Sam Eggington’s career has taken him from leisure centres and hotel functions suites to the biggest indoor arenas in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and London, but his next bout seems likely to take place in the most unusual venue yet.
While other promoters are inquiring about the possibility of staging events in television studios or small halls without fans in attendance, Eddie Hearn looks set to host fights in the gardens of Matchroom HQ.
Hearn originally mentioned to Jake Wood and Spencer Oliver on the Pound for Pound podcast that he’d like to arrange a super-welterweight clash between Eggington and Ted Cheeseman for the ‘Fight Camp’ promotion.
News of the potential fight quickly spread on social media and, unsurprisingly, Twitter accounts purporting to be boxing news outlets began erroneously reporting that a deal had been finalised.
Eggington felt the need to respond in an attempt to quash the rumours. Over two weeks later, the fight has not yet been confirmed.
“It’s been spoke about, but there’s been a few [fights] spoke about,” Eggington told Boxing Social. “I was sent a few names by Eddie Hearn, Jon [Pegg, Eggington’s manager] had spoken to him about them, but nothing was concrete. Why people were putting it out there saying I was fighting him, I don’t know? I didn’t know I was fighting him! I knew his name was in the hat, but nothing is guaranteed, even now. People just jump on the bandwagon and roll with it.”
While contracts are yet to be signed, Eggington (28-6, 17 KOs) doesn’t envisage any issue that would stop the match-up coming to fruition.
Former British super-welterweight champion Ted Cheeseman has displayed a willingness to test himself early in his professional career. After 60 fights in the unpaid ranks, ‘The Big Cheese’ quickly faced capable boxers including Tony Dixon, Carson Jones and Paul Upton. His eagerness to take on-all comers has since resulted in a three-fight streak without a win (L12 Sergio Garcia, D12 Kieron Conway and L12 Scott Fitzgerald).
Despite that run, it appears Cheeseman is ready to accept another tough assignment.
“It looks promising,” said Eggington. “I’ve heard Ted Cheeseman is well up for it, I’m down, so there’s no real reason why we shouldn’t be able to get that made. There are purses and dates to sort out, but it should be fine, I think. I’ve agreed, Ted’s agreed, I’m sure Eddie Hearn will pay. There’s no reason it shouldn’t happen.
“I don’t think we’ll have to go looking for each other, it’ll make for a good fight. He’s a good fighter. He had a decent amateur career; he’s done well up to now. He fell short at European level, but he fought a good kid, so you can’t take too much from that. I didn’t watch the Conway fight. It’s the one most people are asking me about, but I didn’t watch it, honestly. I saw a bit of the Fitzgerald fight. I think I saw the end of it, and I thought Fitzgerald was bossing the end of the fight. [Cheeseman’s] a good fighter all round, he does some things well, he comes to have a go. It’s a good fight. I’m confident, but it will be a good fight.”
Like his potential opponent, ‘The Savage’ has never been one to shy away from a fight, to the extent where he once hoped to fight most weeks. Having been made redundant as a forklift driver at 18 and with a young family to support, Eggington approached manager and trainer, Jon Pegg. regarding the possibility of becoming a journeyman. He had previously competed in 31 amateur bouts as a junior, but did not harbour any desires of championship glory, he simply needed a pay cheque.
Pegg secured the young fighter work in the away corner against an undefeated Welshman named Leon Findlay. Eggington exceeded his own expectations, picking up a decision victory causing his career as a paid loser to go “tits up” before it had truly begun.
Since then he has fought in two Prizefighter contests, defeated Steven Pearce (TKO7) for the Midlands Area welterweight title in his sixth contest and fought the always dangerous, Dave Ryan (W10) three fights later.
After a breakout win against Denton Vassell (TKO8) his career took off, defeating the likes of Shayne Singleton, Glenn Foot, Dale Evans, Frankie Gavin, Paulie Malignaggi and Cerefino Rodriguez. That run saw Eggington capture the British, Commonwealth and European welterweight titles.
There have been losses along the way: most notably to Bradley Skeete, Mohamed Mimoune and Liam Smith.
Eggington believes his extensive championship experience ensures that there isn’t anything that Cheeseman can throw at him that he hasn’t already encountered before.
“I turned over as young as I could,” he said. “I won an Area title at 18, I was doing 10-rounders from the age of 18 and I ain’t stopped. Anything I could get my hands on, I’d fight for. I started picking up good titles early as well; the Midlands Area title is a quality belt to win. My second title was the WBC international. I just haven’t stopped. If something is offered, it’s very rare that I will say no. If there’s a belt on the line, I don’t think I’ve ever said no. If there’s a belt on the line, I’m in there all guns blazing. It’s a double-edged sword; it’s been good for me, but it hasn’t always worked out, but without taking those opportunities, I probably wouldn’t have got opportunities that [followed].
“I think I’ve fought more dangerous opponents in Britain. Dale Evans was dangerous, I’m not just saying that because he knocked me down [in the second round], without the knockdown I still think he’s a lot more dangerous than Ted. I’ve fought fighters that hit harder, I’ve fought better boxers, but Ted is a good kid so I’m not going to look past him. I’ll put everything into camp and, if the fight happens, I’m quite confident I’ll come out with the win.”
Boxing has always been an occupation for the 26-year-old rather than a vocation. As such, he has never been one to take a minute to take stock of his own accomplishments. Defeating Frankie Gavin, Britain’s only ever male World Amateur Champion, in an all-Midlands clash was just another workday.
Even when he stopped former two-weight world champion Paulie Malignaggi in eight rounds on the undercard of Tony Bellew-David Haye I, Eggington was unfazed by the magnitude of the occasion.
“I boxed at the O2, it was like water of a duck’s back,” he said. “I was saying the other day to people; I wish I could go back and enjoy it a bit more. It was just work to me. It weren’t that I was nervous, I weren’t worried about fighting in front of people, it was just like: ‘We are at work, get it done, go home’. After fighting at the O2, I drove home to Birmingham on the same night [laughs]. After beating Paulie Malignaggi, I drove straight home! I wish I could go back now and just sit and enjoy it a bit more. My coaches are saying to me at the O2: ‘Let’s go for a walk ‘round, get a sense of the size of the place, blah, blah,’ and I was like: ‘It’s just the O2, I’ll fight later and go home’.
“To be fair, Paulie made sure I sat down and had a drink with him after. I was in my room [in the hotel], I came downstairs, I had my suitcases ready to go when Jon [Pegg] came up to me and said: ‘Paulie wants to have a sit down with you, a glass of coke and chill out for a bit’. That’s the only reason I was there that long! We had a coke and I went straight home.”
Boxing in a purpose-built venue erected in the gardens of Matchroom HQ, without fans in attendance and with strict social distancing measures in place, would certainly be peculiar.
Unsurprisingly, given his laid-back demeanour, Eggington is unperturbed by the prospect.
“As mad as it sounds, if I’m fighting in an empty room, I’m having a fight,” he said. “You have that adrenaline when you are having a fight. I’m going to try my best to win a fight in an empty room. The fact that I’m in a garden won’t make a difference. Whether there’s 100 people there or zero, you are going to try to win that fight. The ring-walk will be weird and a bit eerie. Your music will be on, but there will be nobody there. It’ll be odd, but past the ring-walk it’ll be fine. All boxers say when you are in the ring you have some sort of tunnel-vision, you won’t even notice once you’re in there.”
If Eggington were to be successful against Cheeseman, it would be his biggest win to date in the division. Since moving up to super-welterweight, he is yet to replicate the form he showed at 147lbs.
His final attempt at making the welterweight limit was torturous. Despite eating less than ever, the effort required to lose the final few pounds ahead of his European title defence against Mohamed Mimoune was arduous.
The struggle with the scales was evident in the bout as Eggington’s punches appeared devoid of their usual snap. As a result, Mimoune captured the belt by split decision.
While welterweight was a struggle, Eggington makes 154lbs with consummate ease, perhaps too much ease.
In his third bout at his new weight, Eggington was stopped by the unheralded Hassan Mwakinyo in the second round.
Despite the toll it has taken on him in the past, Eggington refuses to rule out a move back down to welterweight.
“It is really easy to make [154lbs], if I’m honest, but welterweight is so hard to make,” he said. “It’s a hard one, really. When I was making welterweight, I never had a nutritionist, so I think I could do welter again. At the time, it was just so tedious. I was never out of championship fights. After a fight, I’d have a week or two off and I’d just go wild because I knew as soon as I was back in camp it was 10st 7lbs again. It was just so hard to keep my mind on it. Making 11st, I’m walking around at 11st 6lbs, six, seven weeks out from the fight. It’s comfortable. It would have to be a big opportunity to do welter again, but I definitely think I could make it again. Given the right opportunity and time, I’d get there. I wouldn’t do it myself this time, I’d get a nutritionist. I’d make it even more comfortably than even I think, but thinking about it, it is hard to grasp.
“The last time I made it, honest to God, I can’t tell you how bad it was. It was horrendous. It was only from the Wednesday before the fight, before then everything was going to plan. I done the check weigh-in on the Wednesday and that was really hard. Past the Wednesday, the weight just stuck. It wouldn’t go anywhere. I always wake on the morning of the weigh-in on weight, I’d never not woken up on weight before that fight. I usually make sure I’m on weight, get to sleep, get up, do nothing, get the weigh-in done and rest up. I woke up on the morning to that weigh-in and I was about 3lbs over. The likes of Jamie Moore and Matt Macklin talk about waking up 12lbs over the weight and they’ll just get it off on the day of the weigh-in. I woke up and I was scared, I thought: ‘Shit’. Then I thought of the people that have done it before and decided: ‘I’ll get this 3lbs off.’
“Up until the last second before I went on them scales, I was overweight. When I was waiting to weigh-in, I was overweight thinking: ‘I’m just going to have to weigh-in and see what it comes out as.’ I took my boxers off and jumped on the scales…”
Eggington let out an exasperated sigh then laughed. He was acutely aware that his belief that he could return to welterweight was contradicted by his tale. “Honestly, in one breath I’m telling you how nasty it was to make, and with the next I’m telling you I genuinely think I’d make it again comfortably [laughs]. I think it’s because I’ve had that break. Before I didn’t have that break. I’d jump out of the ring and Eddie [Hearn] would go: ‘Sam’s back out on whatever date,’ and I’d think: ‘Fuck me! I’ve got a week then I’m back in the gym doing 10st 7lbs again’. It was just that relentless pressure of it. I think it was the mental block of knowing I had to make welterweight. I don’t know. Give me enough notice, I’ll make it.”
Eggington (28-6, 17 KOs) does not believe that two stoppage losses at 154lbs are a result of him possessing a lack of strength at the weight.
In March 2019, Eggington found himself fighting with his back against the ropes for large portions of his fight against former WBO champion Liam Smith, before being halted in the fifth round. He says this was due to Smith’s technical proficiency rather than his power.
Eggington would happily oblige Cheeseman if he wants to stand and trade. After all, it is his favourite aspect of the job.
“I personally don’t think they are hitting harder at [super-welterweight],” he said. “I know I was on the ropes for the Liam Smith fight, but that was because my eye was fucked. I couldn’t match the jab. Standing in the middle of the ring, trying to exchange jabs, I weren’t winning. His jab is just so fast, sharp and crisp. I just weren’t winning that contest. I thought: ‘I’ll go on the ropes and have a fight,’ I can do that all day and all night long. From the second round, my eye just blew up, I’ve never had it before in my life. I didn’t have a clue how or why, but the jab was on-point every time. I just couldn’t do anything. I decided to go to the ropes, cover up as best as I can, let off my own shots and cover up again and that’s what I done.
“I’ve never fought anyone that I felt was too physically strong. I don’t think that’s a problem at super-welterweight either. I train with big guys; I spar big guys and I’m alright at that. It’s just the way I’ve been since I was young; I like to stand there and have a fight. That’s meat and drink to me, most of the time. I genuinely think I’ll beat Cheeseman. It will be a hard, gruelling fight, but I do think I get him out of there before the final bell rings.”