Most boxers tend to travel relatively short distances to make it to their place of work – a professional boxing gym. Light-heavyweight boxer, Sam ‘Sniper’ Smith, however, makes a 150-mile round trip multiple times per week from his home in Guildford to Paddy Fitzpatrick’s gym in Swindon.
It’s all part of the preparation for the fledgling pro and will intensify in time for his third professional fight on March 12th when the sessions increase to over four times a week.
Last year, his first in the paid ranks, Smith trained in the evenings which made life difficult as he usually returned home at 11 o’clock at night, only to collapse exhausted into bed after a long, tiring day juggling a full-time trade alongside training.
Now, the 23-year-old rises early at five o’clock in the morning to make it in time for his eight o’clock session, and continues to fit in his training regime around his day job while also getting to spend time with his wife, whom he married in October last year. The former three-time national amateur champion said:
“It’s a bit of trek. It takes its toll physically but now I get home at 5pm so I get a lot of time to rest up after I’ve done my run, it gives me a few hours to relax now in the evening.”
The 175-pounder continued to say:
“It’s a lot easier doing it like I am now than it was last year when I was having to be at the gym for 7pm. The two hour sessions meant I was finishing up at 9pm and home by 11pm; it was too much. It was affecting my family life at that point and now that I’m married it works out a lot better. It’s really nice to be able to spend more time with my wife.”
“Having to make the journey gives me a mental edge and strength going through this as part of my preparation. It shows how dedicated I am and gives me a will and determination to succeed.”
Smith hails from an extensive boxing family; his great-uncle, Tommy Dunn, was a Southern Area lightweight title-holder, while his dad, a Junior ABA and NABC champion, once fought two-time WBO World champion, Herbie Hide in the amateurs.
The list continues; his uncle, Johnny Frankham, was a former British light-heavyweight champion while his other uncle, Les Stevens was a former Southern Area heavyweight holder.
Both went to the 1974 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand where Les won a bronze medal.
However, Smith doesn’t feel under pressure to succeed because of his family’s past pugilistic achievements:
“There’s no pressure. I just want to do my best and succeed. First, I want to win the Southern Area title and then take it from there.”
The Surrey-born fighter has only recently made the transition from the amateurs to the professional game.
He enjoyed success in his younger years, winning the national amateur championship three times and has, so far, got off to a good start, winning his first two fights punching for pay.
Smith defeated Mark Till (3-17-2) on points in his pro bow back in December last year after being made to wait almost an entire year for his inauguration due to cancellations and delays in getting his licence, but he’s enjoying himself now, he explained:
“I like it. I wouldn’t say it’s easier because the amount of training and the rounds I have to do now, but I prefer the professional game with its slower pace. It suits me a lot better than when I was doing 3×3’s or 4×2’s rounds.”
Training with Paddy Fitzpatrick, a former Wild Card Gym trainer working alongside Freddie Roach, has allowed the Surrey-born fighter to spar with some established, well-known boxers.
Former WBO Cruiserweight champion Enzo Maccarinelli, once British super-middleweight champion and three-time World title challenger George Groves, previous WBO light-heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly and ex-European super-middleweight champion Christopher Rebrasse have all put Smith through his paces and aided his development.
As is the custom for his fighters, Fitzpatrick has been training Smith for 12-round fights, despite the fact he will only be fighting four round fights in the coming months.
This intensive training can be hard work for a fighter who’s only just turned pro but has its benefits:
“It gives me confidence going in to fights knowing that I am as fit as a 12-round fighter. There are a lot of rounds of sparring and that’s the hardest part of training for me but I’m learning a lot. Sparring with Groves, Cleverly, Maccarinelli and Rebrasse gave me a lot of confidence going into my first fight. Paddy was saying that he couldn’t remember anyone he’s trained or worked with before having sparring with that sort of class of boxer.”
The ‘Sniper’ continued:
“I learned a load of stuff. I had never done ten rounds before in my life up until I sparred with George. I did five rounds with Maccarinelli the first week then six the next. He was talking to me throughout and he gave me some words of advice afterwards, as did Cleverly. It’s always great to be able to learn off fighters who have been there and done it and have been through what I am going through now.”
Fitzpatrick, known as ‘the man in the hat’, doesn’t allow his team to fight for anything less than the Southern Area title and that is Smith’s immediate aim for the coming year.
Having signed a six-fight deal with KM Promotions, a promotional outfit headed by Keith Mayo, 2016 looks set to be a busy year for the 175-pounder, which he’s well aware of:
“I’m contracted to six fights and I’m confident of getting them all. n two years I’d like to be either in the top 10 or challenging for a British title, that’s mine and Paddy’s aim. My immediate goal is to win the Southern Area title or whatever comes up first above that.”
“Paddy wouldn’t settle for anything less than the Southern Area belt, so as far as the British challenge and Masters belts are concerned I probably won’t end up fighting for those.”
The 150-mile expeditions may drain Smith now but he is safe in the knowledge that they will be worth his exertions when he enters a position to be able to emulate his uncle Les by claiming the Southern Area strap – the oldest prize in British boxing history.
With boxing deeply embedded in his blood and so many past successes and title glory already adorning his proud family history, Smith is destined to compete in this sport.
Backed up by a first-rate coach, championship sparring partners, and a proud family history, Sniper is ready to write his own story to add triumphs of his own to that of his clan.
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