Tommy Langford’s (18-1) maiden British middleweight title defence to the no.1 challenger Jack Arnfield (24-2) has been added to the Groves v Eubank Jr undercard in Manchester on February 17.
Promoter Frank Warren initially won the rights to the fight last year but due to no contracts being received by the British Boxing Board of Control, the contest was put back out to purse bids, which Arnfield’s manager Steve Wood of VIP Promotions won.
The contest was initially slated to take place in Blackpool, Arnfield’s hometown, at the end of February, but an arrangement with Sauerland Promotions has seen the fight brought forward in date to take place on the World Boxing Super Series super-middleweights semi-final between world champions, Groves and Eubank.
Birmingham’s Langford has been waiting for over a year to defend the honours that he won with a mixed decision over Sam Sheedy back in November 2016.
Langford enthused, “I’m delighted to be fighting on such a big event to a new audience on ITV, who may not have seen me fight before.
“It’s been 14-months since I won the title, so I’m chomping at the bit to get back in the ring to defend it finally.
“I’m going to put on a career-best performance and I want my reign as the British champion to be remembered for beating the no.1 challenger in style.”
Arnfield was installed as the mandatory challenger by the BBBofC in June last year, three months after triumphing over Brian Rose at the Manchester Arena in a defence of his WBA International title.
‘The Baggies Bomber’ was initially set to give fellow Brummie Craig Cunningham the title shot in a voluntary defence after he shocked Anthony Ogogo to win the WBC International middleweight a month before Langford bagged the Lonsdale belt.
However, a far better opportunity emerged when the WBO presented the top-two ranked fighters in their standings a chance to win the interim World middleweight title to land a shot at the full champion Billy Joe Saunders next.
Georgian Avtandil Khurtsidze was top of the list in the World Boxing Organisation’s 160-pound rankings, with Langford in second place after four successful defences of his WBO Inter-Continental strap.
The pair fought at the Leicester Arena in April last year, live on BT Sport, and the travelling fighter, referred to as the ‘Mini Mike Tyson’, stunned the crowds when he caught Langford flush on the chin in the fifth-round with a lunging left hook.
The Birmingham resident bravely rose to his feet and looked ok to continue, but a slight unsteadiness showed in his legs, resulting in experienced official Phil Edwards’ decision to wave the fight off.
At the time, Khurtsidze was known as a colourful character but he’s now been caught out as a convicted criminal after being arrested on RICO charges at his home in New York.
Exactly one month before his scheduled July 8 world title fight with WBO king Billy Joe Saunders, his reward for defeating the no.2 seeded Langford, the 38-year-old was arrested on racketeer charges and conspiracy to commit fraud, along with 32 others, linking him in a Russian and Georgian crime syndicate.
Langford’s loss on the world stage and subesequent inactivity dropped his stock with the WBO down to 11th place, but he has firm plans to fight again on the world stage soon.
He confirmed, “I’ve learnt from my loss at the world level and won’t make that mistake again; I’ll be polished and ready, and I will return back to the top.”
Both fighters have been in the same frustrating position, waiting on the impending fight date to be confirmed for many months, so each slotted in a keep-busy fight towards the end of last year - Langford defeated tough Nicaraguan Miguel Aguila (11-37-1) at the First Direct Arena on October 21; and Arnfield eased past Adam Jones (6-26-5) on points in November in Liverpool, also in a six-rounder.
The February 17 British middleweight championship contest between champion Langford and mandatory challenger Arnfield is set to be an exciting and intriguing 50-50 fight for the purists between two of the best operators in the British 160-pound scene.
The popular WBSS super-middleweight tournament is now at the semi-final stage and the impending fight between the only world champions competing in the competition is anticipated to be the best yet.
George Groves v Chris Eubank Jr - both are world-class, and each displayed their worth in their last bouts when they respectively stopped their unbeaten opponents in the quarter-finals to get to the penultimate stage.
“Saint George”, the current WBA Super world super-middleweight champion, blasted unbeaten Jamie Cox away in the fourth-round with a rib-breaking body blow, and Eubank Jr got rid of the undefeated Avni Yildrim in three.
Groves is experienced and heavy-handed, and his counterpart is an incredible athlete that imposes relentless pressure. It’s a 50-50 match-up between two big characters of the sport and one that will inevitably capture the imagination of the public as it draws nearer.
Another British championship contest takes place on the same night when titleholder Ryan Walsh (22-2-1) defends his featherweight belt to Isaac Lowe (14-0-2).
Morecombe’s Lowe, 23, known as the ‘Westgate Warrior’, won the English featherweight title back in 2015, added the Commonwealth strap in 2016, and fought for the European in 2017 against Dennis Ceyla, but the fight was halted on a cut and ended with a draw in the fourth-round.
For Cromer’s Walsh, 31, this’ll be the fourth defence of his Lonsdale belt that he originally won back in 2015 at Wembley Arena.
Heavy-handed English cruiserweight champion Arfan Iqbal (12-0) gets the toughest test of his six-year professional career to date when he tackles Commonwealth Games gold medalist Simon Vallily (12-1).
The 200-pound national champion destroyed Wadi Camacho last July to win the English title, which remained his only fight of 2017. His modest record of five KO’s from 12 contests doesn’t sound very intimidating, but nearly all of those stoppages came in contests scheduled above six-rounds. His four-rounders have mostly resulted in points win, but taking them away, his knockout ratio would be 100 per cent.
Vallily’s only loss came at the hands of unbeaten Latvian sensation Mairis Breidis, the current WBC World cruiser champion, whose next fight is against Oleksandr Usyk in the most anticipated contest in the WBSS cruiserweight series.