Published: 06:00, 22 July 2019
Maidstone boxer Sam Noakes is targeting a world title after signing a four-year contract with legendary promoter Frank Warren.
The deal sees Noakes turn professional under one of the biggest names in the sport after a successful amateur career at Westree ABC.
It’s been quite a year for the former Valley Park schoolboy, who turned 22 on Saturday.
He won the national light-welterweight title in April, claimed gold on his England debut in the Tri Nations tournament a month later and is set to make his pro bow on a big London show in September.
Warren manages heavyweight star Tyson Fury and WBO super-middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders and has also worked with the likes of Frank Bruno, Nigel Benn, Joe Calzaghe, Naseem Hamed, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton over the years.
He’s a man who makes things happen and Noakes is aiming high after joining his stable.
“I’m well chuffed with it,” said Noakes. “Everything I wanted to do this year has come together perfectly and I can’t wait to start.
“From what I’ve been told, my name came up a few times where I’ve been knocking over a lot of the boys.
“Just before I went to the Tri Nations he invited me along to the Billy Joe Saunders fight and I met his son, Francis, who’s now my manager.
“I was invited up to the offices, he said all the right things and I wanted to sign with him.
“It’s nice that they’ve approached me. I didn’t have to go looking for it or anything.
"It’s like the hard work’s paying off when you’re getting noticed and it makes you feel like you’re wanted.
“I wanted to win the ABAs and box for my country, and I did both of them, and the next step was to wait for a promoter to approach me.
“Frank Warren is one of the top promoters in the country and I jumped at the chance to work with him.
“It’s perfect timing for me.
“I’m still fresh where I’ve not been in the amateurs for too long, and my mind’s still fresh, so I’ll be able to learn more.
“They wouldn’t sign you if they didn’t think you were going to go all the way, I suppose, but it’s early days yet.
“They believe in me and I reckon I can go all the way and win a world title.
“There’s no reason why not. I’ve overcome all the other obstacles I’ve faced.
“I’d like to get a British title within three years and then it’s playing it by ear with the world.”
Noakes, who’s given up work as a roofer to train full-time, wouldn’t be in boxing without mum Sharon.
He was 13 when she took him along to Westree and still looks after him today.
Noakes said: “I was getting into a bit of trouble and my mum wanted me to get some discipline.
“She made me go at first - I didn’t really like it - but I started and haven’t looked back.
“My brother, Sean, was doing it first, he loved it and my mum asked them if they’d take me.
“She talks about that a little bit and I thank her for it.
“She’s like my nutritionist now.
“She’s the reason I get down to the weight because she does all my food.
“She gets up, cooks my omelette and runs my bath before I work.
“I’ve got it all there at home really. It’s made it a lot easier.”
While Sharon got him started, it’s trainer Lee Owen who turned Noakes into a national champion.
The pair forged a terrific partnership as Noakes blew away opponents with his relentless pressure and punching power.
It’s a style that looks well-suited to the pro ranks.
Noakes said: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Lee.
“I had a bit of time out two years ago and then it sort of hit me that I could do well at it.
“I got with him and we worked together brilliantly.
“The first year didn’t go quite to plan - I went out of the ABAs in the quarter-finals - but we went back to the drawing board, said what we’d do differently and it worked.
“He always put in the extra sessions with me.
“Westree’s only open three days a week but he was up there with me five or six times a week, so he put himself out.
“I’m probably more suited to the pros than I am the amateurs.
“I’ve had that my whole amateur career. Everyone’s always said ‘you’ll suit the pros’ because it’s longer rounds and I’ve got a good engine.
“It’s a bit rougher, you can do all these little tricks of the trade and make it more suited to how I fight.
“I’d like to knock out the first 10 opponents - that’ll be my little goal.
“I won't go looking for it, because that can get a bit messy, but that’s what I’d like to do and there’s no reason why I can’t.”