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BUCKLEY IS KING OF THE LATE SHOW; Have-gloves-will-fight Peter's ready to go into the ring anytime.

Byline: VINCE ELLIS

PETER Buckley feels as if he has been fighting all his life.

And when you have boxed 184 times as a professional - more than any other British fighter for the past half century - it's hard to feel otherwise.

It's been hard, brutally hard at times, but Buckley has fulfilled the golden rule that guides every boxer... get out of the ring alive.

Miracle

And in the world Buckley moves in, that of 'journeyman pro', his staggering record is nothing short of a miracle.

The 33-year-old has never won a British, European or Commonwealth title and the fact that he has never even been offered a shot at one still rankles.

But the annoyance is fleeting because Buckley is the undisputed king of what he does - fighting last-minute.

Got a rising star you want tested anywhere up to 10st 7lbs? Get Buckley.

Less than 24 hours to go and the chief support bout on your bill in Glasgow has fallen apart because the lad's missus has gone into labour? Get Buckley.

The running order of your Sky televised show has collapsed with two hours on the clock because one of the fighters has just thrown up in the dressing room? Get Buckley.

'Once I'd spent a day working on my car, which left me knackered and covered in oil and dirt,' he said. 'Less than two hours later I was at a hall in Nottingham lacing my gloves up for a six- rounder.

'That's what most of my boxing life's been like. I got a late call telling me I was needed, then I was on the phone to all my mates to see which one could drive me up there.'

Ricky Hatton, Naseem Hamed and Joe Calzaghe have never had to box under those circumstances. But then it wasn't supposed to be like that.

Buckley, the tearaway youngest of nine children brought up in Acocks Green, had dreams of much, much more.

Like every other kid who climbs the dimly-lit steps to a boxing gym, heavy bags, ropes and speed balls echoing in the distance, he wanted world titles, adoration and wealth.

But the lofty aspirations were torn apart with the same speed and easeas quickly and easily as his lung had been punctured in a street fight.

'I was told right from the start I was never going to get to the top,' said the fighter who lost his late teens to violence, petty crime, police cells, courts and youth custody.

Advice

'I was told I just wasn't good enough.'

The honesty hurt at first, like the blade that parted his ribs.

Now, though, he is grateful for the advice. He admits it saved him from the kind of brutal beatings that have been endured by eager young men with more heart than skill, driven on by managers and coaches way beyond the level where they could safely compete.

'You see it all the time now,' he said. 'Fighters being built up, told they'll make it all the way when they can't.

'Sure, it hurt when I was told the truth, but it was sensible advice.

'I won a Midlands Area title and I could have got a British title. But I still go into every fight to perform well.

'I never take the money and run. I am not the kind of boxer who will take a body shot and stay down.

'When I fought Spencer Oliver he put me down with a shot that would have finished off some people. I got up. When I saw the video afterwards I don't know how I did it.

'But I also know my limits. If I am being thrown in there with a good boxer who's on the way up, there's no point taking unneccessary stick and suffering as a result.

'I'll give the guy a good test, but that's all.

'I've still got my pride and respect even if I am not ever going to be a world champion.'

And Buckley has mixed it with the best. Guys like Hamed who have gone all the way.

He has also fought the ones whose talent and ambition cost them everything.

'I fought three guys who have died in the ring - Bradley Stone, Richie Wenton and James Murray,' he said.

'They were all very talented fighters and that's the sad side of the business.

'I have also fought Paul Ingle and Spencer Oliver who survived brain injuries in the ring. They were both fantastic fighters.

Dangers

'The dangers are there, and I suppose with all the bouts I have fought that could be more of a problem.

'But I can't stop. I enjoy it too much.'

What does concern Buckley is the lengths some hopefuls go to in order to make their weights.

'I know how much some fighters have to go through to make the limits and it is crazy. It cannot be right and it has to have a big impact on their health.

'Guys who walk around at 101/1 stone are getting down to nine stone to fight. I don't know how they do it.'

He also worries about what's happening out on the streets, the raw environment that honed his own defence skills in those 'lost' years between amateur and pro.

'Small hall boxing is falling apart and it has an impact on the street.' he said.

'When boxing was thriving there were lots of boxing clubs and it kept kids off the streets.

'And these days boxing is needed to rescue these kids more than ever because where I used to get into fights, now there are guns and drugs. People aren't just getting hurt, they are being killed.

'What's happening now is frightening. Boxing could help.'

And maybe that's where Buckley can help as well. His real passion now is training, watching young fighters develop and improve.

'I get a kick out of that. That will be the future for me, but I haven't stopped fighting yet. Two hundred is the target and I'll carry on after that,' he said.

CAPTION(S):

HARD KNOCK LIFE... Peter Buckley never achieved his ambitionsPicture: SAM BAGNALL INJURY... one-time Buckley opponent Spencer Oliver
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Boxing
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 14, 2002
Words:1029
Previous Article:Sports letter: Proud history.
Next Article:Speedway scene: Bad luck haunts nearly man Brian.


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