On 22nd October 2016, Craig Cunningham (17-1-0, 4 KOs) stepped into the Barclaycard Arena as the underdog to face Anthony Ogogo (then 11-0 with 7 early). To cut a long story short, Cunningham boxed a near perfect fight and retired Ogogo after eight rounds. Next, Cunningham will travel to Leicester and face fellow Birmingham based boxer Tommy Langford (18-0-0, 6 KOs) for the British Middleweight title. Prior to the bout, both Craig Cunningham and trainer Jon Pegg spoke with BritishBoxers about the match up.
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Heading into the fight with 2012 Olympic Medallist Anthony Ogogo, Cunningham insists he was more than confident of coming away with a victory. “I had bags of confidence, I had nothing to lose,” he explained. “I was a big underdog. I felt no pressure, so I thought I’d just go in there and enjoy it”—and he certainly did enjoy it. It became apparent early on that the local lad was in control, and after a flurry of shots in the second round he had floored his famed opponent. The fight continued in a similar vein and Ogogo was retired in the eighth round citing a fractured eye socket. As a result of the bout, Cunningham won the vacant International WBC Middleweight thus setting up this British title bout.
Naturally, Cunningham would be better suited to fighting at light middleweight, but after taking a chance to fight Ogogo, he had to capitalise on the opportunities that followed; Pegg explained it further. “Cunningham is actually a light-middle, but opportunity knocks and once he beat Ogogo then that opens more doors and you don’t turn down a British title fight. We don’t have the easiest of runs at our gym and we don’t get title fights land in our lap, so when we get one we make the most of it. Sam’s (Eggington) whole situation has bred that into our lads, don’t worry about what the fight is, just go in and win it.”
Heading into a fight with Langford, there are few better men to prepare Craig than Pegg, as he recalls being the manager for the early stages of Langford’s career. “I managed his first 10 fights, so I know him back to front,” he said. “It also means I know how good he is, I know what he’s good at, how strong he is, and I know that for Craig to win he has to be punch perfect.”
The pair have sparred previously, though Cunningham concedes he doesn’t take much from it. Both were at separate stages of camp, as he explains it’s completely different when you step into the ring and fight for real. In terms of how the styles match up, he simply said: “I take each fight as it comes, I know Tommy moves about a bit but I think it’ll be a good fight.”
I posed the question as to whether Craig feels an additional boost heading into the bout, following on from what so far is a career defining win, though he suggests he’ll be approaching it the same way, saying: “I think I’ll be the underdog again, and I’ll be going in with the same attitude, just full of confidence and looking to take it to him.”
His trainer echoes the sentiment and agrees that his man will likely enter as the underdog, but that’s not how he sees it. “Tommy’s a good lad, very skilful. Before Craig beat Ogogo, if you were to pair Ogogo and Langford then that would have been billed as a 50/50 so there’s nothing to fear. In fact there’s less to fear as you’re the underdog.”
One of the main talking points following the announcement of the fight was that it would be taking place in Leicester; it seems a strange choice considering both reside from the Birmingham area but neither coach nor fighter seem overly fazed by the prospect of fighting away from home.
“It’s a bit odd,” admits Pegg. “The first contract we got actually said Birmingham, but a a ring’s a ring and we’re the away fighter so who cares? Our lads have won all over the place.”
Cunningham was slightly more disheartened, but still is prepared to go in there and get the job done. “It is weird, I’m a bit gutted it’s not in Birmingham but we’ve just got to get on with it,” he said. “My fans love to travel, so I’m good to go.”
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Last year Craig Cunningham was awarded the crown of ‘Midlands Boxer of the year’, something he is extremely proud of. “It’s a massive achievement, and a huge honour,” he said. Langford was another nominee, and a British title win in April would go some way to staking his claim to maintain the title next year. Reflecting on 2016, he said: “I was in some great fights last year and this just shows I’ve been recognised. Boxing in the Midlands is massive at the minute, that’s why I’m a bit gutted it’s not in Birmingham. These are the kind of shows that we want to have here, we’re two local lads and so everyone’s talking about it.”
The fight tops the bill on BT Sport, April 22nd in the Leicester Arena, it will be the second domestic based televised show as part of the new deal between Frank Warren and BT. Undercard details will be confirmed at a later date.