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British boxing: Updates on Tommy Langford, Bradley Skeete & more

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Credit: Frank Warren

Tommy Langford walks the tightrope at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena next weekend when he gambles his WBO number two ranking in a quest to add the Lonsdale Belt to his burgeoning collection. The Devon-born Brummie meets shifty Sheffield southpaw Sam ‘Speedy’ Sheedy in a salivating showdown for the vacant British title.

On Thursday Glynn Evans caught up with the unbeaten 6ft Baggie bomber to contemplate risk versus reward.

What was your immediate reaction when Chris Eubank Jr vacated his British title rather than accept your mandatory challenge?

At the time, I was disappointed because when, like me, you go about your business without shouting and bawling about your opponents, it’s difficult to launch your career without facing a big name scalp, someone who can propel you into the top bracket.

A fight with Eubank would probably have doubled up as a WBO eliminator and victory would have put me right in the picture for a world title crack at Billy Joe Saunders.

And I was genuinely confident I’d have beaten Eubank. I’m not saying he’s not a good fighter but he’s definitely got flaws that can be exploited. He can be outworked and outboxed. I think it dawned on them that the risk outweighed the reward.

But if the Eubanks had no intention of fighting me, why not withdraw before purse bids were made? Why waste everyone’s time and energy? It’s backfired on them, big time.

But it no longer matters. Eubank is in the past. Chip paper. I’m glad we’re rid of them. I still get to fight for the British title.

What value do you place on the British title?

It’s huge, mate. Every British fighter wants their name in the record books as British champion. Winning the Commonwealth, then British is a prestigious route to take and, if I win, a crack at the European next would be fantastic.

That Lonsdale Belt is beautiful and the British middleweight title is steeped in tradition. Just look at the fighters who’ve previously held it. Terry Downes, Alan Minter, Tony Sibson, ‘Bomber’ Graham…

WBO king Billy Joe Saunders – another on Frank Warren’s roster – tops the bill in Cardiff. Is your bout with Sheedy a dress rehearsal for a world title showdown between Saunders and yourself in the new year?

That’s entirely up to Frank and Billy. I’ve repeatedly said I’ll have the Saunders fight if it’s offered but you need two fighters to get in the ring and we don’t know what Billy’s intentions are. What I will say is, with the possible exception of the Jap (2012 Olympic champion Ryota Murata), if you scan in the WBO rankings there isn’t a more attractive challenger for the British fight public than me.

It’s up to me to put in a phenomenal performance against another southpaw on Saturday week to get fight fans juices flowing for a Saunders-Langford fight. Now, BT is on board, the fight would get projected to another level.

I’ll certainly have a little peep at Bill from ringside but I know all I need to know. We were in the same age group right through the amateurs and boxed on England squads together. Besides, having just won the British title, I’ll be on Cloud Nine. I doubt I’ll be able to concentrate!

Given your lofty world ranking, is the fight with Sheedy an unnecessary risk?

Look, every fight I take now is a risk. But it’s a risk that’s outweighed by the reward of becoming British and Commonwealth champion. It’ll improve my stock by more than if I didn’t fight Sam for the British title. The biggest risk is that I don’t look good. I need to look special. However, given the preparation I’ve had, I’m very confident that I can deliver in style.

You’ve capitalised on your love of West Bromwich Albion FC to attract a huge following among the Baggies faithful. Can we expect them out en masse again in Cardiff?

Unfortunately there won’t be quite as many as there would have been for Eubank on the original date (22nd October). But there’ll still be close to a thousand and I guarantee they’ll be very noisy. I’m looking forward to winning the belt for all of those who can make it.

You copped some serious flack from co-challenger Sheedy in a recent interview. How do you counter his claims that you’re boring, have no personality and that the Langford clan are all ‘chinny’?!

The only logical reason he’s doing it is to coax me into tearing after him and forfeiting my game plan.
Sheedy’s been very disrespectful but I find it quite funny. He just plucks random things out of the air. The Langfords are ‘chinny’?! Well the only one to stop (brother) Jack was Anthony Fowler, a world bronze medallist, and in the 17 pro fights that have taken me to the Commonwealth title, I’ve dropped just two rounds, never been hurt, never been off my feet.

And if I’m boring, how come I can attract a couple of thousand people to pay good money to watch me box? There’s no weight behind anything he says. He’s completely deluded.

Stylistically, Sheedy poses a different set of challenges to Eubank. What do you need to be particularly mindful of?

Sheedy’s southpaw stance certainly won’t be an issue. I’ve sparred thousands of rounds with Frankie Gavin. Sam does have an awkward, ‘floaty’ style and he tries to be unpredictable. But we fully expect he won’t be conventional.

The challenge is not to get frustrated, use my superior boxing and break him down. If he’s serious about winning the British title, as opposed to just fighting for it, he’ll have to come at me, at some stage. That’s when he gets taken out.

How do you expect the fight to pan out? What’s your prediction?

I really hope Sam does show some fight and ambition. He’s boasted about his ‘hidden’ power prior to his previous fights but, let’s keep it real, he’s only stopped four in 18 fights and he’s never ‘iced’ anybody…ever!

I don’t talk trash so it’s imperative that I generate big interest through what I produce in the ring. Next Saturday Sheedy’s going to find out that the reason all my opponents go back foot is because I punch with authority. I hurt. He’ll be shocked when I set about him!
I predict a clear win for Tommy Langford. If he runs I’ll outbox him and systematically break him down. If he ‘brings it’, he gets stopped!

WELTERWEIGHT SKEETE INKS NEW DEAL WITH WARREN AND TARGETS WORLD HONOURS IN 2017

British, Commonwealth and WBO European Welterweight Champion Bradley Skeete has signed a new three year deal with Frank Warren. The Andy Ayling-managed star makes the maiden defence of his prestigious Lord Lonsdale Belt against Edingburgh’s John Thain next Friday at the Brentwood Centre, live and exclusive on BoxNation.

South London’s red-hot 6ft 1in talent picked up his first title win when he defeated Chas Symonds by a round four TKO, claiming the Southern Area title back in 2012. Since then the hugely popular iBox Gym fighter has climbed to the very top of the domestic Welterweight scene and now has a World title in his sights.

“I’m delighted to have signed a new deal with Frank Warren that will take me in to 2019,” said Skeete. “I started my career with Dean Powell and I’ve been a pro now for just over six years. I’m really happy with the progress that I’ve made in that time.

“I have the British title now and my immediate aim is to win that outright and then move on to World honours in 2017. My rankings are really high now, I’m ranked fourth with the IBF and sixth with the WBO and I’m going from strength to strength.”

“With the news of BT Sport signing a deal with Frank and BoxNation it’s a really exciting time to be involved in the sport. I’m showing loyalty to Frank and the team and I’m sure in the long run it’s going to pay off.

Multimedia and telecommunications giant BT recently signed a landmark multi-year deal with Hall of Famer Warren and his pioneering boxing channel BoxNation. The ground-breaking deal will see Warren promote 20 UK events a year, broadcast to millions via BT Sport and BoxNation. Skeete is looking forward to a busy 2017.

“I’m a BoxNation fighter through and through and the extra exposure I’m going to get fighting on BT Sport is going to be massive for me,” added Skeete. “BoxNation has been developing really well over the past few years and I’m really excited about what the future holds. British boxing is on the up and things can only get better.”

Skeete, 29, tops a huge night of boxing at the Brentwood Centre next Friday and is promising to end a memorable 2016 on a high note. Penge punch-picker Skeete completely outboxed and outclassed Birmingham’s Sam Eggington in his backyard to claim the British title back in March and is now determined to win it outright.

“Obviously I was supposed to fight my mandatory challenger Shayne Singleton but he pulled out and fair play to John Thain for stepping in. I want to keep this belt outright and he’s in my way of doing that. I’ll be putting on a strong performance and then going through the list to win it for keeps.

“Me and Andy (Ayling) had a deal that when I won the British title he’d buy me a Rolex watch. He promised me it and he’s a man of his word, I’ve got my watch and I’m well happy! I need to think of another present he’s going to buy me when I win a World title!”

HEAVYWEIGHT WORLD TITLE CLASH BETWEEN JOSEPH PARKER AND ANDY RUIZ JR EXCLUSIVELY LIVE ON BOXNATION

BoxNation will air the world title showdown between undefeated heavyweight titans Joseph Parker and Andy Ruiz Jr exclusively live next month.

The pair will collide for Tyson Fury’s recently vacated WBO title on December 10th at the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand as the heavyweight division ushers in a new era.

Ruiz Jr is 29-0, with 19 KOs, and at 27 years old has been the top heavyweight prospect in promotional company Top Rank’s stable for several years.

Mexican-American Ruiz has already fought three times in 2016 and is coming off a 10-round unanimous points win over Franklin Lawrence in September.

6ft 4inch Parker has an equally impressive record, racking up 21 wins and 18 KOs since turning professional in 2012.

At 24 he is regarded as one of the top young prospects in the division and one of the most active having competed five times so far this year, his last outing an impressive third round knockout of Alexander Dimitrenko.

The heavyweight division is blossoming again with a number of talented fighters emerging as they look to establish their dominance in what has historically been boxing’s glamour weight class.

Both Parker and Ruiz Jr are well aware of what is at stake as they look to take the next step in their careers, with BoxNation the only place to see all the action.

Ward defends British crown against Clark

Martin J. Ward will defend his British Super-Featherweight title against Ronnie Clark at The SSE Arena, Wembley on Saturday November 26, live on Sky Sports.

Ward landed the vacant strap with an impressive eighth round stoppage win over Andy Townend at The O2 in September and the unbeaten Brentwood talent takes his first step towards outright ownership of the coveted Lord Lonsdale belt in his 18th pro fight.

Clark will want to spoil Ward’s plans though and the Dundee man comes into the fight on top form with three stoppage wins in his last four fights, landing the Scottish Area strap in March – a first title for the 31 year old.

“September 10 was a big win for Martin and now he can really get his teeth into the division,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “We know Ronnie and his team are going to give everything but Martin has to look good as he continues to move up the level. You only have to look at Jason Sosa vs. Stephen Smith last week to see where you need to be, it’s a fierce division but a very exciting one.”

Ward’s clash with Clark is part of a huge night of action in London as Irish amateur sensation Katie Taylor face Karina Kopinska on her pro debut.

SINGH VOWS TO RETAIN HIS WBO ASIA PACIFIC CROWN AGAINST FORMER WORLD CHAMPION CHEKA

WBO Asia Pacific Super-Middleweight Champion Vijender Singh will face the toughest test of his professional career when he makes the maiden defence of his title against former World and current WBF Inter-Continental Champion Francis Cheka in New Delhi on December 17, live and exclusive in the UK on BoxNation.

Singh, 31, has racked up six big knockout wins in seven undefeated outings since turning professional just over a year ago and claimed his first title against Kerry Hope in-front of a 6,000 strong crowd at the Thyagaraj Stadium back in July.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics Bronze Medallist – India’s first in boxing – has vowed to retain his Asia Pacific crown when he faces the 34 year-old from Tanzania. Singh insists he feels no pressure being the poster boy of Indian boxing and is predicting another memorable night in New Delhi.

“Cheka is a highly experienced boxer, he has many bouts under his belt but I am the younger, stronger and hungrier fighter,” said Singh. “He is coming to my homeland to take what is mine but I won’t let this happen. The Thyagaraj Stadium is my patch now and I’m expecting another huge crowd to come and support me.

“I am confident of getting another win, I feel my stance is becoming better with every training session and on top of that I feel more powerful than ever. On December 17 you will all see the results of the hard work and dedication that goes on behind the scenes.

“This is my title and I’ll be protecting it with pride. The support that I receive both here in the UK and back home in India is overwhelming. I’ll pay back everyone’s support and retain my title for the people of India!”

Cheka is a veteran of 43 fights with 32 wins including 17 KO’s. In a career spanning just under 17 years he has tested himself against top Super-Middleweight talent including former WBA World Champion Fedor Chudinov and three-time World title challenger Mathew Macklin.

He won the WBF Intercontinental Super-Middleweight crown against Geard Ajetovic via a unanimous decision in February and is determined to spoil the party in New Delhi.

“I am ready to give this kid a lesson of boxing,” said Cheka. “I’ve heard a lot about this Indian boxer and there’s a lot of hype around him. I can’t wait to be the one to put him in his place and put an end to the hype.

“I have seen his record and he hasn’t fought anyone of note yet. I’ve been in with World level opposition and my experience and class will show on the night. I’m going there fully expecting the win.”

INTRODUCING WELSH WHIZZKID JASON SILLETT

Teenage titan Jason Sillett plans to bulldoze his way to glory in the lightweight division, writes Glynn Evans.

The chunky 19 year-old from Barry Island has already stormed through five battle hardened journeymen – conceding four or more years in each instance – and fully expects to extend that run when he fights for the first time in his native Wales next weekend.

‘My dad Guy runs the Muscle Beach gym on Barry Island and is the strength and conditioning coach to both the Selbys (IBF feather boss Lee and British flyweight king Andrew),’ explains the 5ft 6in three time Welsh junior champion.

‘‘My strength is my strength. From the age of 14, I was following a weights program myself. As a teenager, I was definitely a lot fitter and stronger than the other lads I fought.’

While Sillett’s ox-like strength certainly accords him a leg up, he knows that brawn alone will not suffice for him to succeed in this most diverse of physical disciplines. Last year, after a decorated international amateur career, the Barry bulldozer sought out feted Stockport coach Lee Beard to incorporate the smarts needed to scale the summit.

And the globally regarded tutor is impressed with what he‘s seen.

‘Though Jason likes to come forward, he’s also deceptively quick and elusive. He’s compact defensively and has a stiff jab. He can box front foot and back. He’s developing a really good all round game,’ assesses Beard who earned his spurs working with world champions Ricky Hatton and Argenis Mendis plus Olympic medallist Vijender Singh.

‘He’s just 19 so I want to take my time with him; keep him unbeaten and learning until he’s about 21, 22. After this one, hopefully we can move him up to six, then eight round level where he’ll be far better suited.

‘Style wise, we’re still finding a balance. He’s stocky and aggressive with a low centre of gravity. He’s already developing his man strength – his Dad is really good at what he does – and lately I can feel more devil when he punches the pads and body bag, particularly with his body punching.’

Sillett’s love of the gloves can be traced back to his primary school years.

He recalls: ‘Growing up I wasn’t really a scrapper but I always enjoyed the physical sports. I played rugby for a bit and done some Thai Boxing before dad first took me to the Barry Eastside boxing gym, aged nine.

‘I enjoyed it straight away, particularly the competition side of it. I had my first bout at 10. Back then, I was a bit of a fat kid but, by 12, I’d lost the weight.

‘After moving to the Splott Adventure club in Cardiff, I had over 50 amateur contests and won well over half. I won a Welsh Junior ABA title, a Welsh Youth title and a Welsh Boys Clubs title plus silver in the British ABAs when I was about 15. I travelled with Welsh squads to Denmark and Azerbaijan.

‘But from the very beginning, all I wanted was to be a professional boxer and I turned over as soon as I was able. I’m a physically strong box-fighter so my style was always going to be best suited to the professional game.’

In October 2015, the Welsh warmonger became Britain’s youngest prizefighter when he penned a deal with Beard and committed to developing his craft in England’s north-west. If he falls short of his ambitions, it’s unlikely to be through lack of dedication.

‘Monday to Thursday, I stay at Lee’s mother-in-law’s and train in Kerry Kayes gym in Denton, Manchester alongside the likes of Vijender Singh, Jimmy Kelly and Adrian Gonzalez. Weekends, I focus on S&C (strength and conditioning) work with my dad back in Barry,’ says quiet man Sillett.

‘I do quite a bit of sparring with Lee’s son Adrian (Gonzalez) and I’ve sparred Terry Flanagan quite a few times. Before that, I did quite a bit with Jack Catterall.

‘Lee’s got me using my skills and my brain a lot more rather than just threshing away. I’m starting to see things quicker. I aspire to be in 12 round fights so I know I need to be clever, break opponents down. I’m happy with the way I’m progressing.’

After a fistful of routine tutorials against grizzled domestic circuit fighters in the north-west, there’s sure to be an extra bounce to strongman Sillett’s stride when he makes an emotional return to the Principality – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, to be precise – for a scheduled four rounder on Saturday week.

‘This has been a long time coming,’ he says.

‘I usually take a coach load of 50 or so when I fight up north but there’ll be more than double that for this one. Even though I’m the promoter’s boy, I’ve always felt like the away fighter in previous fights. It’s easily the biggest promotion I’ve been involved with and I know the atmosphere will be amazing.

‘I’m very keen to show the Welsh fans what I can bring to the table; my skills, how I can adapt. Hopefully, it’ll be an entertaining fight so I can increase my popularity, climb the ladder and get my name out there.

‘All I’m focussed on now is to keep winning and keep learning. I’m like a steam train, full speed ahead. I plan to go all the way to the top. Otherwise there’s no point doing it.’

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