British champion Tommy Langford talks Cunningham test, Golovkin v Jacobs and Peaky Blinders
By Michael J Jones
DURING THE latter stages of 2016 two things were meant to happen in the British middleweight ranks; Tommy Langford was due to face domestic king Chris Eubank Jr and undefeated Olympic star Anthony Ogogo was supposed to over-come Craig Cunningham to continue his rise through the pro ranks.
Just a few months later and the landscape has changed dramatically. Barnstaple’s Langford would see his clash with Eubank Jr scuppered when the controversial Brighton fighter chose to vacate his Lonsdale belt rather than defend against the talented unbeaten. The Birmingham-based Langford would then have to over-come the slippery Sam Sheedy to claim the vacant title last November.
Shortly prior to that, Craig Cunningham would reveal himself as the danger-man of the division with an emphatic trouncing of the touted Ogogo. Listed as high as an 8-1 underdog beforehand by some bookies, southpaw Cunningham floored the previously unbeaten Ogogo in the second and was firmly in the lead when his opponent was pulled out during the eighth.
The West Midlander thus deservedly captured the WBC International title in a head-turning performance and has now been rewarded with a British title shot vs former long-time sparring partner Langford on April 22.
Both men are tall, confident types with good power and bring solid form to the table. Livefight caught up with British champion Langford to discuss the Cunningham fight just as he commences serious training for what potentially could provide the toughest test so far of his 18-0 (6) career.
“Me and Craig (Cunningham) have been sparring for many years and we never thought we would ever be fighting each other, but obviously, his win over Ogogo changed all that” Tommy tells Livefight over the phone a few days ago.
“It was an excellent win for him toppling Ogogo the way he did and it’s a great fight for me as my first British title defence. We’re both based in Birmingham so there’s a bit of a pride-thing there too. There’s no needle at all between us but we both want to be the man who can walk around Birmingham as the winner.”
With both men based in Birmingham and with large respective fan-bases there it was something of a surprise the bout has ended up some 42 miles east of ‘Brum’ in Leicester. The champion explains the venue situation.
“It would have been brilliant to get (the fight) here in Birmingham at the Barclaycard Arena but there were some scheduling conflicts so it’s ended up in Leicester. The main thing was to make the fight happen and keep me busy. It won’t be in Birmingham but there’ll be loads of our fans there so the atmosphere will still be terrific.”
Langford will enter the contest as the reigning British middleweight champion after besting Sam Sheedy by a twelve-round split-decision three months ago. Sheffield’s Sheedy, surely one of the most awkward fighters in the UK, provided Langford with a long, frustrating chess-match. Although Langford swept most of the early rounds, his southpaw foe upped his activity levels in the second half of the contest to make it fairly close down the stretch.
The victor also had to endure a last-round cut when heads clashed to complete a stressful night for the new domestic ruler.
“It was a very tricky fight but not hard physically. It was no tear-up and I think Sheedy just set out to frustrate me” reasons the 27 year old. “He wouldn’t engage so it was all on me to make the fight. It wasn’t a great contest and never really got flowing but I ground out the win and got over the finishing line. You can only beat what’s put in front of you in boxing and the main thing was I became the British champion.”
Was Tommy surprised when it was announced as a spilt decision?
“I was actually very surprised. I don’t think he had round-winning tactics; he’d land one good shot but then just run away. Maybe the judges were swayed a bit by his show-boating or his corner shouting out (encouragement) but there’s no way I thought it was close.”
“I watched it back and honestly scored six of the first eight rounds to me. I’ve not spoken to anyone who scored against me but I won and that’s the main thing I can move on now as British champion.”
Next opponent and first title challenger Cunningham is 28-years-old and 17-1 (4). The 5’11 southpaw’s lone loss was to Welshman Tom Doran two years ago in Prizefighter. The deciding factor in a close fight was a dubious-looking knock-down suffered by Cunningham in the first round. Doran would take the spoils unanimously and went on to win the tournament.
“Prizefighter doesn’t suit everyone…it definitely wouldn’t suit me and my style so I don’t take anything from that loss. Craig was already a ten-round fighter (as the Midlands Area champion) entering the tournament and, once he took the count, he was up against it. I don’t see that was a knock-down and I think you can argue he edged the last two rounds so I don’t really see it as a true defeat. He’s still an undefeated fighter to me.”
The once-beaten boxer has been in great form since his sole reverse. Last year he won all three contests concluding with that impressive stoppage of Ogogo. With only four KO’s on his record, some would assume Cunningham was no puncher but he looked menacing and heavy-handed against Ogogo; dropping his opponent in the second and rocking him several times before the bout’s conclusion.
“For me, yes Craig showed power against (Ogogo), but I also believe Anthony Ogogo flattered the performance by boxing a terrible fight tactically against a southpaw. For a former England International (amateur) he just seemed to do everything wrong for boxing a southpaw.”
“There’s many times Craig has won on points but he’s dropped the lad or hurt him so he does have genuine power. It’s the same with me; I’ve only got six knock-outs but many of my opponents feel my power and back off straight away so when the opponent is on the defensive it’s hard to get a clean KO.”
“I always say power is only useful if you can land punches. Craig punches stiffly with a bit of power but I feel I hit pretty hard too.”
“Me and (Cunningham) have been sparring each other for years. We both turned pro managed by John Pegg (still Cunningham’s manager incidentally), we boxed on the same shows, often against the same or similar opponents so his fans know me and my fans know him. With our sparring past their won’t be any feeling out process at all. It should make for a very good fight.”
“I’ll also say this…unlike a lot of southpaws, Craig will come to win, to try and beat me and win the British title. He won’t be running away and being negative and I like fighting someone who actually wants to beat me and it’ll make for an exciting fight.”
“Having sparred many rounds with (Cunningham), he’ll know he’ll need to be his absolute best to beat me and I feel exactly the same about facing him. I want to be in good, exciting fights like these.”
Changing the subject onto the world stage, world number one Gennedy Golovkin features in a unification bout on March 18 against Daniel Jacobs with the WBC, IBF, WBA and IBO belts all on the line. I ask Tommy for his prediction for the potentially-explosive middleweight meeting.
“I think if you look at Golovkin’s opponents over the years, it’s evident that Jacobs is one of the best boxers he’s faced. I expect Jacobs will probably start fast and try and catch ‘GGG’ early but Golovkin’s quality will show through as the fight wears on. Not only is Golovkin a top fighter but he has that massive amateur pedigree too. I think he’ll stop Jacobs in the middle rounds.”
Finally, I ask the British champion if he is going to audition for hit BBC Gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’ after an advertisement was circulated last week asking for young boxers from the West Midlands to audition for upcoming roles.
“I really fancied that but I couldn’t really commit around my boxing schedule” laughs Tommy. “Plus I don’t think it would have gone down well that I’m not a real ‘Brummy’. I’ve picked up some things having been based here so long but don’t think I could quite pull it off!
Langford vs Cunningham live and exclusive on Box Nation April 22nd
Tommy Langford and Tyrone Nurse defend their British Titles at the Leicester Arena on April 22nd, with Indian Super-Middleweight superstar Vijender Singh also appearing on the bill.
After lifting the vacant belt with split decision over Sam Sheedy, Langford (18-0, 6 KOs) makes the first defence the British Middleweight Championship against West Midland rival Craig Cunningham with local bragging rights on the line.
With his WBO ranking at number 2, the unbeaten 27-year-old knows he cannot afford to slip up in order to progress to European and World level, but faces Cunningham (17-1, 4 KOs) who is coming off a career-best win.
In October, he halted Anthony Ogogo and handed the London 2012 bronze medallist his first professional loss. Ogogo’s corner withdrew him in the eighth round and Cunningham was ecstatic with the well-deserved victory in his hometown.
The southpaw lifted the WBC International Middleweight belt after that triumph and will be aiming to become Birmingham’s top dog.
Also on the card, talented Super-Lightweight Tyrone Nurse (34-2-1, 7 KOs) makes his first appearance since joining Frank Warren’s growing stable, coming up against teak-tough domestic rival Joe Hughes (15-2, 6 KOs).
Nurse became British Champion after beating Chris Jenkins in November 2015 but has not defended the Lonsdale belt since last summer, and the Yorkshire boxer is chomping at the bit to impress the BoxNation viewers.
The aptly named ‘V-Bomber’ Vijender Singh (8-0, 7 KOs) looks to build on an impressive 2016 where he stopped four of his five opponents.
The 31-year-old now meets Leicester’s English Super-Middleweight ruler Jahmaine Smyle (14-4-2, 6 KOs), who has wins over Lee Markham and Leon McKenzie in an impressive undefeated run stretching back to October 2013.
Tommy Langford would like to thank his sponsors for their continued support-
Atlas Pain Relief, MAN Commercial Protection, Bartercard UK, UK Display Stands, JS Wright & Co ltd, Denco Thermal Limited, Strategy Plus online marketing, All Car Leasing and Ringside UK.