'A stepping stone, not a step-up': Ted Cheeseman interview
Photo: James Chance/Getty Images
Ahead of Ted Cheeseman's European title shot on 2 February, the London light middle speaks to Ezio Prapotnich about the evolution of a career that is definitely going places...
Patience, faith, perseverance and development.
The Chinese Bamboo tree spends four years working underground, developing a root system strong enough to support its potential for outward growth, before suddenly springing up to 90 feet within the space of five or six weeks. This type of sudden large increase or advance is defined in physics as a quantum leap, which basically means going from one straight to ten without taking the intermediate steps.
It's an apt metaphor for former English light middleweight champion Ted Cheeseman’s (15-0, 9 KOs) professional evolution, which has been gradual and steady since his debut in 2015.
Now, though, having won the British title in his last fight, the man from Bermondsey has propelled himself straight into a European title shot against current Champion Sergio Garcia (28-0, 13 KOs) on 2 February at the O2 Arena. As the 23-year-old stated at the inaugural press conference: “Once you win a European title, there's only one other step after that. When you turn pro, your goal is to be a world champion”.
Will 2019 be the quantum leap year for Ted Cheeseman?
If guts and hunger count for something, then he is definitely in with a chance.
BM: When and how did you get into boxing?
TC: I was 12 years old when I started boxing. It happened casually. A friend of mine used to train once a week and asked me if I wanted to join him. I tried and enjoyed it so I went back the following week and the next and so on until the coach, who liked my attitude, urged me to make it a daily commitment. I did and never looked back since. I had about 61 Amateur bouts and won 50 of them, picking up six national titles and winning the Three Nations tournament along the way. I also represented England ten times and took part in the World Youth Games.
BM: What made you decide to turn pro?
TC: Like every young kid, I aspired to become a world champion as soon as I started competing. My style suited the pro game better than the amateur. The next Olympics were too far away and I had enough at that point. When I expressed my wish of moving to the paid ranks, someone introduced me to Tony Sims, who took me on. Eddie Hearn was in the gym when I had my very first sparring session and we went to Matchroom’s office to sign a contract immediately after.
BM: You only just won the British title and are now challenging for the EBU. Will you defend the Lonsdale belt or are you done at domestic level?
TC: As I said, my aim is to become world champion. The British title is a prestigious prize but not my ultimate goal. The few names who could give me a test at domestic level were not available to fight in February. On the other hand, the European champion was available and a win will get me closer to what I really want. I saw too many fighters pushing away opportunities in an effort to win the Lonsdale outright. An opportunity is only such if taken immediately when it presents itself, otherwise either it doesn’t come along again or you might be past your best if it does. I have the right people around me in Tony and Charlie Sims and they both support my choice because they have confidence in my skills. Let’s do it!
BM: Sergio Garcia has a good record on paper but has never fought outside Spain and has no standout names among his opponents. Is he really a step up?
TC: He is on paper. He has beaten everyone they have put in front of him, so you can’t take him for granted. Plus he comes in as the champion and has good rankings. But to be honest I will be able to answer this question only after the fight.
BM: As you point out, he is highly ranked by the WBC. Is this fight your ticket to crash the world scene? Is that your real objective more than the EBU title in itself?
TC: 100 per cent yes! You need to win these European titles and get the ranking to get that opportunity. If I do the business, then I am confident Eddie can make the rest happen. With DAZN behind him, he is probably the biggest promoter in the world right now with a strong foothold in the USA where all the belts are. Just look at what he did for Charlie Edwards. I am definitely going for the highest possible prize. It is not just the fighter mindset of wanting to face the best driving me, it makes business sense as well. Big domestic fights with [Anthony] Fowler or [Scott] Fitzgerald will always be there whereas a world title shot might not be.
BM: With Jarrett Hurd holding the WBA and IBF belts, Jamie Munguia the WBO and Tony Harrison the WBC, who do you rate as the real champion in the division?
TC: Hurd has to be the pick as he won two titles and sports bigger names on his record. Harrison beat [Jermell] Charlo but I think the latter was really dead at the weight. He didn’t really throw a shot in the fight as if worried of gassing out. Munguia looks like a beast but I believe someone with a tactical brain and a good chin would outbox him.
BM: In Kell Brook and Liam Smith you have two former world champions campaigning at your weight in your own stable. Would you consider a big domestic showdown with either to consolidate your status as a world class fighter?
TC: Yes, I would. When I first turned pro Brook was probably my favourite British fighter. They have both been through really tough fights so I am not sure of how much they have left but you can’t take anything away from what they have achieved in their careers. To go to the next level, you’ve got to have names of that calibre on your record and beat them convincingly.
BM: What is your pick for Liam Smith vs Sam Eggington?
TC: Smith is on a different level than Eggington. Sam was big as a welterweight and that was probably the factor that allowed him to succeed in that division but I don’t think he carries the same strength at light middle and it will show on the night. He will start strong then Liam will get him out of there somewhere between middle to late rounds.
BM: Matchroom is now staging shows in Italy and the USA, how would you feel about fighting abroad?
TC: I can’t wait to make my American debut. Before, Eddie had too many fighters and not enough dates but now, with DAZN involved, it’s probably the other way round, so I think I will get the opportunity.
BM: With so many ambitions to fulfil and at the rate you are working for them, is it hard for you to balance your personal life and your career?
TC: Yes, of course it is. Lots of people turn pro around 24 or 25 years old, so they had time to party or go on holiday before. I have dedicated all my time to the sport and lived the life since I was an amateur. That is why I am jumping at all the opportunities that come my way so I can be successful, achieve my goals and be financially stable enough to make up for everything I missed out when I retire.