By Adam Canavan @adam_canavan
|Buckland defends his British title.|
On the undercard of this Saturday night's Light Heavyweight title showdown between Nathan Cleverly and Sergei Kovalev, in Cardiff, is a fantastic domestic fight for the Super Featherweight British title: Gary Buckland vs Stephen Smith.
I'll start with the defending champion. Gary Buckland, from Cardiff, has a record of 27(9)-2(1) and he has a solid record domestically, most recently with a win over Stephen Foster Jr, who retired from the fight after the 8th round. He also has two wins against Gary Sykes: the first Sykes fight was in the super featherweight edition of prizefighter, Buckland also faced Derry Mathews in this tournament. usually I wouldnt read to much into prizefighter wins, however these are impressive stoppage wins, despite the lack of power his record may suggest(he stopped Sykes in the 1st round and Mathews in the 2nd), he won a 12 round Unanimous decision in the rematch with Sykes to pick up the British title. His two losses were a points loss over 6 rounds against Ben Murphy back in 2008 and a TKO loss in the 11th round against John Murray, where the size difference proved too much in mu opinion. Buckland fights out of Tony Borg's gym, alongside the likes of Lee Selby (on a side note, if you get a chance to, check out Buckland and Selby sparring on youtube, they have some entertaining sessions to say the least!) and the comebacking Jamie Cox, which has a good run of form that hasn't shown any signs of stopping. Obviously sharing the gym with Lee Selby, who produced a spectacular upset knockout against Smith, will provide Buckland with confidence and maybe even a psychological edge going into the fight and he will also have around 6000-7000 people in the crowd cheering him on too!
|Smith comes into this fight with momentum.|
Stephen Smith is one of the four fighting Smith brothers from Liverpool (Paul, Liam and Callum being the others) and, like his brothers, is trained by Joe Gallagher; Gallagher's stable is also on a fantastic run of form lately too, so maybe Borg and Gallagher pitting their wits against eachother is an interesting sideplot to this fight. Smith has a record of 16(9)-1(1). The two key wins on his record were both against John Simpson, they were closely contested fights and entertaining fights that couldve gone either way and this was shown by the fact that the judges reached a split decision in the first fight and a majority decision in the second. Smith has a good amateur background, winning Commonwealth gold and European bronze in 2006 and he is also a two time ABA champion. He has shown a lot of his talent and promise at times but, in my opinion, not to his full capability and I keep expecting him to have a breakout masterclass performance but as of yet it hasn't arrived, yet. As I mentioned above, Smith's sole loss is to Lee Selby, which is no disgrace as Selby has truly announced himself as one of Britain's future stars since, in what was a closely contested fight up until the stoppage in the 8th.
I think the styles matchup very well in this fight. Buckland comes forward and has a really good workrate, he attacks to both the body and the head and works best at close to mid range in my opinion. He sometimes lunges in with punches (which often land to be fair) and leaves himself open to counters, however he has shown he can take a decent shot. Smith can box very cleverly at times but I feel he sometimes takes punches he doesn't need too and against the likes of Selby and Simpson this does make for exciting fights and I think it will be exciting against Buckland. I think Smith has a good chin and wont be troubled by Buckland's power much and I expect Smith's power to be enough to keep Buckland off for a few rounds, but I think this fight will eventually end up in the pair trading shots in an exciting fight which favours Buckland if that occurs. Smith has the power to hurt Bucklans also, but he is quite a wild finisher when he has opponents hurt and leaves openings. One last thing to consider is that Smith, although against a low level fighter, has had a warm up fight just two months ago after having a year out of the ring whereas Buckland has not fought since November; he did have a fight scheduled for April 27th on the Murray-Martinez card against Fernando Saucedo but that fell through after fans stormed the ring, after Martinez's victory, causing the ring to collapse.
My final prediction is a close and exciting points victory for Gary Buckland.