on the receiving end of it!
Courtesy of Mr Daniel Baker – Friend