JON PEGG, Birmingham’s man about boxing, recently received a nice surprise. Pegg has found it easier to find opponents for his stable of fighters than it has been to find a copy of his short film, The Wait.
Made in 2009, The Wait is a darkly comic snapshot of a group of journeymen waiting to fight that Boxing News included in our top 50 boxing movies a few Christmases ago.
“I had given up (on finding a copy of the film),” admitted Pegg.
“I thought I was more likely to find a film of Harry Greb. But then Richie Woodhall (who is in The Wait) rang me up and said he had found a copy of it in a box at his house.
“I’m looking forward to seeing it again.”
Pegg is currently putting the finishing touches to another film and here’s an idea for another: A skinny teenager walks into a gym and says, “I’m going to be a dad and I’ve just lost my job. I need to make some money. I want to be a journeyman.” The coach watches him spar and says, “You’re too good for that. You can be a champion.”
In subsequent scenes, Sam Eggington starts his pro career fighting out of the away corner and goes on to win British, Commonwealth and European welterweight titles before his 25th birthday. He then moves up in weight, has a pair of domestic fights of the year and wins and loses a minor sanctioning body belt.
So what’s next for the 29-year-old from Birmingham?
“Who knows with Sam,” said Pegg. “He even surprises me sometimes. After the Ted Cheeseman fight (a close points loss in August 2020, named fight of the year by the British Boxing Board of Control) people were saying he should retire.
“He got offered silly fights, retirement fights, but we said there was more in the tank. Nobody thought that after the Cheeseman fight, Sam would go on a four-fight winning streak, have another fight of the year, beat a former ‘world’ champion (Carlos Molina), and earn better than he had done throughout his career.
“So, who knows what happens next.”
Next is an eight-rounder on the opening night of the Excelsior Sporting Club in the Premier Suite at Bar Sport in Cannock, Staffordshire, owned by Scott Murray, on Thursday March 30.
That is where Pegg watched Eggington’s last fight, the points loss to Dennis Hogan in Australia last October that cost him his IBO belt.
“I have flown before,” said Pegg, “but I’m not keen on it. I had an operation and the doctors told me, ‘No long-haul flights.’
“I watched it at Scott’s and knew after two rounds Sam wasn’t going to win. I knew he didn’t want to be there. He was homesick. He couldn’t talk to his kids and he wasn’t the same fighter.”
We should see a more familiar version of Eggington now that he’s back home and fighting for fun again. The Hogan fight paid off Eggington’s mortgage, taking the pressure off him and partner Charlotte.
The couple have three children – Layton (11), Laila and bay Kai – and Eggington said: “It’s crazy in my house. They are all climbing and jumping around everywhere.
“It’s a relief to go to the gym and get punched in the face!
“I would love them to do the amateurs, but the pros is a dog’s game. You’re the main man one day, you slip up and you’re a bum and go to the back of the queue. It’s fickle.
“I’ve been told to pack it in a few times after one bad night and that doesn’t happen to golfers and tennis players. In UFC, you can lose and still be considered a good fighter. We can’t all be Mayweather.
“I don’t have to worry about what people think now. I have done it all. I’ve won every title from the Area to the [IBO] title.
“Just give me half a chance and I will win some more belts.
“I still love boxing. I like the fighting, the training. I like it between the ninth and 12th rounds when it’s going back and forth.
“I have some skill, but when it goes past six rounds, that’s when I really shine. That’s what I love, when your eyes are black and your hands hurt and it’s time to go to work.”
Eggington was spotted smiling as he and Cheeseman crashed punches off each other in the closing rounds of their classic that the Londoner won narrowly on all the scorecards.
“That was a good fight, and we should have had a good wage out of the rematch,” said Eggington, “but he went another route and the fight is dead now.
“I’m going to enjoy it now. I was enjoying it before I won the [IBO] title (with a points win over unbeaten Pole Przemyslaw Zysk last October). The pressure is off again now.”
Eggington didn’t feel any pressure when he started his pro career with a four-rounder against Leon Findlay (2-0-1) at a Swansea nightclub in September, 2012.
“There was me, Dee Mitchell, Max Maxwell, Jon and Lenny Woodhall in the car and I knew I was meant to lose,” he said.
“I thought it was going to be a laugh. I just wanted to get through it, get paid and do it again the following week. I was doing 60-hour weeks in a sheet metal factory at the time and couldn’t believe I was getting that much money to fight.”
But three minutes into his pro career and Eggington had had enough!
“I told Jon at the end of the first round: ‘Get me out of here, I’m spent,’” said Eggington. “Because I only boxed as a junior, I never fought three-minute rounds in the amateurs. I did it in the gym, but that was with big gloves against lads from the gym who would lay off me when they knew I was tired.
“I got slapped about by Jon and Lenny (at the end of the first round) and decided to carry on. I must have won the next three rounds because I got the decision.”
Eggington says he’s had “lots of ups and downs” since then and he finds himself coming off a loss again after his out-of-sorts performance in Australia.
“It wasn’t so much the time away from home that was the problem,” he said, “it was more that if something happened, it would take me 24 hours to get home.
“It wasn’t like being in Italy when I could just jump on a plane.
“My kids were just going to school, and it was the wrong time to be fighting there. My coaches were saying, ‘This is the chance of a lifetime,’ but I just couldn’t shake it off and enjoy it. I just wasn’t there. I threw about 400 punches in 12 rounds and I do that in six rounds of sparring!”
Eggington was recorded throwing 1,317 punches at Bilel Jikitou in Coventry in September, 2021.
That fight earned Eggington his second Fight of the Year award, but for all his wars, he’s only been dropped once in his 32-8 career, by Welshman Dale Evans in the second round of their fight in October 2015.
“If I start hitting the deck regularly, I’m going to pack it in,” he said. “But I feel good. I’m pushing it in the gym and the numbers don’t lie.
“I’m not even thinking about retiring. Once you start thinking about it, you’ve got one foot out of the door. We will see what happens. Boxers can be sitting there thinking, ‘Nothing’s happening’, and then the phone goes and they get offered the biggest purse of their career.
“Give me a ring and if the purse and weight are good, I’ll be there, and I will give anyone a tough 12 rounds – or less.”