By George Ogier
David Beckham, Oscar De La Hoya, Anna Kournikova. All three have made vast amounts of money from a mixture of sporting prowess and looks good enough to have graced magazine covers the world over.
Kournikova made the sort of money that most tennis stars can only dream of. All this in spite of never winning a major tournament. Sport and beauty go hand in hand and it isn’t always the former that gets you noticed first.
De La Hoya was famous for drawing huge female audiences to his fights. The Golden Boy was fortunate enough to have the ability to match his Telenovela looks and is a shoe-in for boxing’s hall of fame. However, there are boxers with only a sliver of Oscar’s gifts in the ring who have carved out a name for themselves based more on their looks.
British fighter Gary Stretch is a prime example of this. Stretch won twenty-three of twenty-five professional contests. He was the British light-middleweight champion and even fought Chris Eubank for his middleweight world title. The bout was billed as Beauty v. The Beast and although Stretch lost that fight it was a nice addition to his CV.
Now Gary Stretch is more famous as an actor than he ever was as a fighter. Roles in the superb Dead Man’s Shoes and the not-so-superb Alexander are just two more career highlights. In addition to this Gary was modelling for the likes of Calvin Klein and Versace. It’s safe to say that Stretch is more famous for his face than his fists.
It’s almost two decades since Gary Stretch last appeared in a boxing ring. Last weekend saw the latest episode in the career of a fighter that might one day rival Stretch in the poster-boy stakes. After only five paid fights the British boxing scene is already unavoidably aware of Enfield’s Frank Buglioni.
A talented amateur, for a while Buglioni harboured hopes of fighting for Great Britain at London 2012 but after being cut from a preliminary squad the 23 year-old Londoner made the decision to turn pro.
Signed to Frank Warren’s promotional company, Buglioni has had five of his professional bouts televised. On each of these occasions, one thing has stood out beyond even Frank’s raw talent. His fans.
One of the biggest issues for young fighters making their way in the paid ranks is audiences. Unless a boxer has had a high-profile amateur background selling tickets is as big a part of their life as training. A decent prospect is judged on their ability to put bums on seats at their fights as well as on boxing talent. Any young tyro with a following will catch a promoter’s eye.
Even in Buglioni’s amateur days he always had vociferous backing and this has transferred to his professional career. Hordes of baying identikit young men seem to make up the majority of “Team Buglioni”. It resembles a casting for The Only Way is Essex at times, chinos and side partings as far as the eye can see. And the best part? Boxing is all the better for it.
With all the political machinations at the elite level of sport recently many have claimed boxing is dying. In Frank Buglioni the sport is alive and kicking. A well-spoken, affable and polite young man, he can clearly box and will only get better under the tutelage of legendary father and son team, Jimmy and Mark Tibbs.
Buglioni’s fan are loyal and will follow their dashing and handsome young leader wherever he might go. It’s not necessarily a regional thing either. His fans come from all over London and unlike say, Tony Jeffries selling tickets in Sunderland, Buglioni’s army follow the man rather than the city. The Enfield talent has a long way to go in building a fan base to rival Britain’s favourite boxing son, Ricky Hatton but it’s a fantastic start.
Buglioni’s last outing was on Friday night in a tough points decision over Jody Meikle at York Hall. The former amateur star won every round but couldn’t stop his seasoned opponent and got caught by some silly shots. However, it is worth reiterating the point that this was only Frank’s fifth pro fight. The timing and defence will improve and allied to some reasonably heavy hands Buglioni is a true star in the making.