Sam Noakes aims to become the first man to stop Yvan Mendy

It is nearly six years since Sam Noakes paid £25 for a ticket to his first ever live boxing show – a hospitality seat at Wembley Stadium for Anthony Joshua’s clash with Alexander Povetkin.

But the 20-year-old amateur, still 12 months away from his professional debut, made sure he got to the venue early enough to watch one of his recent sparring partners, Luke Campbell, in action.

The Hull southpaw was on a revenge mission against a Frenchman called Yvan Mendy, who had taken his undefeated record three years earlier. Campbell got the victory that night, claiming a unanimous decision in front of the watching Noakes.

And, while Campbell has long since retired, 38-year-old Mendy marches on and Noakes, now one of the country’s most exciting lightweights, is hoping to add the Frenchman’s name to his so-far perfect record.

“Mendy has been around a bit,” Noakes said. “He’s very experienced.

“I was there for the second Luke Campbell fight. That was the first show I ever went to – it was Anthony Joshua against Alexander Povetkin at Wembley. I was 20 at the time. I had sparred Luke Campbell not long before so we made sure we were there for that fight.

“One of my best mate’s uncles had hospitality tickets come up and they were only 25 quid. We snapped them up and went straight there.

“Mendy has not changed much since then I don’t think. He is very durable, he comes forward and has a bit of a whack. But he’s older now and he’s inactive. He hasn’t made championship weight since the [Denys] Berinchyk fight which works in my favour. Fingers crossed I get a late stoppage. It would be a stoppage where the ref waves it off, I’ll give him his dues, he’s tough and I haven’t seen him hurt. The plan is to be 14-0 with 14 knockouts with a name like him on the record.”

This will be Noakes’ third outing in a little over four months, following stoppage wins over Carlos Perez in December and Lewis Sylvester in February, which made up for just one other fight in 2023 – a two-round blowout of Karthik Kumar.

“When you go through a bad spell you can fall out of love with the sport but I just kept soldiering on,” he said of his quiet 2023.

“Last year, I was supposed to fight in September but that caved in and then I went straight back into camp for December and then all of a sudden I was on holiday and I got the phone call telling me to be sensible because I’m fighting in February. Then literally a couple of weeks after that they tell me I’m fighting in April.

“I was in Prague. I landed and was sat down in the very first cafe having a bit of breakfast and my phone goes and Al [Smith] tells me not to go stupid on the food because I’ve got a fight in eight weeks.

“This one is meaningful because even on the telly it says ‘Noakes v Mendy’ so it does look good. But I’m a fighter at the end of the day and I don’t get caught up too much in all the showbiz stuff. As long as I’m fighting and keeping active that’s the main thing for me.”

Becoming the first man to stop Mendy would be a statement for Noakes, who is currently 13-0 with 13 KOs and on the fringes of world level. Lightweight has been a division in flux since Devin Haney, the undisputed champion, moved up to light-welterweight and Noakes believes there are new opportunities for him.

“It has opened right up with Devin Haney moving up,” he agrees. “That has opened the division right up. But we aren’t far away. I know Berinchyk is fighting Emanuel Navarrete and I’m ranked in the top 10 with the WBO so it would be good to get the winner of that. But I’ve got a tough fight to get through on Saturday and I’m not looking past that.

“I never thought it was going to be like this. My mum made me go boxing when I was a kid – I fell in love with it and then out of love with it. Then eventually I thought I should give it a go but it means I wasn’t really dreaming of this stuff when I was a kid. It’s just mental how quickly it has gone. Winning the British title was such a big thing but now I’ve forgotten about that because we’re onto the European against Mendy.

“At the end of the career I’ll sit back and think about what a ride it has been but right now I just have to focus on getting better.

“I’m a very determined person. People might look at me fight and say it looks easy – ‘you can just box round him’ but when you’re in there it’s a different kettle of fish. You don’t look at me and say ‘what a smart boxer’ but I fight to win and that’s the most important thing. It looks basic but then dealing with it is another matter.

“Mendy is going to find that out on Saturday too.”

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