Sam Eggington isn’t like the other boxers. When he first got paid as a prizefighter at the age of 18, there were no thoughts of world titles, an army of social media followers or his own line of t-shirts.
At 27, he still isn’t chasing fame, even though it’s come to him thanks to wins over the likes of Frankie Gavin, Paulie Malignaggi and Ashley Theophane, as well as a 2020 Fight of the Year candidate against Ted Cheeseman.
So while he’s headlining with fans in attendance this Saturday against Carlos Molina, in a bout airing live and free in the UK on Channel 5, he would be just as comfortable picking up a paycheck for fighting the Mexican veteran in an empty warehouse with no one watching.
“A hundred and ten percent,” Eggington laughs. “The whole lockdown, they were doing fights behind closed doors, and that was me. I was all up for that - that was perfect. I enjoy the fans being there, don't get me wrong, but to me, this is a fight whether there's 20,000 people watching or three.
“My coach (Jon Pegg) still has to push me to do an interview,” he continues. “It's not about that. I like to get in and I like to fight and that's a treat for me. I'd do it in my back garden as long as I get paid. I'm quite happy to do it where nobody watches. This whole social media following stuff and all that, it's not me really. I enjoy what I do, and obviously the social media and the interviews, that's just part and parcel of it; I have to do it. But if I had a choice, I'd just box and that would be it. The whole famous, world title and the path to glory was never my thing. It was just, let's earn some money and see where it goes.”
The impetus for Eggington even getting into the pro end of the game after a 31-fight amateur career was simply to make money after he lost his job.
“At 17 I had a job as a forklift driver, and I enjoyed it,” said Eggington, who saw a former gym mate turning pro as a boxer. Eggington wanted in, but not to chase a belt, but to fight as often as he could as a journeyman. The record didn’t matter. The paychecks did.
“You see a kid who's had 40 fights and lost 33 of them and they just sort of get in with the new prospect coming up and do the rounds and they lose, but they fight the week after,” he said of the journeyman’s life in boxing. “It's all about trying not to get stopped so you can box the week after and that's what I was hoping to do. These journeymen are clever. They stay away, they don't get hit - cuts and being stopped would stop you boxing for four weeks.”
Eggington’s buddy put him in touch with Pegg, but after working together for a bit, there was going to be a change in plans.
“I went to the gym, spoke to the coach and manager, who's still my coach and manager now, and he said you can try, but I don't think you have the style to be a journeyman, so you need to lay off a bit or calm down or go a different route,” Eggington recalled. “We went away for our first few fights and we won them, so the journeyman thing went bad straight away. (Laughs) I actually started winning. I was winning and the phone wasn't gonna ring unless I took the harder fights, and that's what we did. My coach finally told me, 'Look, it's going to be very hard to be a journeyman with your style,' so let's see if we can get some fights and pick up a few titles. The first title was the Midlands Area title and from there, we kept building and building and it kinda snowballed into what it is now.”
In his sixth pro fight, Eggington stopped 7-1 Steven Pearce in seven rounds for the Midlands Area welterweight title. There was no turning back now. And as the goals changed, Eggington adapted and evolved. We tend to call folks like him “real” fighters, and he certainly fits the bill. There’s something about getting in there and testing himself against another man that gets Eggington’s blood pumping, and while embracing the art of the fight is still the goal of it all while doing a hundred interviews isn’t, what has changed over the years is that now the Birmingham, England native doesn’t want to leave the sport without getting his chance to challenge for a world title. A win over Molina in a move up to middleweight may not be what gets him there, but with a WBC silver title on the line, it’s a step in the right direction.
“I was happy to fight Carlos Molina just on his pedigree and what he's done, so the fact that the title's on the line, it's gotta be a massive push to propel me into some sort of talks of eliminators or even a shot at some sort of world title,” said Eggington, who fought his last two fights at 154 pounds against Cheeseman and Theophane. So though he won’t call 160 a permanent home, if that’s where the big fights are, he’s ready to go.
“I wouldn't say I'd stick around at 160 unless the opportunities pop up,” he said. “I could do both and I'm quite happy to go back down to super welter. This opportunity (against Molina) came up and, of course, I'm taking every opportunity given. So we'll get this one out of the way, I'll win it, and then we'll go from there. If a big one comes back at 160, we'll go for that, if a big one comes back at 154, we'll go for that. But I feel good either way. I'm ready to go, I'm full of energy and I'm just excited.”
See what having an extra six pounds to play with can do for a fighter’s mood?
“I can't stress it enough,” Eggington laughs. “It has been unbelievable. I've been having steak and eggs for breakfast - I feel like a bodybuilder. (Laughs) I've really been eating well, I'm full of energy and I'm ready to go. My training has been unbelievable this camp. I know it's a cliche and everyone talks about it, but my numbers, my training, my energy through training has been unbelievable and I put that down to being at middle and eating well and doing everything right. But again, the big middleweights, the big, scary middleweights are big and scary, so it's a double-edged sword. We'll see what comes up.”
Whatever happens, it’s a good place to be in for Eggington, a fighter who has had his ups and downs over the years. But despite that rollercoaster ride, when he’s on, he’s on. The mission now is to make sure he’s on all the time.
“Like my coach always says, if I'm going to get something I've never had, I seem to put it all in,” he said. “Defending titles is my problem, if I'm honest. But fighting for a title, something I never picked up and something that I really want to do, it seems to bring out the best in me. Defending titles, I seem to get a bit lackadaisical and take it too easy. I always seem to turn it on when I'm picking someone new off or if I'm the underdog. I think the underdog status really gives me that edge. I want to prove people wrong.”
With each win or each instant classic like the Chesseman fight, there are fewer doubters when it comes to Eggington’s world title chances. That’s a good thing. The better thing is that “The Savage” now knows that to get where he now wants to go, changes needed to be made in his mindset and lifestyle. And you can put checkmarks next to both on his “to do” list.
“Not long ago, a couple years ago, if I didn't have a fight or a fight date, that's it, I'm not in the gym,” he said. “And for the last couple years or so, I've trained all year round in camp and out of camp, and I'm feeling the benefit of that now. I'm always full of energy, my food's always right and I think that professionalism, if I'd got that a few years ago, I think we're in a different place now. But I found it now and we're here. The consistency of staying in shape, staying in the gym, staying on the right foods, I think all that will benefit me. It got to the point where I was just losing weight in camp and that was it. And now I'm actually learning all the little tricks and I'm taking it all in without having to drain it all down. I'm enjoying it a lot more; I told my coach I'm enjoying it ten times more than I ever have, so I think it's about enjoying it and taking lessons where you can. I learned my lessons a bit late, but I've learned them now and I feel like I'm taking the benefit.”
Right about now is when a friendly warning to Mr. Eggington is necessary, as I inform him that a world title means more interviews, more social media engagement and all those things he never thought he would have to deal with when he first laced up the gloves.
The father of three laughs.
“I'll have to work some time in for the social media and interviews more often, I suppose.”