A year ago, after he lost a brutal British title fight to Ted Cheeseman, if Sam Eggington still had any thoughts of boxing for a world title one day, he was keeping them to himself. Two wins later, though, the Midlander believes he will take a step closer to a world title shot if he beats France's Bilel Jkitou in Coventry tonight.
Eggington is 27 but seems to have been around forever. He was British and Commonwealth welterweight champion at 21, ended the career of Paulie Malignaggi when he was 23, when he also won the European title, and, after taking a one-sided beating from Liam Smith, looked washed-up at 25.
But he looks reborn since teaming up with Mick Hennessy for his shows on Channel 5. Wins over Ashley Theophane and Carlos Molina have pushed Eggington into the WBC’s top 15 at middleweight, a position he is looking to consolidate against the unbeaten Frenchman.
“This is a tricky fight that I can’t afford to lose,” Eggington said. “Jkitou is an unknown quantity and they are the most dangerous types of opponent. He looks strong and awkward, but once I get set in my rhythm and get the jab in range then I’ll work him out.
“I’ve trained too long and hard and come too far to lose it. I know that I’m within touching distance of a world title and the bigger marquee fights so I’ve got to win no matter what on Friday night.”
To say he is within touching distance of a world title fight might be pushing it, but there is some momentum behind Eggington again at long last.
“I’m so much happier now,” Eggington said. “I’ve never enjoyed training as much ever and that obviously helps. Before boxing was just a job. After I’d done my two sessions, you couldn’t pay me to do another. Today, I gladly do my own additional training, even when I’m out of camp.”
Despite boxing up at middleweight, Eggington still believes his best chance of a world title shot could come at super-welterweight and says he could easily make the weight.
The tie-up with Hennessy, former promoter of Carl Froch and Tyson Fury, was well-timed, as Eggington was looking forward to a fresh start, while Hennessy was in need of an exciting fighter to leading after agreeing a new TV deal.
“We’ve got big plans for Sam and a lot will be happening with him after this fight so he needs a big win again,” Hennessy said.
“It’s a big night for Sam and he can’t afford to slip up against Jkitou. We know that Sam is hard as nails and won’t be moved, but this guy Jkitou, is unbeaten, and his team are hungry for an upset.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.