Peter Buckley, who fought Acelino Freitas and Lehlo Ledwaba back to back within his 300 fights, deserves his own special place in British boxing history, wrote Steve Bunce
THE truly extraordinary Peter Buckley met a Duke, a Prince, a King and in his 300 fights never refused an opponent. He last fought in 2008, a win at Aston Villa Leisure Centre, which was a week after a six-round loss on points to Lee Selby, who was having his second fight. I calculate that he met 161 unbeaten fighters, had about 70 fights with champions and met something like 20 world belt-holders. And, before you ask, it was Duke McKenzie. Yep, Duke was his best opponent and the hardest. There will never be another fighter with Buckley’s record, never.
“No, no regrets,” he told me at Bar Sport in Cannock once. It was yet another launch for his book, King of the Journeymen, written with Chris Akers.
Buckley was in fine form and easily slipped from his first fight, to his biggest fights and to his last fight. A draw, a loss for certain and a win. His first opponent, Alan Baldwin, never fought again; Buckley went on and had 299 more fights. So many nights, so many names, so little money for the anonymous fights.
I asked about the night in Cardiff when he was stopped by Naseem Hamed and asked why he had complained so much? “I was not hurt, not even a little bit and I had fights lined up,” he insisted. The stoppage meant he would lose work. At one point he had six fights lined-up, back-to-back shows and travel. Paisley, Mansfield, Cleethorpes, Bethnal Green in a three or four-week run.
It was a different time, but he might still be in the pub the night before a fight, still travelling with other fighters under the Nobby Nobbs banner; getting in rings at short notice and helping a kid with a winning record stay unbeaten. Buckley’s recall of fights is amazing, not just the names, but the subtle details about the best, the worst, the most protected and the stupidly hyped. He is a walking almanac, a man with unique knowledge of a generation of champions. “I used to watch all the fights,” he told me. “I would watch before my fight and watch after I fought. I knew all the fighters; Nobby would call me up and ask me how I thought a fighter would go with a certain fighter.” That’s proper knowledge, as ancient as a resin bucket.
There were some great cameos on great nights, buried early before the venues filled and he always pushed the local unbeaten man. On the Steve Collins-Neville Brown undercard in Millstreet, near Cork, Buckley lost to Paul Griffin over six rounds. Griffin by the way, was sandwiched between Patrick Mullings and future WBO featherweight belt-holder, Colin McMillan, in early 1996. It was a couple of months after the Griffin loss that Buckley, who had lost 58 times, was told he needed a win; in South London he stopped Matt Brown in the first – Brown was unbeaten in seven at the time. The win meant the Board was off his back. I’m not sure the modern Board would allow another Buckley to fight and lose so many times against such towering opposition. Kristian Laight, who also had 300 fights and retired in 2018, met totally different level fighters.