Eggington reflects on 'Battle of Brum'
James Oddy spoke to Sam Eggington about his famous 'Battle of Brum' victory against Frankie Gavin, as the 23-year-old prepares to face Paulie 'Magic Man' Malignaggi on Saturday night at the O2 on the Haye vs Bellew bill...
The best things come to those who wait. It may be a clichéd expression, but, almost a year later than anticipated, the Sam Eggington vs Frankie Gavin welterweight showdown certainly delivered.
The Matchroom promoted ‘Battle of Brum” was one of the best fights of 2016, with Eggington stopping his more celebrated city rival in the eighth round.
Yet it was the sixth round in particular, when the two engaged in a toe-to-toe war and Gavin was knocked down, which stood out in particular. Eggington, nicknamed ‘The Savage’ due to his brutal come forward style, was at first surprised at the rapturous reception the fight received.
“People were raving about the sixth round, but I didn’t remember it being that good until I watched it back. It was a good fight. It didn’t feel that exciting when I was in the ring!” he told Boxing Monthly.
Whilst Gavin, a highly decorated amateur, landed a fair few good shots over the fight, they seemed to do very little to deter Eggington.
“It didn’t hurt me all that much," he claimed. "He’s quite fast, when he does hit you he hits you two or three times. (But) I never thought I was in any trouble.”
Many spectators were surprised that Gavin, known more as a slick boxer, decided to get involved in a shoot-out with Eggington. But the victor feels he deserves more recognition for making his opponent fight his fight.
“A lot of people have said they’ve never seen Gavin box like that. But nobody has given me any credit [for] making him box like that... I think he would have stuck to his own game and tried to get a points win, but I didn’t let him. I wanted to get straight on him. No doubt it’s important to win rounds. But, with the rounds Gavin did win, I wanted him to work double hard for them. If he worked hard for a round I knew the next round would be mine. That’s my fight. Whatever rounds he did win I made sure he worked his arse off for them - that was the plan, and it worked.”
Eggington gives off a laid-back air, both in and out of the ring, yet he is candid about how he felt facing a fellow Birmingham native in Gavin.
“I felt more pressure in this fight than others," he admitted. "Probably mainly because of the build-up. I’ve never had a build-up like that before, I’ve never spoken out in press conferences before or predicted before that I was going to knock [an opponent] out. Maybe that put a bit of pressure on me. But either way I was determined I was going to win.”
The fight resulted in Eggington picking up the WBC welterweight international title. Whilst not hugely prestigious, it does help his standing in the WBC rankings and undoubtedly helped him secure Saturday's fascinating contest with veteran American Paulie Malignaggi.
“I don’t think I’ll be fighting domestic again," Eggington argued. "I’ve beaten everyone, bar [Bradley] Skeete. [But] Frankie beat Skeete. There are some hard domestic fights out there, which are all banana skins. So why [take them]? If I am going to lose, I’d rather lose to someone better. I need to find my level. I think I’ve found that I am better than British level.”
Skeete bested Eggington in another good fight earlier in 2016, walking away with Sam’s British and Commonwealth belts after a points win. I asked if Sam was looking to avenge the defeat or target another fighter, and received a candid answer.
“If the fight came up I’d take it no doubt [Skeete]. But I am not pursuing him or chasing him. I am not calling him out. I don’t think he really wants to fight again either. I think he’s looking to move on from what I’ve heard…I’d like to fight any of the champions, but [maybe] that’s wishful thinking.”
One world champion Eggington almost fought was undefeated Danny Garcia, who holds the WBC strap. Yet the offer didn’t come to anything, with Matchroom unhappy with the financial package on offer, despite conceding Eggington was ready and willing.
Eggington is still ruing not meeting 'Swift'. “The Danny Garcia fight was a one-time chance," he admitted. "It was an opportunity that came and went…I’m gutted, like you wouldn’t believe. Not just for the money. I’d have gone over there for expenses. You only have to do well, and any fight from there is a big fight. It’s a bigger crowd; people from further out will know your name. I’d like to fight on an American card, let alone on top of the bill. I’m gutted I didn’t get that chance.”
That willingness to take challenging fights is a big reason why 'The Savage' has become a firm favourite of the more ‘hard-core’ boxing fan base. It’s no great surprise however for a fighter whose first desire in the game was simply to become a journeyman after being made redundant from work in a steel factory.
Early Prizefighter tournament losses to Dale Evans and Johnny Coyle have arguably helped rather than hindered his career.
“People see my record and see I’ve had three losses, they see that I’m 23, they think yeah I’ll have a piece of that. So I just take everything as it comes. I took the first prize fighter at short notice [after only being 3-0]. The second prizefighter, I didn’t really have to take it at that stage. I was Midlands champion. But I took it, [and] it pushed me on to Denton Vessell.”
With his win over Gavin, Sam is now at the forefront of an exciting new West Midland’s boxing scene, many of whom are now parts of trainer Jon Pegg’s Eastside boxing gym stable. Many of them featured on that October card, and picked up major wins for their careers.
“[I’d say] there is a buzz around the Midlands at the moment," he enthused. "Craig Cunningham beat [Anthony] Ogogo which was massive. Sean Davis won. Don Broadhurst won the English [super flyweight title]. You’ve got a few titles back in Birmingham. Especially in our gym as we won three of the four titles that night…Obviously everyone wants everyone to do well [in the gym], but you also want to be doing the best. There’s always someone to push you when the gym is full of up and comers, plus lads who have been fighting for years like Don.”
Eggington was soon back in training in the weeks following the Gavin fight and now looks set for an interesting 2017, starting with the Malignaggi clash this Saturday on the Haye vs Bellew undercard.
Despite having quite a big frame for a welterweight, he definitely sees his future at 147lbs.
“I think so," he agreed. "I make the weight quite comfortable. I’m walking around at 11 stone a week or two before the fight. I don’t train on the day of the weight-in; you’ll find most people do. I make most weight-ins by under a pound or two. If I’m doing it by this time next year, I’ve just turned 23, I can’t see myself growing much anyway. I’ll be 24, only so much I can grow. [But] I’ve always said, if a fight comes up at 11 stone, and it’s worth me taking. I’ll take it.”
Sam Eggington vs Paulie Malignaggi takes place on the undercard of David Haye vs Tony Bellew on 4 March, Live from the O2 Arena and on Sky Sports Box Office.