BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Ted Cheeseman reckons it is a sign of his mental strength that he resumes his boxing career with a make-or-break clash against Sam Eggington on Saturday night.
The Bermondsey super-welterweight had a horrible 2019.
Cheeseman, 24, showed his bravery as he took a battering at the hands of classy European champion Sergio Garcia as his perfect record in the pro ranks was emphatically ended.
He then revealed he was battling a gambling addiction that had cost him more that £1million.
Cheeseman drew with Kieron Conway in a defence of his British crown before then losing that title to Manchester’s Scott Fitzgerald in October.
The former Fisher amateur was left raging and disillusioned at the scoring for his last two contests and contemplated quitting the sport.
But now he is back as he headlines Eddie Hearn’s first Fight Camp show – taking place in the promoter’s back garden and also the base for Matchroom Boxing’s HQ.
Cheeseman challenges Sam Eggington, 26, for the IBF International title.
The 26-year-old Midlander has a 28-6 record but is on a four-fight winning streak since being halted by WBC Silver champion Liam Smith in March 2019.
Cheeseman said: “Last year I had a lot of mad, mad thoughts [about] retiring from boxing. [I’d] just had enough of it.
“But I’m a fighter and whether it is inside or outside of the ring I’ve got that mentality to just keep pushing and pushing until I get what I want. When I started at the age of 12, my aim was to become world champion, or give myself the best chance of fulfilling that target.
“The troubles are my regrets. But it ain’t about where the story started or where it is in the middle – it’s where it ends. It’s my chance to overcome those regrets, push on with my career and make sure I finish where I want to finish.
“The Garcia fight was the best thing that happened to me [Cheeseman revealed his addiction afterwards]. But I’d have loved to have gone on from that and been
17-1 and had two more wins last year.
“But it shows how strong mentally I am now to push another year on in a big fight being confident and excited.
“I’ve not lost any hunger. I’m not doing it for the money. I’m doing it because I want to get as far as I possibly can now.”
Cheeseman had put himself on a fast-track to the top. In his 13th outing he outpointed seasoned American Carson Jones and had his hands on the British belt two bouts later with a unanimous decision over Asinia Byfield.
But then came the Garcia defeat and a succession of setbacks.
“I’ve had a lot of time to refresh my mental state but also my body, the little niggles I had,” said the South Londoner. “As a fighter when you’re pushing for fights all the time you never really get that chance of a break.
“[I’ll] take Sam’s IBF belt off him and having a higher ranking with them will open a lot of bigger doors.”
Cheeseman and Eggington have both built up a reputation for being in gruelling wars.
But Cheeseman produced hit-and-move tactics against Fitzgerald last time out.
“No matter what at certain points of the fight it is going to be a war,” he said. “But I’m going to make the fight how I want to make the fight. As long as I do that I win comfortably.
“As long as I don’t play into Sam’s hands and I do what my corner team tell me to do, stick to the game plan, then I feel I’m just too good for Sam.
“It’s whoever is the better man on the night. I believe I’m better all-round than Sam is.”
Eggington has always bounced back from a setback. He halted Peckham’s Johnny Garton in Prizefighter but was outpointed by Tooting’s Bradley Skeete when he challenged for the Commonwealth and British straps.
Eggington said: “It isn’t great [if you lose], but I always think we’ll get back in the gym and build from there. I started with nothing, so a loss is not going to knock you all the way back down. You’ve got to rebuild, get your mind straight and go for what you want.
“When I lost the European title [in 2017] people were waiting for me to retire. I didn’t retire, I moved up a weight.
“If you want to carry on then carry on. Boxing isn’t a thing to do half-heartedly.
“As long as your mind is in it you can stick around. Too many people are putting massive things on a loss. Not everyone is walking around getting 50 wins and walks out a millionaire. It’s not the case.
“I put a tweet out saying when the boxing is back, I’m back. We had a list of names to pick from and Ted was there, we picked him out.
“The thought of fighting in Eddie’s back garden with no-one there feels a bit crazy and it was something I wanted to be involved in.
“You’ve got to count your blessings that you’re boxing. Maybe if Covid wasn’t happening we’d have gone a different way.
“You have to fight someone from Britain and this is what has come up.”
PICTURES BY MARK ROBINSON
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