When boxing returns to Britain, it will do so in a completely unfamiliar format. Shows are tipped to feature fewer bouts because of unconventional health and safety regulations due to Covid-19, placing increased importance on innovative matchmaking. But the most salient difference will be the lack of a live audience.
One fighter heavily tipped to appear on Matchroom Boxing’s proposed ‘Fight Camp’ events is recently dethroned British 154lbs champion, Ted Cheeseman (15-2-1, 9 KOs). Talking to Boxing Social ahead of a prospective bout with Birmingham’s Sam Eggington, the Bermondsey-man sounded more than ready for his return to action after an enforced break of almost eight months.
“I’ve still been training really hard. I’ve managed to sort out some training facilities recently and I’ve been focusing on getting back to my track work,” said Cheeseman, on his way to an evening session. “I’m looking forward to a big announcement within the week, hopefully with a big fight to look forward to. Our gym’s full of good boys, so we’re always pushing each other on. That’s why we have so much success as a gym. We’re all hard trainers and we all push our bodies to the limit, so it’s been great.
“Obviously, after the last fight, I never really trained for the first few weeks. I was frustrated and I had the longest break I’ve had in a good while. It refreshed me and it made me kind of fall in love with boxing again, and now I’m hungrier than ever. I’ve got all of the doubters that I need to prove wrong now, anyway.”
That last fight left a bitter taste in Cheeseman’s mouth. Fighting in Newcastle – a passionate sporting city 280 miles from home – a controversial defeat at the hands of Preston maverick Scott Fitzgerald saw the 24-year-old lose his British title (L12). But it was the unanimous nature of the judges’ scorecards that angered him most of all .
Storming backstage to the jeers of the raucous Northern crowd, Cheeseman seemed to have fallen out of love with boxing almost immediately. But after time spent with family and the benefit of a clear head, it’s a fight the former champion believes he’s destined to replay. “The thing is, as long as Scott [Fitzgerald] manages to sort himself out, I know I’ll get the opportunity to fight him again. A lot of people already know the real result of that fight,” he said.
“Boxing is like a yo-yo. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. Things change at different times and it can be a bit of a mission, but you’ve just gotta remind everyone who you are all over again. You have to keep rolling with the punches. I did have to overcome it. I had to dig deep because, a lot of times, I felt like just walking away from the sport. I felt like I didn’t get what I deserved. But obviously you go through that, you have to be mentally strong and I’ve pushed through. If you keep going, you’re gonna get where you deserve to be.”
Coming up short last autumn against ‘The Mad Man’ extended Cheeseman’s frustrating winless run, as he continues searching for his first victory since toppling Asinia Byfield for the vacant British title (W12) in October 2018.
A one-sided defeat at the hands of classy European champion Sergio Garcia in February 2019 (L12) was followed by a split-decision draw when returning to defend his coveted Lonsdale Belt against Kieron Conway. The outcome against Conway is another that Cheeseman still contests, with many ringside observers in agreement at the historic York Hall in June 2019.
But just like that, the narrative that surrounds Cheeseman’s professional career seems to have shifted.
The fan-friendly Matchroom prospect had been the talk of the town as recently as two years ago, after easing past the talented-but-tired American Carson Jones (W10). The pair met under the lights at London’s O2 Arena, with the Brit capturing the WBA international title at 154lbs.
His performance against Jones (who gave former world champion Kell Brook a fright in 2012 and beat Blackpool’s Brian Rose in 2015) was measured and impressive, demonstrating maturity beyond his 22 years. The Londoner has been tagged as an aggressive, come-forward fighter since first gracing Matchroom’s televised shows, but against Fitzgerald he surprised pundits by opting to employ a mixture of slick counterpunching and elusive footwork.
“I know I can do both, it’s just a matter of balancing it and knowing what’s right at different times,” proclaimed the Tony Sims-trained fighter. “People say you’re only as good as your last fight, but my last performance was really good. I believe that I’ve only had one loss in my whole boxing career. I think I’ve won every other fight. That draw and the loss to Fitzgerald [don’t count], I’ve had to sort the mental side of it out, but I’m ready to push on. I can produce the performances. I’m still up there with the big names and I can get those big fights. I can’t turn back now.
“I want all the big British fights. All the domestic fights. They create the most publicity, they create the most money and they get you to where you wanna be a little bit faster. I’ve always been after the biggest fights and, whatever we can get made, then let’s make them happen. I’m expecting a dominating performance against Sam Eggington, then everybody will be raving about me again and blowing my trumpet. But I know who’s real and who’s fake now.
“That’s gonna be one of the hardest things for Sam Eggington. He doesn’t have a clue how I’m gonna box. He ain’t got a clue. Sam’s a really good fighter, but I think he was a massive welterweight. He ain’t so dominant at light-middleweight and he’s had a lot of harder fights than me, you know? I’ve had some, but he’s had a lot more taken out of him and I think I’ll be a lot fresher and a lot sharper all round. It will be nice to get back with a big win.”
‘The Big Cheese’ who paced up and down his locker room post-fight in October, furious and leaking faith in boxing, seems to have been left behind pre-lockdown. He sounds optimistic, looking forward to his fight with Eggington if it makes it over the line as expected. The time spent away from the sport and the arrival of his first child, little Ted Jr., has allowed him to focus on the bigger picture. Cheeseman, still remarkably only 24 years old, is planning on returning to domestic boxing in a big way.
He wants to entertain – that’s all. Well, that and a fair shake. Discussing his return behind closed doors, Cheeseman told Boxing Social, “It doesn’t matter if there’s loads of people there, or nobody at all. The main aim is to emerge with the win.”
Losing has taught him plenty and, after all is said and done, Cheeseman stands surrounded by those he knows he can trust. There’s serious value in that.