Rothwell boxer Sam Smith targeting Euro title glory

Sam Smith takes a break from training at her gym in Crossgates.Sam Smith takes a break from training at her gym in Crossgates.
Sam Smith takes a break from training at her gym in Crossgates.
ROTHWELL boxer Sam Smith pulls no punches in recalling her emotions following defeat to Malawi’s Anisha Basheel in last June’s Commonwealth title fight.

Yet the Leeds lightweight’s spirits were immediately lifted by manager Steve Goodwin who promised her the prospect of another bid for a belt should the 38-year-old wish to continue her pro boxing career.

Nine months on, Goodwin has kept to his word with painter and decorator Smith now determined to brush aside Spain’s Miriam Gutierrez fighting for the vacant European Boxing Union lightweight title in Madrid on Friday, March 22.

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Seacroft-raised Smith has made a late introduction into the pro boxing ranks with the former John Smeaton pupil having previously fought for around a decade under the Malta Boxing Commission banner – a UK-based organisation which amateurs fight under.

Sam Smith, centre, with (from left), sponsor Matt Jackson, Paddy Jackson and trainer Martin Williams.Sam Smith, centre, with (from left), sponsor Matt Jackson, Paddy Jackson and trainer Martin Williams.
Sam Smith, centre, with (from left), sponsor Matt Jackson, Paddy Jackson and trainer Martin Williams.

A meeting with former Leeds star Carl Johanneson’s trainer Martin Williams then ultimately led to the Yorkshire ace turning pro – combining the bid for belts with her day job as a painter and decorator with her own company Taurus Decor in Leeds.

Three years after turning pro, the boxer and her partner Laura are also proud parents to 20-month year old twins Georgie and Jaxon with an extremely busy Smith also teaching young boxers at evening classes at her Alliance Boxing Club in Crossgates which she co-owns with school friend Graham Matterson.

Determined to set the ultimate example, the fighter is now determined to make the most of a brilliant opportunity and bringing her weight’s vacant European lightweight championship back to Leeds.

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“I’m very open about where I am and my age and things like that,” Smith told the YEP.

Sam Smith in training.Sam Smith in training.
Sam Smith in training.

“I’m honest about it, I don’t bury my head in the sand so I know I am extremely lucky to get another chance so quickly and especially at my age.

“I am 39 this month so I know now that everyone has done everything that they can to help me get there. It’s down to me now. “The Commonwealths fight is still really bitter. It’s the first time I’ve ever got stopped and I have learnt so much from that fight. “I work full time so I wasn’t in full time training long enough but there were no sort of excuses from me.

“I just said, you know what, that’s boxing, I boxed the fight and it was a big, big chance for me but Steve Goodwin stuck to his word.

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“He saw how devastated I was in the changing rooms after. He said to me ‘I don’t make promises but I promise you Sam if you want to carry on then I will get you another title shot’ and he has stuck to his word and got me a European title shot.

“Now I am looking to finish work until after the fight this week and we are looking at a couple more sponsors to come on board just to help to get me through training because I don’t want any regrets.

“Win, lose or draw I want to come home and think right, I did everything, there was nothing else I could do.”

Now trained by Williams and with Johanneson often in her corner, Smith has been keeping good company with the lightweight having trained in the presence of Leeds’ very own IBF featherweight world champion Josh Warrington at Dickys Gym in Batley.

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With offices downstairs, Smith’s Alliance club is not available in the day and her recent forays to Dickys also led to receiving strength and conditioning from Warrington’s dad and trainer Sean O’Hagan.

Blessed by just about the ultimate Leeds support network, next month’s Madrid date will now present the 12th fight of Smith’s pro career with nine of those ending in victory.

The only other defeat came when Smith fought for the vacant Universal Boxing Federation International lightweight belt against Greece’s Christina Linardatou at Aria Suite in Leeds in November 2015.

Smith says plenty has changed since. “Christina had one more fight after ours and then she fought the WBC world champion Delfine Persoon,” said Smith.

“And my defeat to her was a controversial loss.

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“This is when I was with the MBC and this is what drew a line under it for me because I was actually awarded the win in the ring.

“Everyone had then taken pictures and left and gone into the bar next door and then they said they needed a word with me in the changing rooms.

“They said there had been a mistake and that the wrong results have been read out to the wrong corners.

“But at that point I was very calm, I said there’s the belt, I packed my bags and off I went so it was very controversial.

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“I never got to the bottom of it – it was just one of those things that didn’t happen so maybe somewhere along the lines we will hope to get a rematch with her but one thing at a time.”

Yet on the contrary, away from the ring Smith has become accustomed to taking on several tasks at a time – combining motherhood with being a pro boxer and coach as well as a painter and decorator.

Win, lose or draw on March 22 – it will be back to the day job thereafter for a fighter whose name has also caused problems but not because of her famous male singer namesake.

The fighter appears as Sam ‘SJ’ Smith in all official boxing documents and the Leeds star explained: “It was an issue the board had as there was already a male Sam Smith.

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“They basically kept rejecting different versions such as Sam J Smith, Sam Jayne Smith and then it ended up coming back as Sam’ SJ’ Smith.

“By that time I couldn’t be bothered going back to them again to put it right.”

Opening up about her rather hectic lifestyle, Smith smiled: “People who work with me or see me just say I am mad and that they don’t know how I do it!

“But we get the twins ready and then go to nursery and then I leave for work and I make sure I leave around half past three to go to the gym and do my training, get showered, eat and then we have got the classes at the gym because the gym is open six days a week as well.

“I’ll be back to the painting and decorating on the Monday after the fight, unless Eddie Hearn comes along that is.

“Then I won’t have to do more paint pots!”

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