Home Boxing News In depth interview with Tom Barker

In depth interview with Tom Barker

Pro-debutant Tom Baker makes his professional bow on Queensberry Promotions first ever BoxAcademy show which will be televised live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546) from the Troxy in London on Thursday 3rd May.

BoxAcademy is a new exciting monthly live show that will showcase the best young prospects in tough, action-packed, fights to develop quicker to championship level.

The debut of BoxAcademy features Steve O’Meara’s ten-rounder against Bradley Pryce as the headline attraction, plus young talents Ashley Sexton, Gary Corcoran, Charlie Hoy, Darryll Williams, John Dignum and Mitchell Smith on the undercard

Baker talks to boxing writer Glynn Evans about making his upcoming debut and his background.

Name: Tom Baker

Weight: Middleweight

Born: Leytonstone

Age:  20

Family background: I’m the ninth of 13 children! I’ve six brothers and six sisters. All the brothers had a go, all won national titles. My Jim got to an ABA semi at welter in the seniors but they’ve all given it up except for me and our Frank who’s 14. He’s already got to two national schoolboy finals, winning once. My uncle Mark, known as ‘Plod’, was a good pro (two time Commonwealth and two time British super-middle challenger and a British light-heavy challenger) but I was a bit young when his career was going on. He’s a bit big now!

I’m from a travelling family. Dad’s got a bungalow with a yard over Chingford (Essex) way and all the family and cousins live over there. I used to know a bit of Romany but sadly all our traditions seem to be fading away.

Trade: I work as a roofer with my Dad and uncle.

Nickname: Haven’t got one yet.

What age did you become interested in boxing and why? Like I say, we’re a big boxing family and I just followed my older brothers to the gym from the age of six or seven. Dad never boxed but he was really into it.

What do you recall of your amateur career? I started at the Repton and stayed there until I was about 17. I was trained by Bobby Beck and his son Robert. I won the Minors, two national schools titles, a junior ABA and the NACYPs, plus a couple of junior Four Nation golds.  When I was younger, I’d win without shining but, by the age of 14, 15, I really started to find myself.

All the family boxed at the Repton but, when I was about 17, I thought the senior coaching weren’t as good as the junior coaching had been so I became a bit of a ‘traitor’ and went over to West Ham. There, coached by Mickey May and Brian O’Shaughnessy I got to two senior ABA finals.

The first year (2010) I was beaten by Anthony Fowler from Liverpool, a very, very good boy. He floored me and stopped me in two rounds. Last year (2011), I got beaten by James Metcalfe who’s the son of (ex WBU light-welter champion) Shea Neary. It was one of my favourite fights, the audience really loved it but I felt the referee was against me. Going into the last round I was four points up but Metcalfe was shorter than me, kept coming in low and I had points deducted twice for pulling him down. Also, I was given two standing counts, one for no reason at all. I lost 32-30.

All told, I had 69 amateur fights and lost just seven. I boxed for England ten times and only lost one but never got the trips abroad, despite beating all their favourites. I beat George Carmen, (ABA champions) John and Danny Dignum, Callum Smith…..loads of good names.

Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? I really wanted to win a senior ABA title and possibly would’ve if I’d waited around another year. That way, I’d have entered the pros with a bit of pedigree and I’d have secured a better deal. All I lacked really was a bit of strength. But I’d had two goes, and didn’t want to waste any longer. The big thing was the Olympics but they had their favourites. I’m good mates with Billy Joe Saunders and he arranged a meeting with me and Frank Warren.

Tell us about your back up team: Frank manages and promotes me, Dean Powell is my matchmaker and I’m trained mainly by Mark Tibbs, though his dad Jimmy also gives helpful advice when I’m sparring. They both know their job. They’ve changed me from a tense ‘up straight’ boxer by getting me more relaxed and moving my head. I’ve been there six months and they’ve got me moving like a pro. They’ve also got me far stronger and I’m moving up to middleweight now. Both Mark and Jimmy have already helped me a lot.

What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I usually get up at 6.30, run for 35-40 minutes, graft on the roofs during the day then train afterwards. That was hard to start with but I’ve got myself used to it.

Closer to a fight, I stop work and train during the day, five days a week. I have Wednesdays and Friday off. If I train daytime, I run at night.

I work out at the Trad TKO Gym in Canning Town. After warming myself up, I’ll do four or five rounds of shadow (boxing) in the ring with Mark looking over me. If we’re sparring, I’ll do five or six rounds straight after. Lately, I’ve been sparring Billy Joe, Frank Buglioni and John O’Donnell. After that, I’ll do a few on the pads, then my groundwork before finishing with a skip. Mark’s circuits are always different. He really mixes it up.

Like most, I enjoy sparring best. That’s most important. I feel I’m learning all the time against different styles. Sometimes bag work can be boring.

Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I’m a stand back boxer, orthodox stance. I’ve a very good jab, that’s my favourite shot, but I also like to have a little spurt, mix it up, in and out. I’ve decent enough power, stopped quite a few in the amateurs.

What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? Moving my head all the time, particularly when I’m working inside.

What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? The amateurs was all about nicking points and not getting hit. The pros have smaller gloves and you’re aware it only takes one shot to turn the fight, either way. Just training for the pros, Mark’s got me more relaxed and comfortable. My breathing and fitness are better. I think the pros will suit me and I can’t wait.

Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? In the amateurs, I’d give it to Callum Smith. Though I beat him, I thought he was the better man, a very good stand up boxer with a lot of skill.

Mind, I’ve never been in with anyone better than my mate Billy Joe Saunders when we spar. Bill’s a very awkward southpaw who’s got everything already and, being so young, there’s a lot more to come from him.

All time favourite fighter: Sugar Ray Leonard. Class. Won world titles at four or five weights. I met him once at the Repton and he was a lovely fella.

All time favourite fight: The Manny Pacquiao-Marco Antonio Barrera fights.

Which current match would you most like to see made? Mayweather-Pacquiao. I think Mayweather beats him on points. There’s ways to beat Pacquiao he lost about three before. There’s no way to beat Mayweather yet.

What is your routine on fight day? The night before, I won’t sleep much. I’ll be waking up all the time, thinking about the fight. I usually wake for good around 8ish but I’ll lay on till about 11. My mind will be on the fight so I’ll do things to pass time, like have a haircut. The nerves always get worse in the changing room so I like to keep on the go, keep warm on the pads. Once I leave for the ring and hear the crowd, the nerves go and I’m alright.

Entrance music: Not sorted that yet.

What are your ambitions as a boxer? I’m only learning the game so I just take it step by step; whatever Mark Tibbs says, I’ll take on. I’ll only get better. I’d like to be English and British champion but that’s at least two or three years down the line.

How do you relax? I do things with my girlfriend, go the cinema or go out for food. I like a game of snooker, too. I’m not bad. I might have a game of football with mates but I’m not that good.

Football team: I’m a Tottenham man. They’re the nearest and I used to go to quite a few games but not for a while. I’m not a huge football fan.

Read: Just The Sun newspaper every day and the Boxing News.

Music: R ‘n’ B, plus I love UB40

Films/TV: I like love films! On TV, I’m a big Eastenders man. I also like a bit of Britain’s Got Talent and X Factor.

Aspiration in life: Boxing is the only thing in my life, right now. So just to get somewhere in the sport. Be any kind of champion.

Motto: Train hard, fight easy.

The debut of BoxAcademy will be broadcast live on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546).

Tickets for BoxAcademy on 3rd May at The Troxy are priced at £35 and £50 and are available from the Queensberry Promotions Box Office on 01992 550 888 or www.frankwarren.tv

About BoxAcademy
Queensberry Promotions presents the first installment of a new concept show that will be televised Live and Exclusive on the UK’s new home of boxing, BoxNation.

BoxAcademy will be a monthly live show that is solely dedicated to showcasing the most exciting, young, up and coming domestic talent in tougher, more action packed fights,  designed to develop the young fighters at a faster rate to Championship level.

On one Thursday every month, BoxNation will switch the focus from its huge array of World, British and European title contests, and give the floor to  a host of former Olympians, amateur champions and unbeaten prospects, as the UK’s elite young talent is given the chance to be the main focus of the show in BoxAcademy.

BoxAcademy will visit the various regional hot-beds for young boxing talent around the country, visiting a different city each month.

BoxNation’s televised coverage of BoxAcademy events will be supplemented with an array of behind the scenes interviews, training footage and background stories, giving viewers the chance to get to properly know tomorrow’s champions.

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