BBN pay a visit to Basildon’s light heavyweight, Sam Stokes 1-0-0 as he prepares for his second pro outing on November 21 at Camden Centre, Kings Cross against Lithuanian, Ernestas Dapkus.
The fledgling pro talks to us about his pro debut, injury woes, unlicensed boxing and his bizarre connection to record-breaking Frenchman, Georges Carpentier – the first boxer to fight in every weight class from flyweight to heavyweight.
Your pro debut was a shut out win over the Czech Republic’s Josef Obeslo 5(3)-18(2)-2 at the Camden Centre, Kings Cross in July this year. Tell us what you remember about that special night?
“How I felt really, obviously I’ve done it many times in the unlicensed shows, but there’s nothing like that feeling than being in the pros. The feeling that you get in the pro debut it’s just like nothing else. I was quite nervous and I had to wait around a lot and it didn’t help when you had boxers like Arthur Herman coming back into the changing rooms after losing his unbeaten record to an away fighter. There was a few that came back with an upset so it made it harder for me. I’d sold the most tickets but ended up getting put on last so that my bigger crowd of fans could carry on the atmosphere and sell more bottles behind the bar!”
Almost straight after your debut you had another fight date booked in at the O2 Arena until you suffered a head injury that kept you of training for three weeks. What happened there exactly?
“I was looking to get another two fights by now but when you train at this high level you can hurt more. It was really frustrating because I couldn’t even go for a run or anything like that. All I wanted to do was train but I couldn’t.”
How did you spend your time out?
“Just a lot of resting really and trying to keep my mind off things. I still watched some boxing as I always do. I’m always studying the others in my division. I study the ones with titles to know what it takes to win one, I look at everyone that I could meet on the way; you’ve got to do that as a boxer.”
Tell us about your team, who makes up Team Stokes exactly?
“My main trainer is Frank Greaves, he’s actually about to make his pro debut at 37-years-old. Johnny Greaves and Frank are the ones in my corner. If Frank’s doing his own training then I normally do a bit with John so it all works well. Frank is a cuts-man as well so if anything goes wrong there then he’s on hand to help that side of things out. My sparring partners are Richard Horton 7(1)-2(2)-0, Sam Piasecki 0-0-1, and English champ, Ahmet Patterson to name a few.”
You hail from a Romany Gypsy background, just like Tyson Fury and Billy Joe Saunders, how important is that heritage to you and what effect does it have on your professional career?
“Definitely positive, Billy Joes’ uncle lives next door to myself on my site funnily enough. It definitely helps to sell tickets every time – I can always sell tickets. Everyone knows everyone so it’s a real tight community.”
Romany Gypsy, Johnny Frankham was the British light heavyweight champion in 1975 and actually knocked down the indomitable Cassius Clay in an exhibition fight. Does that provide inspiration to you and other aspiring Romany Gypsy boxers as to what can be achieved?
“Yeah, of course it does. My current manager, Mark Prior and I have just found out that we’re related. My great uncle, Joe Beckett fought Georges Carpentier and when I signed contracts with Mark I mentioned it and it turns out that he is a distant relation of his as well. He died in the 60’s and was boxing in 1920’s. He was British, European and Commonwealth heavyweight champ. Even when I was a kid from way back, my main ambition has always been to go pro. That was always the end result for me.”
You plied your trade in the unlicensed circuit, talk us through that experience?
“I’ve boxed all over, even in in Holland. I did well, I got 11 wins from 11 fights. That helped to me to turn pro. It’s becoming more of a springboard into the pros now, you see a lot of unlicensed fighters in the pros now. It wasn’t always great, some of the venues were shabby, and in one fight there were no doctors at ringside. My teammate at the Peacock Gym, Jordan Smith once boxed a lad two stone heavier than him. Also, you’re never guaranteed to get paid so it’s a tough old game. The Queensberry League is how they all should be run. I‘ve been to one of their shows in Surrey to watch my mate Liam box and that is how they should be done. I think they’ve got a bit of money to back it plus with their Eurosport TV deal. Unfortunately, the bad unlicensed shows will never change there will always be dodgy shows, there’s no set rules and anyone can put on a show. I did get involved in bare knuckle fights but not for money, it was always to settle disputes. You always had to uphold your family name and if you didn’t do it then you couldn’t even walk out of the door but I left that behind a long time ago when I wanted to become a pro.”
As a pro, are you fortunate enough to be full-time with it? “I’m full-time, yes. Normally it’s tough for people at my level and I know what others have to go through getting up at 5am fir a run then working all day and training in the gym late at night. Luckily for me, my brother runs my family business.”
What has been the hardest part of the paid ranks for you so far?
“The obvious answer is probably the harder training and work ethic that comes with being a pro. Obviously, leaving the family and social life behind is hard. Not being able to have a beer with your pals when you want to is tough but that’s the life you sign away until 15 years later when you finish. If I didn’t do it then I’d look back with regret for the rest of my life so I’m dedicated to this life now.”
Your next opponent comes in the shape of Lithuanian, Ernestas Dapkus. Tell us what do you know about him?
“He’s been over here before, I know his background is more like martial arts but I’m naturally a boxer so I’ll do better than him there. He’s also tough, fit and he’s coming to fight. I’ll look to outbox him on the night. That’s on November 21st at the Camden Centre, the show is being organised by Micky Helliet now. I don’t know who else is going to be on, I guess the usual faces but I know that my teammate Jordan Smith will be on it.”
How soon do you think that you could be challenging for titles? “Maybe next year, I’d like to have a Masters title. It’s good to get those belts, but more importantly to get the championship rounds in. I’d be quite content with that to end next year with. I’m looking to get the learning fights out of the way as quick as I can. I want to fight regularly and learn from every fight whether win, lose or draw. British boxing back in the 60’s had it right where you fought more regularly and people didn’t worry about protecting the zero so much.”
All athletes have ambitions to go beyond their limits and dreams but what title would you be most content to win?
“If I could win the British title within two years then that would be amazing. It’s all about stages so once I’ve done that then I’d be talking about going further. If I had that Lonsdale belt around my waist then maybe then I’d be talking about Commonwealth and world titles. Richard Barber from the Board said to me that I had a lot of talent which meant a lot for me to hear that as I don’t think he would want to fill my head with wrong ideas.”
The fight is part of a Hellraiser Promotions show and while the rest of the schedule is still being put together, it will feature flyweight debutant, Jordan Smith, 21-years-old and hailing from the same gym as Stokes in London – The Peacock Gym.
Tickets are priced at £35, £60 and £100 and are available directly from the Team Stokes on 07908 862769.
To follow Sam Stokes on Twitter click here https://twitter.com/samnojokestokes Team Stokes would like to thank sponsors, Stubbins and Sons Building & Construction, Fisk Fire Group, and PR Manager Tim Rickson.