After quietly developing his craft as a pro over the last three years, Barnstaple-born Brummie Tommy Langford intends throwing his cap into the talent rammed British middleweight ring this weekend, writes Glynn Evans.
A former England amateur captain and multiple national junior champion, the 25 year old university graduate is yet to concede a round whilst racking up a dozen wins since joining the profession in September 2012.
On Saturday he finally advances to title level when he duals Mexico’s Julio Cesar Avalos over 10 rounds for the Vacant WBO Intercontinental belt at Dublin’s National Stadium.
‘Hopefully, I’ll arrive on the scene big time on Saturday night,’ says the skilful, stylish six footer.
‘It was always the plan to creep up under the radar, face a big variety of tough opponents who were difficult to get rid of.
‘My trainer Tom Chaney was instrumental in me having a slow conversion. He was happy for me to win using the skills that made me a successful amateur then gradually coaching me to plant my feet more and develop the body shots.
‘But now I really want a title. I see plenty who lack my technical ability picking up belts and now it’s my big opportunity. The WBO Inter-Continental brings a world ranking and within 18 months I plan mixing with the best in the division.’
After stopping just one of his first nine as he acclimatized to the profession, Langford has sent two of his last three victims for an early shower.
‘I’ve always been a late developer compared to my peers,’ he explains.
‘As a 16 year old amateur, I had a boy’s body whereas many opponents were already men. I’m gradually getting into my man strength but there’s plenty more still to come. It’s more a confidence thing since signing with Frank Warren, knowing that he believes in me and is prepared to really back me. I’m finally starting to express myself.’
After finding his feet against the usual band of circuit survivors, four of Tommy’s last six opponents came with winning CVs and he also duelled several of the world’s elite during extensive national service in the singlet.
‘I picked up a lot of knowledge boxing Olympians and Commonwealth Games medallists. Fighting at that level teaches you not to be daunted by reputations and records,’ he says.
Latterly, he has advanced his education with arduous sparring assignments against the likes of Callum Smith (who he defeated in the amateurs), Chris Eubank Jr, Nick Blackwell and Liam Williams.
‘I make sure I learn something new from every spar,’ he says.
‘You have to be mentally on the ball every time otherwise you’ll have a hard day’s work. But it’s given me so much confidence.
‘When I beat Callum he was a 6ft 3in light-welter (!) but he’s come on leaps and bounds. He’s world level now but I asked questions of him, just as he asks questions of me.
‘Eubank Jnr can fight and is really tough but, by the end of the week, I was doing very well.
‘(Reigning British champion) Nick Blackwell was also very strong and tough. You’re not going to get rid of him inside 12 rounds but I’d be confident of out boxing him. I’m not really chasing his title at the minute cos we get on very well. But if enough money’s on the line we can punch each other’s faces!’
As chief support on Saturday, Langford is accorded a gilt-edged opportunity to showcase his progression.
He says: ‘It’s all well and good not losing any rounds but now I need to be put in competitive situations and show I can come through them without panicking. I’ve got all the technical tools in my locker already. Now it’s about applying them at the right time.’
The British and Irish 160lb playground is presently overflowing with talents such as Lee, Saunders, Eubank Jr, Macklin, Blackwell, O’Sullivan and O’Kane. Langford believes the time is fast approaching for him to get amongst them.
‘The knowledge of sports science and nutrition that I developed university means that I’m very big at the weight. People say how huge Eubank Jr is but he’s not as big as me,’ insists Tommy.
‘People know I’ve good skills and can punch in combinations but, above all, I’m blessed with a massive engine. I can sustain a very high work rate for 10-12 rounds. I’ve always been a natural distance runner. I can do a four and a half minute mile. I bring a different dimension.’
A native of north Devon, his journey to prominence has been harder than most.
‘Devon’s a bit dry, boxing wise,’ he says.
‘Even winning national titles, it was difficult to get noticed for the international squads and there’s not too much sparring or competition to be had. With few pro shows here, you have to move away otherwise you just end up as an away fighter.
‘But on the flip side, there’s very little else for sports fans to root for, so they all get behind me. I usually get 150 supporting me in the midlands and about a hundred are going over to Ireland on Saturday.’
I enquired how important it was for this staunch follower of West Bromwich Albion FC, to usurp Saturday’s limelight from bill topper Jamie Conlan, an Aston Villa fan.
‘(Laughs) I didn’t know that. Yeah, that’ll be quite important then!’ he says.
‘Ironically, Wolverhampton (Civic Hall) is becoming my local spot but I usually get a good reception from the Wolves lot.
‘I’ve got ‘Boing, Boing, Baggies’ on the shorts and I’ve featured in the (match day) programme. If I can win a nice shiny belt hopefully they’ll let me parade it on the pitch!’
Yet to venture past round six, Saturday’s scheduled ten rounder also provides his first non-European opponent and his first gig outside of England.
‘It’s exciting to be boxing before a new crowd. I’ve been scraping around trying to find some Irish heritage but I’ve not been successful yet!’ he quips.
‘Training has gone brilliantly and I’m ready. I’ve seen clips of Avalos and he should definitely be my stiffest test. He’s short solid and awkward so won’t be easy to get rid of.
‘The tricky part will be looking good while beating him. I’ll need to lower my punches and be patient but I’m confident I’ll deal with whatever he brings. I’ll break him down round by round and stop him mid way.’
Jamie Conlan’s challenge for the Vacant WBO Intercontinental Super-Flyweight Championship against Junior Granados headlines an action-packed card with Tommy Langford v Julio Cesar Avalos for the Vacant WBO Intercontinental Middleweight Championship in the chief support.
The undercard featuring some of the best up-and-coming Irish talent, including Belfast’s hot-shot Ryan Burnett; Dublin aces Stephen Ormond, Anthony Fitzgerald, Declan Geraghty, plus Belfast’s Sean Turner and unbeaten Birmingham lightweight Michael Rooney.
The Channel Of Champions, BoxNation, will televise the show live and exclusive on Sky 437/HD 490, Virgin 546 and Talk Talk 415. Subscribe at www.boxnation.com Or watch online at Livesport.tv and via iPhone, iPad or Android.