Undefeated middleweight, Tommy Langford, faces a tough challenge when he faces Avtandil Khurtsidze for the vacant WBO interim title at the Leicester Arena on Saturday.
Langford, the current WBO Intercontinental champion, feels like has no choice but to deal with the fight which WBO champion, Billy Joe Saunders, didn’t want.
“Look, Khurtsidze was Billy Joe’s mandatory but that fight didn’t happen, so I’m happy to do his job for him,” says Langford. “When I win, I’ve as much of a claim to being the full champ as Billy Joe!
“Besides, it’s not just about the ‘interim’ belt; it’s where the victory will place me. People will no longer be able to avoid me. Thereafter, if Billy Joe gets a big fight and wins it, he’ll have to fight me.”
However, Langford knows he must improve on his last performance against Sheffield’s Sam Sheedy if he wants to lure the big names in the middleweight division.
“It weren’t my best performance,” says Langford. “I was maybe at 60%, but that was still enough for me to win the British title. What will I be able to achieve at 100%?
“Every fighter wants to deliver a perfect performance but, to be fair to myself, it was very hard to look good against Sheedy. Sam didn’t come to fight. He was very negative, refused to engage, ran away.
“He just tries to goad you into making mistakes. It was a very strange tactic for a British title fight and proved a losing tactic.
“I felt I won six of the first eight rounds but then became a bit tentative when, if I’d put my foot on the pedal, I’d possibly have got him out. Still, I dealt with a very tricky customer everyone else was avoiding and move on. The most important thing is that I got myself over the line.
“I’ve since vacated my Commonwealth belt, and Sheedy gets to challenge for it. How bizarre is that?! I’ve retained my British title as a banker, but I might never defend it because I want to operate at world level from now on. If I win in Leicester, I’ll be leaving the British scene behind.”
While Tommy is known to be very fit and able to keep up the pace in a fight, he won’t need to pile on the pressure come Saturday – Khurtsidze will undoubtedly be doing that from the opening bell.
“It’s been a very enjoyable camp,” Langford said. “It’s very much about me being me, manning up, refusing to allow Khurtsidze any opportunity to bully me. Every session has been very hard and intense and that suits me. This is my sort of fight, what I’m made for. I’m feeling very positive. I’ll be fully prepared for 12 tough, tough rounds.”
Langford is certainly confident and hopeful that 2017 will bear great fruits.
“2017 is gonna be a huge year for Tommy Langford,” said Langford. “Frank Warren and BT Sport are going to need top quality fighters who are happy to fight anybody, and I place myself in that bracket. This new deal is going to be crucial to securing the biggest fights for me.
“Smashing the man no one else would fight would be a massive statement of intent.”
Remaining tickets for Saturday’s action priced £30 are available from www.ticketmaster.co.uk