Tommy Langford

Tommy Langford

It must be nice to be liked in multiple locations.  196 miles separate Devon from Birmingham, but for Tommy Langford, the distance hasn’t proved a hindrance.  “I’ve always had a lot of support and I’ve got a lot of travelling fans – I’m originally from North Devon” he tells me in a hybrid accent between Brummie and the South.  “My dad’s a massive part of the sporting community in Devon so everybody has taken a big interest in me.  It turned over into the pro’s and that interest is still there.”
 
Langford is a middleweight with wide appeal.  Since turning professional only three years ago he has amassed a record of thirteen wins with no losses or draws.  In that time he has also allied his love of boxing with his other passion – football.  Or to be more precise, West Bromwich Albion.  Regularly you can read on social media that Langford is attending a Baggies game, distributing tickets and interacting with the fans.  How has the link up come about?  “I’ve tapped in to the West Brom side of it as I’m a big fan and that’s helped produce a lot of fans as well.  I can see it building as long as I keep performing and exciting them.  We’re in the entertainment business so you have to be exciting in the ring – my natural style is fan friendly and that shows in the support I’m receiving.”
 
As well as building a style that excites fans, it has also been prosperous in picking up the wins.  “I haven’t lost a round as a professional” states Langford, which is impressive given that over the last twelve months he has considerably improved his opponent.  But when he reflects back on his professional career, it hasn’t always been so easy.  “When I first turned over I was on the small hall circuit with Jon Pegg in Birmingham which is a lot more difficult than you anticipate.  It becomes all about ticket sales in terms of getting on shows – I felt that as I had a good amateur pedigree I felt I deserved a bigger platform.” 

The bigger platform wasn’t as far away as he may have feared.  In fact there were prying eyes on the young upcoming middleweight, as he explains.  “At the time Frank Warren and Dean Powell were interested but it never came about to start with.  Later down the line they saw me on a couple of shows and made it happen – it was after about my seventh or eighth fight I signed with Frank Warren.  Since then it’s escalated, I’ve got the exposure I wanted and my performances are improving because of it.  I’m fighting with more confidence and belief and it shows in the ring, I’m really happy with where it’s going.”
 
Of course ticket selling doesn’t go away once you leave the realms of the small hall shows, and to that end Langford appreciates that his special connection to the Midlands football club can help spread his appeal.  “I’m trying to push it as much as I can with West Brom and strengthen the link.  They’ve taken a big interest in me, particularly this season, I’m really grateful for how much they’ve pushed me.  I’m in their programme frequently and I’ve been on the fan zone at the games – it’s a big opportunity if you can tap in to that element of sporting fans.  A lot of football fans are interested in boxing – I’m hoping it can grow and grow, maybe even get a season ticket out of it!  I go to all the games, tonight is the first one I’ve missed this season, I can’t miss my training.  Obviously the more fans that support me the better as they are noisy!”
 
It is becoming a trend within boxing to find a fighter that has cross over appeal.  Football fans are at times an untapped commodity – after all they are happy to pay out on a Saturday afternoon to support in a tribalistic fashion a set of strangers that wear their colours.  Big things are developing up North for Josh Warrington, who often sells out the First Direct Arena in Leeds.  Does that support inspire Langford for the future?
 
“You just have to look at the Leeds thing with Warrington – although Leeds aren’t as good as West Brom!  If you’ve got something else to cheer as a football fan that’s great – Albion aren’t going to win the Premier League so if there is something outside of the football to cheer on then that’s great for the fans.  Obviously Leeds have done that with Josh Warrington – they don’t have a lot to cheer for football wise but if they as a unit get behind Josh then it creates that atmosphere at the fights.  With boxing if you can fill a stadium then you’ll get on big fights and ultimately pay well.  In a years time if things keep progressing as they are there may be a position next year where I can challenge for a world title.  If that comes about there’s the potential for a big show in the Midlands and the Hawthorns stadium is about the right size!!  I just have to keep winning and that might happen.”
 
Winning is becoming a nice habit for the Midlands middleweight.  Two knockout victories in his last two fights have provided more hype around him.  Now looking at his third fight of the year on Saturday night, the opponents have become more challenging.  Saturday sees the Argentinian Christian Rios (20-6-3) come to the UK for the first time, where he will stand against Langford at the Civic Hall, Wolverhampton.  Rios is a fighter who has form himself, unbeaten in two years he also has a draw with Jorge Sebastian Heiland on his record – a man who in 2014 stopped fellow Birmingham resident Matthew Macklin.  “If I keep performing the way I am then every fight will have to be a progression” says Langford – a man who clearly doesn’t shirk from the idea of taking on the best in the division.  The tricky Argentinian poses a new challenge though, being the champion of his native Argentina and a southpaw to go with it.
 
In his last outing Langford picked up his first piece of significant silverware, the WBO Inter-Continental title.  He made short work of Mexican Julio Avalos, finishing him in the fourth round.  How much does holding a title boost his confidence?  “It oes help, but the bonus is they give you a world ranking and a potential shortcut to titles.  I look at the rankings for the WBO and my name is there with some real top fighters, I’m above Matt Korobov (who lost to Andy Lee for the vacant title) – that gives you a confidence boost.  Picking up the belt was nice, but it showed Frank Warren has faith in me as they’re putting me in for that title and want me to progress.  I’ve always had self belief and my trainer has always believed in me, but to have your team supporting you and believing you can do something good as well is more of a confidence boost than anything.  I have a very supportive team around me and it shows in my performances.”
This will be his first defence on Saturday night.  It is also the first time his opponent has travelled outside of his home country to fight, so has that made researching him more difficult?  “I’ve found some good footage of him on YouTube – I expect him to come with ambition.  He looks a good mover, able to frustrate and nick rounds, so it’s on me to go out and stamp my authority and dictate the pace.  I’ve been working on some good punching in the gym and I can see them woring Saturday night, so that will set the pattern and then it’s a case of how durable he is.  If he stands in front of me it’s like my birthday!  I’m a combination puncher, so if someone stands in front of me I can rattle off loads of punches.  It doesn’t tire me out as I’m getting success.  If he tucks up and tries to survive by defending I’m confident I can stop him.”
 
Should he get the win Saturday night it will further boost his standings in the WBO, where he currently holds a number seven position, but there are also other route he may choose to go down.  Langford’s career to date has almost circumvented the domestic scene, instead pushing forward with his world standing where he is seventh in line to Andy Lee.  So where does he see his next step after the weekend?
 
“I’m looking at the WBO route to be honest, simply because I believe I can get there in quick time and win it as well.  It isn’t a case of the champion being a Golovkin!  Then I might take my time!  But if other fights come up on the route that put me in a position I want to be in, like Nick Blackwell for the British or European belts, then 100% I will take them if it puts me in a better position long term for a world title.”
 
So does that mean he sees the British title as less of a priority in his career?  “It is prestigious to win the British title and something I want to get my hands on at some point, but a world title is a world title.  If I keep progressing, I could legitimately be in a mandatory position next year and that’s what I want to push for.  If that route wins me other titles that’s brilliant, if not then I will carry on doing my thing.  Realistically I have a lot of options – I could go Commonwealth and European.  I could go English and British.  Or I could just skip them all and follow my WBO ranking.  It’s a nice position to be in and I can pick the best ones when they come up.”
 
Not many fighters only thirteen matches have such a privileged position.  It’s a nice conundrum to solve, and one the Langford is relaxed about.  At only 26 years of age his body is still fresh and able to take on multiple fights per season.  But there is one fight he has his eye keenly focussed upon – Andy Lee versus Billie Joe Saunders.  Twice put off already, a date is to be confirmed for the two travelling men to meet in the ring for the WBO middleweight belt, which Tommy is so keen to land.  How does he see that fight going?
 
“I’ll be watching that, it’s a very good fight.  Andy Lee is dangerous, he has that right hook which can change a fight.  I think Billie Joe has the edge in ability and work rate.  It sets up a brilliant match.  I think Billie Joe will win it on points, we know he can take a punch but it will be an interesting match with the different abilities and how dangerous Lee is – he’s done it so many times before.”
 
Regardless of the winner, Langford will be looking to further cement his chances of getting a shot at the gold over the next 12 months.  “If I had another 5 fights but they weren’t decent opposition, it doesn’t get me further forward.  If I have two or three and they’re tough competitors and I come through well then I’m in a position where I will be confident to challenge for world titles.  In my head, I fight this fight and do a good job and that should jump me up the other organisation rankings too.”
 
He doesn’t plan on hanging around waiting for an opportunity.  He has hope of getting out again before Christmas of this year, and then again in March of 2016.  He draws comparison with his own career to that of Liverpool’s super middleweight, Callum Smith.  “Look at Callum, he’s only had 17 fights and he’s won the WBC silver title and that puts him in a position to fight Badou Jack.  If you look at his record the best person he has beaten is Rebrasse, that made it for him.  Until that point the opposition was a poor level – so if you beat the right person you can be at that level and get the confidence.  If Billie Joe beats Lee then it’s an easy match to make with us both being with Frank Warren.  I just hope he would fancy it – if not I have to earn the mandatory position!”
 
It is easy to forget talking with Langford that his career is still in its infancy.  At 14 fights in, most competitors would be lucky to be ranked number seven in the British standings, so it speaks volumes about the fighter that he has achieved the same level on the world stage.  The next 12 months will be pivotal in all aspects of his career, defining which route he takes is only part of it.  From there the larger challenges lay ahead, the opposition will step up in class.  That all starts Saturday night, when he hopes to end the two year unbeaten streak of his Argentine foe.  In his three year boxing career Langford has travelled a great – geographically it may only be 196 miles, but in boxing terms it is lightyears.  His toughest journey now will be reaching the summit of the middleweight division.
 
Tommy wanted to thank his key sponsors JS Wright, Strategy Plus, Man Commercial, Ringside UK and Atlas Pain Relief – all of whom support him through his career.