Then and now: Jack Arnfield interview

Shaun Brown
13/02/2018 1:55pm

Jack Arnfield tells Shaun Brown "my boxing skills will prevail" when he faces Tommy Langford for the British middleweight title on Saturday night on the undercard of George Groves vs Chris Eubank Jr...

It has been nearly two and a half years since Jack Arnfield last contested the British middleweight title.

A November night in Bristol in 2015 saw Arnfield take on the champion Nick Blackwell, at just over a week's notice, after original opponent Elliott Matthews withdrew having suffered a cut in training.

Blackpool's Arnfield would lose on points (111-117, 110-117, 112-115) but could carry his head high after a valiant display.

Since then the 28-year-old now mandatory challenger has been on a six-fight winning streak, taking the notable scalps of John Ryder (W UD12) and Brian Rose (W UD12) in the process. The Jack Arnfield of 2018 is a different animal to the one who lost to Blackwell.

"I've got new trainers [Michael and Dave Jennings] for coming up three years, so I've improved massively compared to last time. I was with them only a few months before that," Arnfield (25-2, 6 KOs) told Boxing Monthly.

"Not only that but I was unprepared, I think, mentally as well as physically. Now I've been getting the bigger fights and experiences in, I'm ready to go and take that British title off him."

The 'him' in question is Tommy Langford (19-1, 6 KOs), the current British middleweight champion. The pair square off as a part of a highly competitive undercard to the George Groves vs Chris Eubank Jr World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight semi-final this Saturday at the Manchester Arena.

While Arnfield is in a rich vein of form, Langford is continuing to rebuild himself after something of a reality check against Avtandil Khurtsidze (L TKO5) for the WBO interim middleweight title in April last year. Birmingham's Langford was taking a significant step up from previous foes such as Lewis Taylor (W UD 12) and Sam Sheedy (W SD 12), and found the Georgian 'Mini Mike Tyson' - who was arrested several weeks later amid alleged links to organised crime - too hot to handle on the night.

"I don't think Tommy Langford had any intention of going in there to win that fight," Arnfield commented.

"Obviously it was a fight for the interim world title, and to put him forward as a mandatory challenger for the world title, but I don't think he went in with the attitude he was going to win.

"I think he went in to survive against Khurtsidze, who was knocking his opponents out for fun previously. He [Langford] looked scared to me. He looked like a scared fighter in that ring..

"I think it might have been a step too soon for Tommy Langford. I'm not saying I'm ahead of Tommy Langford, because I respect Tommy as a fighter, but I do think my boxing skills will prevail and you'll see a convincing win on the 17th."

It has been quite the turnaround for Arnfield since 2015. He admitted to BM that working with Mike and Dave Jennings has been a "godsend". The motivation is there, he is enjoying training every day and has that bit more determination than he did nearly three years ago. Throw on the cake-topping cherries of things being better off for him financially and in his personal life and what it all adds up to his concentration is now on nothing but boxing.

"I'm in a much better place, just better in general. Everything about me is better so you'll see the difference on the 17th from where I was on November 2015."

Arnfield said during this interview that the Jennings team had brought strengths out in him that he didn't know he had.

"Just that difference in my boxing," he explained. "I'm able to switch game-plans midway through the contest if need be. My defence is ten times what it was. I don't get hit with half as many shots and I'm just more active; a better rounded fighter. I think that'll play a massive part in my next bout."

Saturday night will represent Arnfield's third fight at the 21,000 capacity Manchester Arena having gotten the nod against John Ryder in 2016 and having won his local derby against fellow seasider Brian Rose last year. Both nights were headlined by the world lightweight title fights between Anthony Crolla and Jorge Linares. The lights, the atmosphere and the big occasion... Arnfield thrives off all of it.

"I thrive off big crowds. Nerves isn't something I've struggled with in the past. I've relished in both of them and loved them. If anything, it spurs me on and gives me that bit more kick up the arse to make sure I'm performing at 100 per cent my best. I'm really looking forward to the big atmosphere again."

With momentum comes added self-belief. And Arnfield draws even more confidence having not been at his best against Rose and Mick Hall (W TKO11), who along with Adam Jones (W PTS6) he also beat in 2017.

"I believe if I'd been A1 on both those nights [Rose and Hall] I'd have destroyed the opponents in front of me. Before the Brian Rose fight I had tonsillitis two weeks before. I was six pounds under weight two weeks before the fight, but I weren't pulling out. There was no way I was pulling out and losing face, but I still went in there and still got the win."

The win against Rose put an end to a long-term friendship that ended in a rivalry. Their war of words spilled over at the weigh-in when the pair got up close and personal with their heads before Rose's trainer, Bobby Rimmer -- who once trained Arnfield -- appeared to try and get at his former charge.

"We don't talk," Arnfield said of his now defunct friendship with Rose. "We lived together for a number of years when we trained under Bobby Rimmer, and we were good friends but I think the occasion got to him a bit more than it got to me. We don't really talk anymore. We've seen each other, we've cleared the air but we'll never be friends again."

That was then and this is now. The stage is set for a fascinating British middleweight title fight between Langford and Arnfield on a card headlined by one of the most anticipated fights of the year, since it was made official last October.

"It's a hard one to call," said Arnfield when BM asked him for a prediction concerning the main event.

"I'm a big fan of George Groves and I enjoy watching Chris Eubank Jr even though I'm not a fan of Chris Eubank Jr the person, which I think is the consensus for most people!

"I think Groves will be too much for him. I think he'll be too clever, I think he's too big. I think Chris Eubank's been going in and knocking people out at middleweight and his strength has prevailed, and he's come through, but I think when he gets to these superior super middleweights I just don't think he's going to be big enough. I don't think he's going to able to take him out.

"George Groves is a class act, he's a class boxer and he's got immense power at super middleweight - let alone fighting a natural middleweight."