In the final seconds of the first round in his fight against Hassan Mwakinyo last year in Birmingham, Sam Eggington got clipped with a meaty left hand in their ten round bout at super welterweight. Just before the bell Eggington allowed his unknown, short notice opponent from Tanzania to land five unanswered punches. Not exactly the first time in his seven-year career that the twenty-six year old took shots that he could have easily avoided. Value for money is in the small print next to Eggington’s name whenever he fights but on this occasion there looked to be something different about him.
“Don’t do that sh-t. He’s caught you with a silly one, I don’t want to see that again. Switch on now,” his trainer Jon Pegg demanded of Eggington, referring to the unnecessary machismo on the ropes that his cornerman has grown accustomed to over the years.
For the first sixty seconds of round two Eggington allowed himself to be battered from pillar to post by a man who was supposed to be on the receiving end of something similar from the local favourite. Referee Kevin Parker jumped into save the Brit’s face from moving left, right, up and down almost rubbery in its motion furthermore. It was punishment for Eggington. Was it complacency? Was he still feeling the effects of the conclusion of round one? Either way it was brutal to watch a young man who, having had 27 fights previous, had already shipped more shots than he should have at his age. Fans were left puzzled, others in shock, some perhaps not surprised. Maybe this day had been coming for the fighting entertainer, nicknamed ‘The Savage’, who Matchroom Boxing had promoted to lofty domestic heights and in turn watched as a lot of miles were added to an engine that should have still had some shine to it.
There was something Gatti-esque in the harrowing way he took shot after shot against Mwakinyo, providing the manly art of no defence, not seeming to have a care in the world, perhaps assisted by the fact that his head was been thumped with everything his opponent had in him. It was the fifth loss at that time in his career, he has bounced back each time, but that particular occasion - unlike the defeats to Dale Evans, Johnny Coyle, Bradley Skeete and Mohamed Mimoune - looked peculiar and was uncomfortable to watch. And when I interviewed him for Boxing Scene it was one of the key things that I wanted to talk to him about.
“I’m not going to take anything away from anyone,” says Eggington. “He’s come away from his own country to do a job and went home. I’m not going to try to diminish his performance but I have my reasons for [losing] that fight, but I’m not just going to air them because I lost. I went into the fight knowing the reasons why I could lose. For that fact alone it’s my own fault. I’m not going to try and pick it apart. It is what it is. I lost to someone I shouldn’t have lost to and it was my own fault.”
It’s a frank and honest assessment that typifies Eggington out of the ring as it does in it. No matter if he wins or loses it doesn’t seem to take this big hearted brawler long to shake things off with a then eagerness to go again. Each time he has lost it isn’t long before the number goes up in the win column, he participates in big fights and wins titles. Losing a fight really doesn’t matter to Sam Eggington.
“A lot of people love boxing,” he began answering when asked how he seems to move on so quickly from a loss.
“Don’t get me wrong I love it, but a loss is not a massive deal to me. I want to be in good fights. I like to enjoy my work. And if me and my opponent both come out of it, get paid and we go home [then] I’m happy to do that. People will literally look after their zero till they can’t. People will happily fight journeymen as long as they remain unbeaten, I’m the opposite. I’ll fight anyone if there’s a good chance of winning or losing as long as the deal is fair, we both come out with what we should come out with and are both healthy at the end. I think that’s what it is. I’m not worried about a loss. I take it on the chin. It is what it is. As mad as it sounds, and I know it sounds really corny, I’m winning in life in general. I’ve got my kids, another on the way, got my missus, got my house. Losing on a boxing record is not the be all and end all, and to a lot of people it is.”
It’s the refreshing attitude that boxing fans want to hear. Not an unusual one nowadays, as more fighters are prepared to throw caution to the wind - as long as the rewards are worth it, and rightly so - but nonetheless it is always pleasing to listen to.
While his attitude to who he fights is admirable you can’t help but worry that Eggington is a leopard who is never going to change his spots while he’s involved in a fight. It’s never too late to change and in boxing developing your skill set or mindset can add longevity and provide further income. The wars for Sam Eggington have come and gone but whenever he fights it seems like he will appear in a highlight reel end of year edit for good or bad. He is who he is and while sensing from him that a change would be welcome, it isn’t without its difficulties.
“It’s hard to change your ways,” he remarked. “It’s like me now trying to be an awesome boxer. I’m not that sort. It’s set in me. Something that I’ve got to get rid of, no doubt about it but fingers crossed I won’t have to because hopefully I won’t be going back down to that level and I’ll be pushing on.”
And after pushing on from defeats in his career to then beat domestic rivals like Glenn Foot and Frankie Gavin while adding some sparkle to his record with a faded Paulie Malignaggi who he beat in eight rounds, sending the braggadocio American into a world of broadcasting, Conor McGregor and bare-knuckle boxing, Eggington’s career is on the up once again with another Italian flavoured win, this time with victory in the beautiful Tuscan city of Florence against Orlando Fiordigiglio. It was an Italian Job that took less than six minutes, more watchable than Mark Wahlberg’s effort, and with it came the IBF International Super Welterweight title and the number nine position in the governing body’s top ten rankings where the number one and two slots lie vacant beneath Julian William’s seat as champion.
A right hand from Eggington that aptly matches his nickname sent the Italian rocking and clinging on to the away fighter attempting to regain his senses but, as Mwakinyo did to Eggington, Eggington didn’t let his man survive and it was his turn to dish out punishment and win when he maybe wasn’t expected to.
“As the bell went at the end of the first round I saw in his face he weren’t expecting a hard night. He tried to make eye contact with his corner as soon as possible and he took a huge deep breath in. And I just thought ‘This kid just does not want to be here’. I didn’t go out looking for a knockout in the second round but as soon as I caught him I knew I was going to get him. I could tell by the end of the first it was not the night he was expecting.”
Eggington’s Italian surroundings when he arrived were not what he was expecting. He described his location as not the “picturesque” part of Florence, every hotel meal was from the microwave but his time spent amongst the locals was a pleasure in the end.
“You’ve got to find a space to train but there wasn’t a gym in Florence. The hotel had a running machine in a room the size of a phone box,” recalled Eggington laughing at the memory of it.
“If the place had been a bit more sociable it would have been great. We weren’t even out in the sticks. Just abandoned!”
Whether it’s in the home comforts of Birmingham or around the uncomfortable setting of the Florence holiday brochure you don’t see Eggington is the same man wherever he goes and training remains as it has always been. He doesn’t care if his opponent even watches him train because he does the same thing in every camp. Good performance or bad performance, nothing changes he admits. And maybe as his career progresses nothing will in fact change. The highs and lows, the drama, the wins, the defeats… the following Monday he will be on his way again; out for a run, back at the gym, because with Sam Eggington it really is a case of what you see is what you get.