Sam Smith boxing clever and aiming to paint the town red

Ready for the challenge: Sam Smith training at her gym in Crossgates ahead of her European title fight. 'Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Ready for the challenge: Sam Smith training at her gym in Crossgates ahead of her European title fight. 'Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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LEEDS 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 the prospect of another bid for a belt should the 38-year-old wish to continue her professional boxing career.

I work full time so I wasn’t in full-time training long enough but there were no excuses from me.

Sam Smith

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

Seacroft-raised Smith has made a late introduction into the professional ranks with the former John Smeaton pupil having previously fought for around a decade under the white collar boxing scene before turning pro.

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

Three years after joining the paid ranks, she and her partner Laura are also proud parents to 20-month-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 hell-bent on making the most of a brilliant opportunity and bringing her weight’s vacant European lightweight championship back to Leeds.

“I’m very open about where I am and my age and stuff like that,” said Smith.

“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 Commonwealth fight is still really bitter. It’s the first time I 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 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.

“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 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.

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 father and trainer Sean O’Hagan.

Blessed by just about the ultimate Leeds support network, next month’s Madrid date will present the 12th fight of Smith’s professional 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.

Away from the ring, Smith has become accustomed to taking on several tasks at a time – combining motherhood with her sport a and decorating professions.

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 she explained: “It was an issue the board had as there was already a male Sam Smith.

“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 continued with a smile: “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!”