Sam Stokes

Adrian Martin
Changing to a new promoter can be difficult period for a boxer, building a new relationship with someone you can trust to ensure your profile is built within the sport.  Changing manager can be equally so, ensuring that the person you pick has your best interests at heart and guides your career both carefully and effectively.  Possibly the hardest change is selecting a new trainer, having the trust in the person to fine tune your skills and drive out your weakness.  For Sam ‘No Jokes’ Stokes, he decided that he was going to do all three at once.  “I’m three unbeaten and I’ve just signed a new contract with Goodwin Promotions as both Manager and Promoter as well as a new coach, Ross Woolgrove” says Stokes, reflecting on a busy 12 months.  “I don’t think I was getting managed correctly before.  I started to do some work with Ross and he said about talking to Steve Goodwin who he works closely with and since I’ve done it it’s a God send, a great move all round.”
It’s a new dawn for the 25 year old super middleweight from Basildon in Essex.  It also represents a fighter who is willing to take risks to ensure that they are getting the best out of their career.  For many fighters at the start of their career they would be happy starting out with three wins and no losses, but for Stokes he wasn’t willing to rest on his laurels when he knew something wasn’t right.  “All three of my fights were decent opponents.  I’m not sure they were right for someone who is a novice just turning over as I was giving away a lot of weight in them (the worst being eight lbs on his debut).  It just wasn’t the best of starts to me career, I was boxing in places that there was no way I could sell tickets).  I still came through the fights and got three points wins so I can’t moan about it and it’s onwards now.”
That ability to reflect and move on is indicative of a man who knows where he wants to get in the sport.  He already has a wealth of boxing experience behind his three professional fights having been an amateur fighter as a junior and fighting on the unlicensed circuit from the age of 17.  Is was at 24 that he made the step to being a professional and had a bust first seven months, fitting in all three of his fights.  Personal issues and injuries have kept him out of the ring since February of this year, but on November 7th Stokes is ready to start out on his new journey under Goodwin Promotions as he takes on Gordan Glisic at York Hall.  Glisic (6-26-2) is a tough Croatian who is regularly seen at York Hall and despite not having a wealth of victories on his record is likely to test Stokes over a few rounds having only been stopped once in the last two years.
Stoppage victories are something that Stokes has yet to taste in his professional career, but to his coach Ross Woolgrove he sees that as something that will come with time and not something to be worried about as he tells me:  “We’re going back to basics a little bit and making him sit on his shots a little bit more.  His confidence wasn’t great, he’s seen others stopping people and he’s started to doubt himself a bit but I’ve put him in the ring with some real tough boys who I’ve told to put it on him and Sam hardly even gets hit.  Once he starts to stop people then it will become a regular thing, but it’s not all about knocking people out, it’s about getting wins while looking good and not taking too much punishment then climb up the rankings.  The first thing we did was get him in the gym and take a look at him; he’s had some hard sparring, we took a look at his body to see what we could do to make him stronger and ensure he’s in his optimum weight division.  His record doesn’t suggest he can hit but he can hit and we’re happy with that.”
Woolgrove is a former military man, as wide as he is tall and utilises his links back to those serving their country to help test his young charge.  “I get a lot of army and paratrooper lads down at the gym.  They’re always strong and very game, have a lot of heart and can hold or give a shot so I like to put him in with them” says Woolgrove.  “They don’t care that it’s a civilian who has done a bit of unlicensed and is a pro fighter, they’ll happily go for him!  We help them out as much as we can and they come down to help us out, it’s good.”
Although the relationship as fighter and trainer has only started this year it is a friendship that spans back a lot longer.  So given there is a friendship that pre-exists the coaching, was there a risk that Stokes would be given preferential treatment in the gym?  “I feared that with us being friends already he might choose to have a day off here and there but there’s none of that and he does everything that he’s told, he’s the perfect fighter in that respect.  He does too much training if anything, he needs to learn to chill out and eat a little bit more!  He’s nine weeks from his fight and he’s on weight so now he can just get on with his sparring to be where he needs to be so there’s none of this panicking on the week of the fight to get the weight off, we’re already there.” says Woolgrove.  The move has also lead to Stokes being able to do his training closer to home, meaning that not only are the logistics of refining his skills easier but also it gives an opportunity to take build a local reputation as Woolgrove explains.  “Now he’s training in the area where he lives and he’s out doing his road work in front of people driving home from work and this is why his ticket sales will soar – he’s back where he belongs.” 

For Stokes, he is already feeling and seeing the benefits in the change of training setup.  “My body has changed, my diet has changed – me as a whole person has changed and I couldn’t wish for anything better.”  The linkup with Woolgrove has meant plenty of sparring with those in the army as well as paratroopers and access to quality strength and conditioning coaches.  This is, of course, all in preparation for his new start as a professional when he steps out at York Hall on November 7th.  Is he looking forward to stepping out at the home of boxing, a place where Goodwin Promotions have recently debuted an impressive new look staging setup?  “I’m buzzing; it’s the home of boxing and a place I’ve always wanted to box at.  The promotional side of things is phenomenal, I wasn’t getting that with my other manager and what I’m getting with Goodwin Promotions is great.”

For Sam, his motivation isn’t around becoming famous or earning his millions in the sport but instead the importance of building a body of work that can be looked back on in years to come.  “It’s the thought that I could sit back when I retire and say that I’ve done something, I can leave a legacy.  If I train hard now then I can leave a lifetime full of legacy when I retire and if titles come with it then that’s brilliant” he says, showing the ambition one would expect of an undefeated 25 year old with new dawns ahead of him.  New challenges start in November when the young Essex fighter will start to see the benefit of 12 months upheaval in his career.  This is a man who isn’t scared to take chances and look for new opportunities to better his chances of success.  November 7th is only the new start.

Sam wanted to that the some silent sponsors who buy a lot of tickets and help out with equipment that is required to further his career.  “They enjoy their boxing and throw a bit of money our way but it’s not something they want to shout about.”