STUART Buckley’s ABA Championship dream is up and running – and now he is looking for his third win inside a week.
The talented Hartlepool fighter had to box twice in Saturday’s Tyne, Tees and Wear semi-finals – scoring two excellent victories at Newbiggen.
And now the 23-year-old faces a tough foe at the same Northumberland seaside venue in Saturday’s regional Under 67 kilo final in the shape of Birtley’s Craig Dixon.
The gifted Dixon has been on the wrong end of two shocking points verdicts at this stage of the ABAs in the last two yesars and will be a highly-motivated opponent.
But Catholic Club head coach Paul Allen said Buckley is in “confident” mood after his weekend points wins over Joe Whitfield and Gary Dodds.
“It was a tough ask for Stuey to box a preliminary round and then his semi-final in one day,” Allen told SportMail.
“But he rose to the occasion mentally and physically – his coaches Paul Barnes and Mark Smith were over the moon with him.
“Craig Dixon only had to box his semi with Joe McBride and he’s a very good fighter.
“We thought Dixon was turning pro this season but he’s turned up in the ABAs.
“But Stuey has moved up a division from last year and he looks strong and fast at this weight. We’re quietly confident.”
The luck of the draw went against Buckley when he weighed in at Newbiggen last weekend – the ex-England boxer being paired with his old rival Whitfield in a preliminary bout.
Buckley and Whitfield have had some classic contests in recent years and were meeting for the fifth time in the ring.
The first round was a tight affair, both fighters clearly having a great deal of respect for each other.
Round two saw Buckley force back the Northumbria fighter and in the third he really came into his own, working to the head and body of his opponent.
Indeed, the body shots appeared to be taking their toll on Whitfield and the brilliant Buckley stayed on top to be awarded a 24-18 victory.
His second contest pitted him against Dodds, who had not been involved in a preliminary fight.
Coaches Barnes and Smith urged their man to pace himself given the exertions against Whitfield.
However, the Catholic Club ace looked sharp and full of energy from the outset.
In fact, far from being jaded, Buckley was lively and strong as he romped to a 26-21 triumph against the Spennymoor fighter.
“Dodds gave a good account of himself but Stuey was awesome,” said coach Barnes.