THE rapid rise of Sam Eggington, 16-2 (9), has been nothing short of remarkable. In the past three months, “The Savage” from Stourbridge has claimed both British (Glenn Foot – td 8) and Commonwealth (Joseph Lamptey – rsf 7) honours at welterweight, and all before his 22nd birthday. For a man who originally wanted to become a journeyman, and who lost two of his first 11 pro fights, his progress has been exceptional. With victories over respected domestic names in Dave Ryan (pts 10 – November 2013), Denton Vassell (rsf 8 – September 2014) and Shayne Singleton (rsf 5 – March 2015) he boxes Frankie Gavin on October 17.
You became a professional at 18 years old. You had only had 31 amateur fights and had not even boxed as a Senior. Why did you decide to turn over so young?
Well I lost my job as a forklift driver at a steel factory, so I had to find another way to earn some money. That’s why I decided to turn pro.
The plan was to box professionally, and earn a living that way.
Before having your first pro fight, you asked your trainer, Jon Pegg, if you could become a journeyman. Why was this, and what made you change your mind and aim higher?
It was down to money again. The fact is, journeymen are out most of the time, so they’re always earning money. And making money was the only reason I turned over. I’d quit boxing altogether before I lost my job as a forklift driver – I was completely done with the sport. But when I lost my job, I had to start earning money again, so I got back into boxing and turned pro.
To be honest, when I was an amateur, I didn’t think one bit about turning pro. There wasn’t a thought in my mind that I’d ever become a professional boxer. When I was a kid, if someone had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d have never said a boxer.
To be fair, it was my trainer, Jon, who talked me out of becoming a journeyman. I’d told Jon that I wanted to become a journeyman, and he said he’d take a look at me in the gym. So before I’d even had a pro fight, I did a few rounds of sparring with the likes of [two-time English middleweight title challenger] Cello Renda, [former Midlands Area light-middle champion] Terry Carruthers and [ex-British 154lb championship contestant] Max Maxwell. I gave a good account of myself, and Jon said, ‘I don’t think you should be a journeyman!’ I boxed away in my first pro fight [in September 2012]. I fought a Welsh kid [then-2-0-1 Leon Findlay] in a four-rounder in Wales. I lost the first round, but ended up winning the fight. So my plan of becoming a journeyman went tits-up from the start!
Your only two losses have both come during Prizefighter competitions – a unanimous decision against Dale Evans in January 2013, and a split verdict versus Johnny Coyle in April last year. Looking back on these defeats now, do you regret twice taking part in such an unpredicatble tournament?
For the first Prizefighter I came in as a reserve [to replace Nasser Al Harbi], so I literally went in at late notice. I was 19 at the time, and I’d only had three fights. I knew it was a guaranteed £4,000 for me, so there was no way in the world I was going to turn that down – no chance. I was only in it for the money back then.
In my second Prizefighter, I actually trained for that and went in there to do a job. I got through the quarter-final [via second-round stoppage against previously unbeaten Johnny Garton], and I thought I won the semi against Coyle, but it is what it is.
I think having two defeats on my record has actually made it easier for me to get fights. People see a kid in his early 20s with a couple of losses, and they think, ‘You know what, I’ll have a bit of that.’
Did you ever expect you would win the British title less than three years after turning pro?
I honestly didn’t think about winning any titles at all when I turned pro. It didn’t cross my mind. The opportunity to fight for the Midlands Area title [in May 2013] only came up out of the blue. There was only five weeks until fight night, but I didn’t want to turn it down, so I just said, ‘Yes.’ Fortunately I ended up winning the belt [with a seventh-session stoppage of Steven Pearce].
Was it upon securing the Midlands Area title that you realised you could seriously make something of yourself in the sport?
It wasn’t so much the performance itself that made me realise I could have a successful future in boxing. It was more so the fact that a lot of people were talking about it afterwards. Hearing people complimenting me made me think, ‘Hold on, maybe there’s something in this.’ But even so, after winning the Midlands Area title, I still just wanted to fight as much as possible, so I could earn money. That was the plan back then… it still is the plan!
Foot was unbeaten going into your contest last month. Were you surprised that you dominated him so convincingly?
Yeah, I was surprised to be fair. Don’t get me wrong, I never had any thoughts of losing, but with the way people were talking about it being a 50-50 fight beforehand, I thought it was going to be difficult. In the end though, it was pretty comfortable for me.
You signed a promotional contract with Matchroom in October. How big a part do you think this relationship has played in helping you to progress up the domestic ladder so rapidly?
It’s played a massive part in helping me to get where I want to be at this point in my career. When you’re boxing on shows staged by small-hall promoters, it’s very hard to get big title fights, as the promoters can’t afford the sanctioning fees. It’s a shame, because I know a few boxers in my area who’d love a title shot, but it’s all about having the right promoter.
Having [Matchroom Group Managing Director] Eddie Hearn behind me really helps. I also talk to [Matchroom Chairman and founder] Barry [Hearn] a lot. He’s taken me under his wing. Everything the pair of them have said to me has come off. Everything they’ve promised me has come to fruition. They haven’t gone back on anything they’ve said to me so far. They’ve been brilliant.
Is it one of your targets to avenge your reverses against Evans and Coyle in the future?
To be honest, the losses don’t really bother me, as they were only three-round tear-ups in Prizefighter. I’m not striving to avenge my defeats, but if the Evans and Coyle fights were available, I’d take them. Evans has got an eliminator for my British title [against John O’Donnell] later this year, so if he wins that, he’ll be in line to fight me.
Are there any boxers who you particularly admire and aim to emulate?
I don’t tend to watch fights all that much, apart from the local ones. I’ve got a lot of respect for [super-middleweight contender] Martin Murray. He’s come up the hard way, boxing in big fights away from home. I like watching him.
You are only 21 years old, yet you have displayed impressive maturity in the ring. As a father of two boys – Layton, 4, and Kai, 2 – do you think being a parent has helped you to grow up quickly, both inside and outside of the ring?
I suppose it’s helped me in a small way, but I think my maturity is mainly down to my trainers, Jon [Pegg] and Paul Counihan. They tell me what to do, and tell me how to act. If I come back to the corner in between rounds and I’m worried or in a fuss, they’ll help me and say, ‘Listen, sort yourself out.’
What are your goals for your career as a whole?
As for targets for my career as a whole, I can’t really comment on that, because I never expected to even win the British title when I started out, so I don’t want to tempt fate! I’ll go as far as my team pushes me. If they say to me, ‘An opportunity to fight for the European title has come up,’ then I’d take it. Anything they chuck at me, I’ll take. That’s all I’ve been doing, and it’s been going well so far.