After the main event, overexcited patrons entered the ring, causing it to collapse. Buckland says of the unfortunate occurrence, “We had the rain; we thought they might call the show off. It went on. They called my fight off a couple of times, then it went back on and then they called it off due to the supporters trashing the ring. I was devastated.”
After having sat on the sidelines for a frustrating nine months, the British super featherweight champion now looks to put his disappointment in the past and get back to business by claiming the Lonsdale belt outright. Tonight, he meets Stephen Smith, 16-1 (9), and in a rare turn of events, the fight takes place in his backyard on the Nathan Cleverly-Sergey Kovalev bill, “It’s a bonus for me to box at home. I’ve never boxed in Cardiff,” before saying of his opponent, “I know he’s going to bring a lot to the table. He’s a good boy, Smith.”
The hardnosed Buckland unabashedly says, “Whoever they fetch, I’ll fight. Hopefully, they do a good job and get the right opponents and I can win titles that what I want.”
He sprang to prominence winning “Prizefighter” in the fall of 2010, knocking out then-British champion Gary Sykes along the way. Since then, he has repeated that feat, this time on points in Sykes backyard. “Dynamo” has managed to defend it twice last time out, scoring a career-best win over Stephen Foster Jr., forcing the former European champion to retire at the end of the eighth round.
Currently, Buckland sports a 27-2 (9) record and is ranked 10 by the WBC, WBA and WBO.
Anson Wainwright - You travelled to Argentina back in April. You were due to take part in an international bout against seasoned Fernando Saucedo but in a strange turn of events, your fight got cancelled. Could you tell us about what happened?
Gary Buckland - Yeah, I would say the trip went great. We went out on the Monday [prior to the fight]. The hospitality was very good over there, training went well, got my weight down nice, weighed in. It was all about that last day. We had the rain. We thought they might call the show off; it went out on. They called my fight off a couple of times, then it went back on and then they called it off due to the supporters trashing the ring. I was devastated then. I was warmed up. I was next in the ring, then they told us the fight was off and then the next morning, we were on our way back home. I couldn’t wait to get back but it would have been nice to come back with that title but I never got the chance.
AW - After a nine-month absence, you return to action in more familiar climes as chief support to Nathan Cleverly-Sergey Kovalev when you meet Stephen Smith. What are your thoughts on that fight?
GB - I know he’s going to bring a lot to the table. He’s a good boy, Smith. I always like watching him box, he fell short against [Lee] Selby but I think he’s better than that. I think he’s going to fetch a good fight and I need to be at the top of my game to beat him.
AW - You’ve fought in many different locales around the globe and in Britain. This is a rare appearance for you in Wales.
GB - It’s a bonus for me to box at home. I’ve never boxed in Cardiff. I’ve always wanted to box in Cardiff. I’m a Cardiff boy. When you go back to my last fight in Manchester, I don’t care where I box. As long as there’s a ring, that’s my office. It’s just a bonus it’s in Cardiff, really.
AW - In your last fight, you impressively stopped Stephen Foster Jr. Can you tell us about that bout?
GB - I went into the fight with an injury, so wasn’t 100%. I had a couple hand injuries and my trainer had a back injury, so we couldn’t do the things we wanted to do. We went in there with a game plan and stuck to it. The game plan was to take the first six rounds and after that, [Foster] tires out and looking at when he fought [Ermano] Fegatilli (when Foster lost the European title), he was worn out in the last four or five rounds. That was our aim and [Foster] really got stuck in the last half of the fight.
AW - Was it your career-best performance?
GB – No, I wouldn’t say that. I’d say my best one would be against Gary Sykes because Gary Sykes is a good boy and I had to be so fit and plus he was the champion and I had to rip the title off him. There’s a couple of good performances against Henry Castle and [Paul] Truscott. I’m happy with all of them really.
AW - Who are the key members of your team?
GB - I’ve been with Tony Borg, my trainer since I was 14 years old, so I’ve been with him for 12 years now. We get on well together. We can be like father and son sometimes. We have a lot in common. Brian Powell, I got introduced to Brian Powell when I was 17. As soon as I turned 18, he signed me [and I] turned pro. It’s going really well being with Ricky Hatton [Promotions]. We hit a bit of a stumbling block when he lost Sky TV. We grit our teeth and held on and then we got on the Ricky Hatton [against Vyacheslav Senchenko] bill, which was great. I’m happy they’ve signed up with BoxNation, which is another big thing.
AW - Your gym has several very good fighters in it at the moment. Could you tell us about that?
GB - We’ve got Lee Selby; he’s a really good boxer. His brother [Andrew, who won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics], he doesn’t train with us. He trains at Splott ABC. He comes down every now and then. We’ve got Justyn Hugh, Frankie Borg, Chris Higgs, Rob Turley. We have about 12, 13 pros down there. The next superstar down there is my brother, Mitchell. He’s only had five fights.
AW - Do you and Lee Selby spar?
GB - We don’t spar; we have a war! We go in there and punch each other. It’s good sparring. Sometimes he has his day and sometimes I have my day. When it’s over, we go to the corner, touch gloves and have a chat and laugh.
AW - You’re Cardiff born and bred. Can you tell us about your younger days growing up?
GB - I was always rough and tough in school, always fighting. Literally, one of my mates was going to the boxing gym. I didn’t know anything about boxing. I was just rough and tough and they asked me to come along and ever since then, I’ve been there. They gave up and took another road and I carried on ever since and it’s been a good 16 years of hard training and dedication.
AW - If I can take you back, having won eliminators to both the British and Commonwealth titles up at lightweight, you challenged John Murray in May of 2010. Though you lost, you put up a valiant effort.
GB - What it was, I boxed Sam Rukundo in a Commonwealth eliminator and he broke my rib, so I was out of training. Then I had a phone call saying did I want to box John Murray in three weeks time. I’ve always had to wait for my turn, so I thought this is a big chance for me but I only had three weeks training. I was 11 and a ½ stone (161 pounds) when they offered me the fight, so it was just getting my weight down for three weeks. It was my toughness that got me through the fight. I never had any fitness or sparring or anything. It was almost a bit of a wakeup call cause since then, I’ve gone down to super feather and I’m undefeated. I’ve won my last nine fights, “Prizefighter,” British champion[ship], boxed in Mexico. I’ve beat Stephen Foster, so everything is going well.
AW - After losing to Murray, you took part in the “Prizefighter” series. Not much would have been expected of you but you stopped then-British super featherweight champion Gary Sykes with a terrific shot in the semifinal before knocking out Derry Matthews to win the whole tournament.
GB - I was the first one to enter. I was the first name in it. As soon as I lost to John Murray, Brian Powell phoned them up and as time went on and I heard all these names going in, I thought this is going to be a good ‘un. I think Gary Sykes was one of the last to go in it. I thought, “I know I can beat him over 12 rounds” ‘cause I’d been watching tapes of him but over three rounds, he’s got a good work rate. Then there was Stevie Bell, Choi (Tseveenpurev) and Derry Matthews, so I knew it was a tough task but then I beat Stephen Bell and knocked out Gary Sykes. There was no way I was going to lose the final. I didn’t care who it was; I was buzzing. It was a night to remember.
AW - It seems that was a sort of transformation for you?
GB - Yeah, when I knocked Gary Sykes out and also Derry Matthews, he’s a good fighter as well and he beat Choi and he’s a good fighter. I had belief from my first professional fight, I had a slip up against Ben Murphy but no excuses but I never trained to where I should have. At the time [Murphy] had five fights and I thought, “I’ll take it easy,” and as, you know, he’s like a steam train and I never had the fitness to beat him. With John Murray, I know it’s another excuse and I don’t like to make excuses but I wasn’t fit. I’ve always had belief as a boxer. I was pretty comfortable as a lightweight but ever since I moved down to super feather, I feel too strong for these boys. The punches aren’t hurting me. I can walk through them and that’s a good thing.
AW - You decided to fight at super featherweight and not lightweight anymore and after a couple of stay-busy wins, you were able to again meet Gary Sykes, this time for his British title.
GB - People were saying, “You’re going to knock him out again,” and I would say, “I don’t think so.” I know Gary Sykes is a good fighter and he got caught cold. I knew he was going to be 100% fit and I needed to be 150% to beat him and I was. I never went for the stoppage in that fight. All I wanted to do was win the title. I trained for the points victory.
AW - Can you tell us a little about yourself as a person? What you enjoy doing away from boxing to relax?
GB - I’m a family man, I’ve got two kids and a wife, another kid on the way. I go to training. I don’t like to go away for training camp. I like to train in the gym, spend time with the family and train again. Other than that when I’m not training, I like a game of football. I’m a quiet guy. I don’t mention boxing to anyone. If people didn’t know me, they wouldn’t know I was a boxer. I like love a game of football and support Chelsea and Cardiff.
AW – Finally, do you have a message for the super featherweight division, in particular, Stephen Smith?
GB - I’ve got nothing to say to anyone in Britain. I’m the best in Britain. I’m not one to talk. I like to do my talking in the ring but when we meet, I’ll show them who’s the best. I just say I’m going to go for the win, stoppage or points.