ON Friday night (December 11), Sam Eggington returns from his narrow summer loss to Ted Cheeseman which was a British Fight of the Year contender. He meets veteran Ashley Theophane over 12 rounds at 154lbs. Channel 5 televise from Redditch’s Fly By Nite Rehearsal Studios (Hennessy Sports).
Now 40, Theophane, who was part of Floyd Mayweather’s stable for five years, says this will be the last fight of a colourful career that’s brought him British honours and a WBA title shot against Adrien Broner.
For the North Londoner, it’s his first fight in Britain since he lost his British super-lightweight title to “Cinderella Man” Darren Hamilton in Liverpool in May 2012.
Four months later, Eggington made his pro debut and, boxing out of the away corner, he beat Leon Findlay (2-0-1) on points in a Swansea nightclub.
Eggington and Theophane are fighters from different generations – and with different mindsets. At 27, Eggington still has ambitions to win world honours, while Theophane has told BN that win, lose or draw on Friday night, he’s retiring. “This is my farewell fight,” Theophane said. “After my last fight [a points win over 41-year-old former IBF super-welterweight champion Kassim Ouma last October], I was thinking of retiring. But I wanted to come back home to fight. I’m getting old.”
Jim Watt MBE, the former WBC lightweight champion, used to say that if a fighter is thinking about retiring, he should retire. Boxing is too hard if you don’t really want to do it. Perhaps the occasion will bring out the best in Theophane. Sometimes that’s the way it works out – just ask Gavin Rees. The former WBA super-lightweight champion announced he was retiring before his rematch with Gary Buckland in May 2014 and fought his heart out to turn the tables on his fellow Welshman. Theophane worked tirelessly in his career to give himself the best possible education, as his sparring and history with Mayweather proves, but he has not been fighting at the top level for a number of years. Eggington is sure to test Theophane’s ambition. The Midlander has five stoppages after six rounds in title fights. Eggington’s way is to get on top of opponents and beat the fight out of them.
Eggington outgrew the 147lb division and is coming off that classic against Cheeseman in August that, on another day, may have gone his way.
There was to-and-fro action in every round and even after the last bell. In the final minute, both were shaken up. Moments after stiffening Cheeseman’s legs with a clean volley of shots, Eggington found himself being driven back into a corner.
Eggington grinned as Cheeseman fired punches at him. He still enjoys a good fight. We don’t know if Theophane does. “Until he hits me in the face, I won’t know how much I have left,” admitted Ashley. “I’m training hard, but I won’t know how I really feel until the opening bell goes.”
Eggington has already devoured a veteran in 36-year-old Paulie Malignaggi in 2017. The fight was in the balance after seven rounds – Malignaggi was up on two cards – and Eggington finished the New Yorker with a body shot in the next. Malignaggi is the best name on Eggington’s 28-7 record. A pro at 19, he was British, Commonwealth and European welterweight champion by the age of 23 and written off numerous times since.
There was a shock loss to Tanzania’s Hassan Mwakinyo that cost him a fight with Brandon Rios and Liam Smith mugged him in five up at 154lbs.
Manager and trainer Jon Pegg says that because Eggington isn’t from a fashionable stable – or fight city – he is underappreciated and that the trade has always thought it’s a matter of time before his bubble bursts.
Theophane has the better names on his record. He pushed Danny Garcia to a split when Garcia was on the way up and lasted into the ninth with Broner for the WBA 140lb belt in April 2016. He had enough left to outpoint Ouma in his last fight and says he was happy to finish boxing after that. This was an opportunity – and pay day – too good to turn down. Theophane has said for a while that he wanted to box in Britain again before the end of his career and he was pencilled in to box on a Mickey Helliet show last summer.
We know Theophane can look after himself, but we go along with Eggington’s belief that he won’t be able to cope with the Midlander’s pressure and that the stoppage will come in the closing rounds.
The Verdict It should be a concern that Theophane goes into this with one foot in retirement.