WHO knows, after nine years and 37 fights, maybe we haven’t seen the best of Sam “The Savage” Eggington yet.

According to manager and trainer Jon Pegg, the trade have been waiting for his fighter’s bubble to burst. Three losses in six fights between October, 2017 and March, 2019, including stoppage defeats to Hassan Mwakinyo and Liam Smith, indicated Eggington was on the slide.

He had enough faith in himself to persevere in what he calls “a fickle game, a dog’s business” and the 27-year-old goes into his clash with unbeaten Frenchman Bilel Jkitou at the Skydome in Coventry on Friday night on the back of possibly the best win of a hard career.

Eggington said his 12-round points win over Mexican veteran Carlos Molina (37-11-2) in a middleweight bout at the same venue in May was “probably” his best performance yet. Molina was a few years removed from the fighter who had a 13-month spell as a super-welterweight belt-holder, but still, he brought wisdom, ambition and momentum to the clash at 160lbs.

Every round was competitive and it was Eggington’s jab that saw him home by scores if 119-109, 117-111 and 116-112.

The Board subsequently paired Eggington with Anthony Fowler in a final British-title eliminator at 154lbs – “I would have taken it for the British title,” he said – and a fight with Chris Eubank Jnr was also offered. Eggington says the money wasn’t good enough to risk his ranking against an opponent who’s fought up at 168lbs and with the backing of Mick Hennessy and Channel Five, he can map his own route.

Though he fights at 160lbs this week, Eggington says he sees his future at 154. He has previously held British, Commonwealth and European titles at welterweight.

The clash with Jkitou looks to be a sideways step. The 29-year-old Frenchman has taken six-and-a-half years to compile a 15-0 (6) record. He has stopped his last three and has also campaigned at 154lbs.

The best win on Jkitou’s record is a first-round stoppage of Felice Moncelli (21-5-1) in February, 2020. The Italian had won all four since lasting into the seventh round with Sergio Garcia, the quality Spaniard who beat Ted Cheeseman in a European-title defence here. But Moncelli couldn’t keep Jkitou off him and was taken out by a body shot.

Jkitou has boxed once since, overwhelming Hungary’s outgunned Gyorgy Mizsei (27-271-1), dropping him four times for a second-round stoppage. That was his fourth victory inside two sessions.

Jkitou is known in France for playing semi-professional football for a club in Paris and Eggington has shared a ring with a couple of footballers-turned-fighters before. He sparred both Curtis Woodhouse, who won British honours at 140lbs, and Dave Egan, who won five of six. Pegg says that footballers “are fit, but they need that fighters’ instinct as well or they blow up through being tense.”

Jkitou, who went 12 rounds when outpointing Estonia’s Pavel Semjonov (24-11-2) in 2019, likes a scrap in-close, where he unloads with both hands. Eggington is licking his lips at the prospect.

“It looks like he wants to come and have a go,” said the father of three, “and that’s meat and drink to me.”

Eggington loves fighting, hates the business. He was seen smiling at Ted Cheeseman as they exchanged blows on each other in the closing moments of their domestic fight of the year last August.

That fight ended in a narrow points defeat for Eggington, who’s always been willing to roll the dice since he turned pro fighting on the right-hand side of the bill at a Swansea nightclub in September, 2012.

“People talk too much about the zero, about being undefeated,” he told BN. “I’m not a massive boxing fan, but even I know that the best fighters still lose. There are kids who lose one fight and then quit.

“If your mentality is strong and you have good people behind you, you can carry on. I’ve proved that. It’s down to hard work and mental toughness. I’ve taken a lot of 50-50 fights and when you lose them, people write you off. If you don’t take 50-50 fights, they slag you off. It’s a fickle sport.”

On Friday night, Eggington has to start as a warm favourite. He’s the proven fighter.

Because he hasn’t lost – or come close to losing – we don’t know what level Jkitou is at. The Moncelli result is impressive given that he went seven rounds with Garcia, but what happens when someone hits Jkitou back?

Eggington has proved himself in hard championship contests and we go for him to get on top and force a stoppage in the second half.

The undercard is set to feature Isaac Chamberlain, Stephen McKenna, Kaisee Benjamin, Idris Virgo, Tommy Welch, Brett McGinty and Michael Hennessy Jnr.