Chingford copper top Tom Baker was long perceived one of the brightest young stars on the domestic 12stone playground but expects to really sizzle since opting to campaign seven pounds north, writes Glynn Evans.
The unbeaten former Southern Area Super-Middle king makes his championship debut at light-heavy at the York Hall this Friday when he collides with Margate’s Jack Morris in a quality looking 10 rounder for the vacant English title.
‘Since my last fight in July, I’ve become so much stronger physically,’ claims the 24 year old two time ABA finalist who is feted for his ramrod jab.
‘It was hurting me to make 12stone. The last few pounds became very hard to get off. I’m 6ft 2 (in) and there’s no fat on me.
‘When I fought Kevin Greenwood to win my Area title, I felt I should’ve got him out of there long before the finish but making weight took away a bit of strength and power. I’ve always been a sharp boxer – and I’ll maintain my speed – but my shots will be far more solid at light-heavy.’
After 10 low key learning fights at four and six round level, the skilful Mark Tibbs’ coached stylist, leapt to 10 round grade last year and proved more than able – outscoring Essex rival Greenwood and Castlerea’s Darren Cruise back-to-back.
‘I was due to move to eight rounds but when the Southern Area shot was offered the team jumped at it,’ explains Tom, one of 13 siblings and a nephew of ex British and Commonwealth title challenger Mark ‘Plod’ Baker.
‘I’ve found the 10 rounders pretty easy. The slower pace suits me better. I can take my time and have a little look for openings. Though the scoring was wider, I actually found Cruise a stiffer test than Greenwood cos he had greater amateur pedigree and more experience.’
After years of drudgery, his new division is heating up nicely on the home front, and collisions with fellow youngbloods such as Hosea Burton, Miles Shinkwin, Callum Johnson and Frank Buglioni could heighten his profile and fatten his wallet.
‘I left the amateurs three years ago and think I’ve now developed into a decent pro,’ he says.
‘I’m already number five in the British (light-heavy) ratings behind (ex WBO champ Nathan) Cleverly, Bob Ajisafe, Paul Smith and Hosea. I’m knocking on the door.
‘I’m not ready for Cleverly just yet but I’m very confident I could handle any of the others. There’s no need to rush into anything. If I come through on Friday, I’d like to defend the English, possibly against Miles (Shinkwin) but I’m not sure what Mark and Frank (Warren) have planned.’
Fellow gypsy and recently coronated British champion Burton features particularly prominently on Baker’s radar.
He explains: ‘You can’t take anything away from Hosea. He won the British title against a good man. Miles Shinkwin is a very skilful boxer- we’ve done a lot of sparring – but Burton bossed it from round two until the end (round six).
‘He’s a traveller like me. We’re not good friends but I see him about and we talk. He’s a nice fella. I’ve a lot of respect for him but if it’s offered, let’s do it. It’d be like Lee-Saunders all over again.’
But sensibly the meek and modest Baker refuses to look past Friday’s co-challenger – a battle hardened 33 year old who has lost just once in his previous 16 gigs and is yet to be beaten inside the distance.
At least he has the comfort of home court, fighting at the hallowed York Hall for the 10th time as a pro.
‘All told, I must’ve fought there about 50 times if you include the amateurs,’ says the former Repton and West Ham amateur standout.
‘My Dad deals with my tickets and he’s sold all 250 that we were given. It’s old school and I love the place. The fans there have seen me grow up. I’ve given them a lot of memorable fights.’
And with more petrol in his tank and greater sting in his tail up at 175lbs, the ex roofer intends bagging all the headlines once the dust has settled in the East End on Friday evening.
‘The belt that Gary Corcoran and Danny Butler are fighting for (WBO Inter-Continental)might be above the English title but I definitely think me and Morris is the fight fans really need to watch,’ he says.
‘The English is a good title to have on your record and the correct level for me to be fighting at right now. Jack’s no mug, easily the best I’ve fought, a big test. It’d be a very good win.
‘I’ve watched a lot of him. His record speaks for itself. Mark (Tibbs) warns me he’ll view this as his world title fight. He’ll have trained solid for nine weeks and he’ll be more than ready. He was operating at cruiserweight until recently so is likely to be quite strong but he marches forward and that’s just how I like ‘em. I think I’ll be too fast.
‘In preparation for this, I’ve done stacks of sparring with Ovill McKenzie who has a similar style to Jack but is bigger and hits far harder. I’ve also sparred Lee Markham who’s like a train plus Billy Long and (top amateur) Charlie Duffield. Whoever I spar, I’m able to figure out so I’m confident I can handle Morris.
‘I promise the fans a quality fight and I’m ready to put on a top show. My game plan is to stay relaxed, keep winning the rounds but I’m confident I can walk him onto something and stop him in the later rounds. If I don’t manage that, I guarantee I’ll box his ears off and bash him up.’