Light-middleweight takes on Sam Eggington on Saturday night for IBF International belt after battle with chronic gambling addiction
The extraordinary narrative of Ted Cheeseman’s fighting life continues on Saturday night when the 24-year-old headlines the first fight card to return on the Matchroom Boxing schedule since March 7.
His light-middleweight contest with Sam Eggington is the last of five fights in the novel, behind-closed-doors setting within the 15-acre gardens of Matchroom Sport in Brentwood, once Barry Hearn’s family home which he bought for £240,000 35 years ago. It is fitting that the ‘Brawl in Brentwood’, or ‘Matchroom Square Garden’ should climax with Cheeseman’s extraordinary story.
Last year, with fatherhood impending, Cheeseman gambled the entire proceeds of a house on a roulette wheel – and lost – in the midst of an addiction to gambling which had spiralled horribly out of control.
The fighter from Bermondsey had even wagered his entire purse before one of his fights, but with the guidance of family, friends, and his trainer, Tony Sims, and a visit to the Sporting Chance Clinic set up by Tony Adams, his life and career is now back on track.
‘The Big Cheese’, as the boxer, who has won 15 fights with nine knockouts, lost two and drawn one, is known, faces a tough test against Eggington for the International Boxing Federation International belt. “I had mad thoughts about retiring and other things last year, but If you stay determined and keep on pushing forwards you’ll be rewarded with the opportunities that you need. This is a big opportunity for me to refresh my career and push on”, Cheeseman said.
“I started out at 12 to be a world champion, and the troubles I had are now behind me. I’m still young and I’m still a baby. I’m 24 but I’m maturing all of the time and over the past 18 months I’ve learnt a lot. During lockdown I’ve had a lot of time to work on things. I’m making sure everything is perfect. Sam was a massive welterweight but he isn’t as dominant at light-middle.”
Eggington, whose record is 28 victories with 17 KOs and six defeats, defends the IBF belt. “I’m excited” he said. “As soon as I heard about these back garden brawls I rang Jon [Hill, at Matchroom] and said: ‘We need to be a part of this.’ I’m over the moon to be headlining the first one. It’s a good fight and it’s one that I believe I can win and look good in. It has all of the makings for a good night. You can lose and come back, history points to that. We’ve had big nights and we’ve had bad nights. They don’t define me. I’m still learning and I’m getting better. I’m getting bigger and stronger. I feel good, the weight has gone well and the training has gone well.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn, who has been transparent about matching his young guns in explosive 50-50 fights on the four cards at the company headquarters over the next month, explained: “When you talk about narratives and storytelling, Ted Cheeseman’s recovery from gambling addiction is incredible. No one around him knew of those problems.”
“It was only after his Sergio Garcia fight when he lost, and he was terrible that night, we got to understand his issues. No one could work it out. He came back to the changing room and blurted it all out to Tony [Sims]. I couldn’t believe it. We almost felt we’d let him down. He was making good money and headlining at the O2.
“There are some really good people like Tony and around Tony who funded Ted in the Tony Adams Clinic. After a couple of months he didn’t want to gamble anymore but he still had many demons. Then he boxed Kieran Conway and he should have won that fight. Then he fought Scott Fitzgerald and he was fantastic that night and lost, and thought he won. Now that period in his life is behind him and he’s been able to park that. We may well see another level to Ted.”
“Sam Eggington has got the bit between his teeth, too. We are expecting a cracker and we are delighted with the set-up for our first even t back. We have asked all our fighters to put everything into these fights, because they have a massive opportunity in front of an expectant audience on Sky Sports.”
I expect Cheeseman to claim a hard-fought points victory, but he must dominate early.