West Bromwich's Tom Stokes gets buzz from bareknuckle boxing
Mention bareknuckle boxing to Tom Stokes and it’s sure to put a smile on his face, writes Matt Bozeat.
Stokes had 20 amateur boxing bouts and 14 fights in the pro ring before deciding to ditch his gloves and fight bareknuckle.
The 28-year-old from West Bromwich was punch perfect on his debut for promoters BKB TM in June, taking only 32 seconds to stop the seasoned Will Chope at the O2 Arena.
Stokes returns there on Saturday, November 25, to face Tony Shields, from Hull. Shields is also a former professional gloved boxer, but according to Stokes, nothing compares to the thrill of fighting bareknuckle.
“There’s no feeling like it,” he said. “It’s a different buzz, a different level. It’s always great when you win, but there’s relief as well after a bareknuckle fight.
“You get in there knowing if you take a good punch it will buzz you, cut you or put you on the floor. You know you can’t make any mistakes because when you get caught without gloves on, you’re in trouble.”
Stokes didn’t make any mistakes against Chope, a proven bareknuckle and MMA fighter.
He scored a one-punch knockout and said: “I couldn’t have asked for a better debut.
“He had been around and can definitely fight, but he only landed a couple of punches around the back of my head and then I landed the left hook.
“He wanted to drag me into a dog fight, but he got caught.”
Stokes believes it is his boxing skills that will take him to the top. The top fighters in bareknuckle boxing – Jimmy Sweeney, Barrie Jones and Dan Chapman – all come from boxing backgrounds.
Stokes said: “I know we don’t wear gloves, but it’s still boxing and it can’t be a coincidence that a lot of the top bareknuckle boxers have good boxing backgrounds.”
Stokes believes his skills could be the difference in his next fight.
He says Shields has a “street fighting, aggressive style and he’s meant to be tough. It might take more than a round this time.”