Teak-tough Tividale tear-up merchant Jason Welborn has sensationally vacated the British middleweight title he won and defended in two epic wars with Tommy Langford.
The surprise move is one of two bombshells to rock the 11½st division in a matter of days.
In another twist, Birmingham’s Langford – tall and lean – has announced he can no longer make middle and will compete at 12st (super-middle).
The articulate Devon-born former champ has also joined Welborn’s stable, signing a management deal with Black Country Boxing. He will still be trained by Second City fight sage Tom Chaney.
While 29-year-old Tommy’s decision to quit middleweight is sensible and not unexpected, he looked huge and drawn at the weight, Welborn’s move has caught many off guard.
He ripped the Lonsdale Belt from Langford with a savage scrap voted “fight of the year” by the British Boxing Board of Control. The return, at Arena Birmingham last month, was even better. That may well be next year’s winner.
Only a single point separated both men on each occasion.
Hardman Welborn was to have put his title on the line against Mark Heffron at Manchester Arena on December 22, it was announced.
He has told Ringside contracts for that potential thriller had yet to be signed and sealed. PR for the showdown was premature.
Rumours of an impending megafight swirl
That, however, is not the reason behind 32-year-old Welborn’s decision to vacate.
Rumours of an impending megafight swirl, though both Jason and Black Country Boxing top brass are remaining tight-lipped.
“There are things in the pipeline,” Welborn, recently named Midlands fighter of the year, admitted. “It’s about talking to people and making the right decision.
“I was more than happy to go (against Heffron), but when they announced it, the contract hadn’t been signed. I think that’s where a lot of people got the wrong idea. We thought rather than mess him around, we’ll let Heffron fight for the title.”
While battle-scarred Welborn eyes a potential big-money fight, it’s back to boxing’s bread and butter for Langford. The former world title challenger no longer has his British crown, he no longer has the financial clout of major promoter Frank Warren behind him.
What he does have is a fresh army of supporters, courtesy of the blood and guts he displayed against Welborn. Blessed with textbook skills, Tommy won over fans who like their action served raw and Rocky-style.
In short, Tommy showed a warrior’s heart in two edge-of-the-seat contests that could have gone either way.
The fighting heart remains willing, but physically Langford can no longer boil down his long frame to middleweight.
“I didn’t gripe or groan, but it (making weight) was always really hard work,” he admitted, “and everyone close to me knows the restrictions I had to put on myself.
“You end up burning muscle away and I think that told in the knockdowns I suffered against Jason. My legs betrayed me and that was about dropping some strength in core areas.”
Langford admits he faces the long haul to a title shot
Due to the savagery they displayed, Welborn-Langford will forever be mentioned in the same breath as great domestic rivalries such as Eubank-Benn, Minter-Finnegan, Haye-Bellew.
“It’s very strange,” said Langford. “I’ve had bigger nights, yet I got more plaudits off the back of a loss than I did from a lot of my winning fights.
“I’m on a high, in some respects. I was in the fight of the year and gave a great performance of strength and character, but it’s not something that hadn’t been in the tank before. It’s always been in the tank, I’ve just never had to use it. I’ve shown you’ve got to be prepared to be in a fight of the year to beat me.”
Langford is honest enough to admit he, again, faces the long haul to a title shot. Black Country Boxing is the ideal vehicle for that Second Coming.
He said: “I’ve always respected Errol (BCB boss Errol Johnson) and his team, what he does and delivers for his fighters. BCB put on the first fight with Jason and they were great to work with and I’m happy to do it again.
“I’m not a champ, I’m not a challenger. The reality is I’m starting again. I’m coming off the back of two losses, the door is not open to big TV promotions. I always envisaged myself as above British level, but now I’ve got to do it again.
“I’ve just got to grab everything that comes to me now.”
“I’m delighted to bring Tommy to BCB,” said Johnson. “He had two absolute wars with Jason Welborn and showed, especially in that second fight, real heart and courage.
“He was a pleasure to deal with on both occasions and, now he is stepping up in weight, we believe he can be a real force in the super-middleweight division. Tom Chaney is an exceptional trainer and he and Tommy will work on their game with a view to having Tommy back out in early 2019.”
Tommy Owens dubs Saturday’s show at Aston Villa’s Holte Suite “Fright Night”
* With Halloween in mind, Birmingham promoter Tommy Owens has dubbed this Saturday’s show at Aston Villa’s Holte Suite “Fright Night”. The quality bill should provide thrills and gore aplenty.
All eyes will be on Ishmael Ellis, who faces fellow Brummie Kane Baker for the Midlands light-welter title in December.
First, Ishmael, a gas fitter by day, must overcome Jamie Speight. The eight-rounder is an interesting marker for the forthcoming championship battle.
Devon’s Speight, who’s won 15 of 45 fights, was outpointed by Baker at the Holte Suite last June.
Ishmael, aged 27, has yet to taste defeat in an unblemished eight-fight career. To date, he has passed every test: it is time to step up to the plate.
His skill-set, smooth as melted butter, should prove too much for Speight. But with Baker in his sights, inside-distance victory would be a real statement.
It’s down the packed bill, but Staffordshire rivals Shaun Cooper and Lee Gunter may provide the fight of the night.
Cooper, raised in Walsall but fighting out of Pete Hickenbottom’s Great Wyrley gym, is beginning to make waves. He’s entered the “one to watch” category. The 21-year-old has peeled off five straight wins and this will be his first six-rounder. It will also be his sternest test.
It may be Halloween, but expect fireworks
Under Hickenbottom, Cooper has developed from the slugger who gained four Midlands amateur titles into an accomplished box fighter.
He said: “I turned pro because I wasn’t enjoying the amateur game any more. You’d train hard and not get the decision. Now I train hard and get the decision.
“I love boxing – it’s a Travel, not a hobby. As a pro, I have the time to show my skill and pick my shots. As an amateur, it was all about throwing 1,100 punches.
“I’ve got a good following and it’s growing – the more I fight, the more tickets I sell. I want to go as far as I can. I want to fight for the British title. I look at the (domestic) lightweight division and don’t see anyone who scares me.”
Gunter, from Cannock, is a tough 22-year-old who enjoys dragging opponents into trench warfare. But after winning his first three contests, he has lost two on the spin: June’s points defeat to Myles Vale was a barnstormer.
He’ll be keen to get back on track against a county rival. It may be Halloween, but expect fireworks.
Good to see Birmingham’s punching poet Matt Windle squeeze in a four-rounder on the bill.
The 28-year-old super-flyweight, who hasn’t fought since drawing with Pablo Narvaez at the same venue in May, meets Anwar Alfadi. The Sheffield man has won only two of 86 and should pose few problems. Windle is 4-1-1.
Also on the bill: 4-round welter: Ben Fields (Digbeth, 1-0) v Youssef Al Hamidi (Dewsbury, 16-122-4); 4-round light: Clayton Bricknall (Wolverhampton, 1-0) v Dylan Draper (Braintree, 0-20); 4-round middle: Shaka Thompson (Selly Oak, 4-0) v Jordan Grannum (3-37-1); 6-round light-middle: Tommy Silcox (Tamworth, 6-0) v Fonz Alexander (Newark, 6-85).
Tickets are £35 (standard), £50 (VIP balcony), £65 (VIP dinner). Go to www.topboxing.co.uk
Source : BirminghamMail