Maybe it has more to do with my thirst for the movies but whenever a fighter has furthered himself in education I can hear the legendary tones of Sean Connery in The Rock saying, ‘Ah, an educated man.’
Though it shouldn’t be a surprise that men who choose to receive hurt and repay it ten-fold as a profession can be savvy enough to ensure that should the sweet science be too scientific, there’s something beyond the ropes to pick them up when the fistic dream lets them down. Is it simply due to having the right attitude? An understanding that there’s more to life than just boxing? In some cases, many legendary, a retired fighter needs to be saved from a life on the streets. But it was good old-fashioned family values that has given Tommy Langford a plan B for when the crowds stop cheering.
“It was through my parents’ encouragement that I went on and pursued my education,” the (10-0, 2 KOs) middleweight prospect told me. Langford, 10-0 with 2 knockouts, 25 years old and 6ft of potential, found boxing when trying to become stronger and fitter whilst chasing the richer dream of becoming a professional footballer. Years later, a mix of everything physical and mental would give him a degree in sports science after attending the University of Birmingham.
“If I got into work at the age of 16 it would’ve been a manual job because, really, I was good at that sort of stuff. You can’t give yourself the best chances to pursue a boxing career when you’re doing a job like that. My Dad said to me: ‘If you want to take your boxing to the highest level you need to keep doing it as much as you can and the only way you can do that is to go to University’. So I set my sights on it really mainly for the boxing. It’s always been important to further my education and get as much out of things as I can, while I can.”
With one education over, another had already fallen into the hands of trainer Tom Chaney and the Hall Green Amateur Boxing Club in Birmingham. Chaney, probably unwanted, has gained some boxing limelight for solving the conundrum of Frankie Gavin, an amateur star who, at times, seemed like he had the world at his feet. Other times we wondered if he would really fulfill his potential. Langford is in debt to both Chaney and Gavin, one of the UK’s most defensively gifted boxers.
“When I was about 16 I was in an England camp and we were lucky enough to spar with the then Commonwealth squad which included Frankie Gavin. I did a few rounds with Jamie Cox and a few rounds with Frankie Gavin and I couldn’t hit him! There’s not been a fighter that I’ve not been able to catch really. I’ve always been pretty gifted when it comes to timing and getting to people and so I had to find out where he trained. I spoke to him and got the number of Tom Chaney. When I got home I contacted Tom I arranged some sparring with Frankie, which I did on a regular basis.”
Teaching from Chaney, sparring with Gavin and promoting from Frank Warren. A promising picture is being formed. One in which Langford eventually sees himself at the top of a bubbling middleweight Brit-pack that hasn’t overboiled. (British, Commonwealth and European champion) Billy Joe Saunders, John Ryder, Nick Blackwell, Adam Etches, Chris Eubank Jr, Anthony Ogogo and so on and so on. Only Saunders and Ryder have met head on so far. Saunders and Eubank literally collide next month but that’s for another time and another story.
Rounds and experience is what Langord craves and both will be thrown at him Friday night on Boxnation against the hardened Gary Boulden (7-15-2). The brackets show a 24 fight record gone wrong. A dip into the who and why shows a 28 year old who took Saunders the distance three years ago as well as giving grit, durability and problems to the likes of Ogogo, Elliot Matthews, Rod Smith Jack Arnfield and Eamonn O’Kane. The latter four being men that Langford will have in his sights come this time next year.
“Fingers crossed, once I’ve got through that [Boulden] fight, the next 12 months I’m really looking to make a statement in terms of getting on the British scene and start looking for titles, whether that be 10-round titles or more.”
Every fighter may not share an education like Langford’s but they do share a confidence that, with respect, tells them they can beat any of their fellow contenders, like Matthews and Smith.
“I know I’ve got the capability of beating those guys now. I boxed Rod Smith in the amateurs and beat him and it wasn’t a great performance. I’ve watched those lads fight and I’m capable of beating them and if it was going to lead on to something bigger then, yeah, 100% I’d fight them now but it’s got to be for the right reasons. There’s no point in fighting them in a six-round contest. You want it to be for a title or for something that will throw you into a position to fight for a title.”
“I think the middleweight division domestically and worldwide is the hardest division out there,” he added.
“It’s really tough. I’ve done a lot of sparring with guys like Nick Blackwell and [English champion] Danny Butler. I know of the other lads that are up there and they’re all very tough, game and good fighters. There’s not one fight you could make in that top 10-15 (taking away Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray) that would be a dead cert. They’re all tough nights’ work. Saying that, as long as my development continues and I keep learning, then within the next 12 months I’m confident I’ll be on the top of that stage. I know I’ve got the ability to beat all those lads. It’s just getting the experience and getting the timing right.” – Shaun Brown