Sam Noakes may have been taken the distance for the first time in his career, but that matters little.

The unbeaten 26 year old produced an excellent display to outbox and out-fight the accomplished Yvan Mendy and add the European lightweight title to his British and Commonwealth crowns. 

The fight was made on just over three weeks notice when, struggling for opponents willing to challenge him for the British title he won by stopping Lewis Sylvester in February, Queensberry decided to pitch him into a shot at the vacant European belt.

Mendy may be 38 but the French veteran had never been stopped in a career spanning 55 fights and spent almost entirely at European level and whilst it may not have been a true case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, this was still the most serious test yet of Noakes’ credentials.

Would his power translate to fringe world level? Would he be smart enough for the experienced Mendy? Was his gas tank capable of carrying him through a long fight?

Noakes, 14-0 (13 KO’s), is extremely level headed and rather than bragging and boasting about his power and predicting another early night, he told BoxingScene this week that he was expecting his longest fight to date. Rather than headhunting, Noakes attacked the body from the get-go. Mendy, 48-7-1 (22 KO’s), calmly backed away and absorbed the head shots on his gloves but undoubtedly felt some of the body work.

If Noakes was hoping to sap some of the older man’s strength, the economical Mendy was playing the same game and ‘The Lion’ continued to bide his time over the first three rounds, picking his moments to attack and waiting for the storm to die down. 

Noakes – known as ‘Midge’ –  was solving problems on the fly. Mendy’s guard was outstanding and shots which would have hurt previous opponents were getting picked off before getting close to their target and Mendy was pinching valuable inches, making Noakes take little steps backwards and preventing him from rolling forward and building momentum. 

By round five, Noakes realized just how tough the man in front of him was. He seemed to have settled in for the long haul and went about proving that he is more than a one track wrecking machine. Rather than worrying about the impact his shots were having, he maintained his composure. His body attack was cleverly timed and he accurately placing the shots either side of Mendy’s elbows. 

In the wild, lions wave away the annoying midges that surround them with a swish of the tail but Mendy just couldn’t find anything to dissuade Noakes from attacking him. As the sixth round ended, Mendy staggered back to the ropes after taking a right uppercut that he seemed to absorb at least partly on the glove. The bell sounded in the middle of Noakes’s follow up but nobody heard and the pair traded shots before the referee belatedly separated them. 

Mendy recovered well during the minute break but threw precious little during a defensive minded seventh round. Realizing he was behind, he began to press forward in the eighth. Noakes made him pay for his aggression, Mendy threw a lead right hand but was hurt by a clipping right hand in return. He backed to the ropes but rather than opening up with an energy sapping burst, Noakes eased off the gas and went back to the center of the ring where he started attacking the body again. 

Noakes found himself in the ninth round for the first time since he boxed Sean Cooper in 2021 but the fitness fanatic remained in complete control of the action. Mendy tried switch hitting – to little avail – and contrary to pre-fight belief, Noakes continued to work with variety and imagination whilst Mendy was the one who looked bereft of ideas. 

Noakes refused to chase the knockout, he continued to attack the body and seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to display some boxing skills. He was defensively aware, showed good head movement and proved that he could work to a gameplay if Plan ‘A’ doesn’t work. A knockout would have put a cherry on top of the cake but – despite a last round assault – it wasn’t to be.

The scorecards were a formality. All three judges scored the fight 120-108 for Noakes who passed the biggest test of his career with flying colours.

Read the full article here