Rakeem Ashaye Noble

Being hit and keeping your composure in the gym is one thing.  Doing it under the bright lights in a title fight is quite another.  It was something Rakeem Ashaye Noble discovered in March of this year when he rose from the canvas in round two from a thunderous uppercut in his Southern Area super lightweight title bout against Sohail Ahmad.  Not only did he find his feet, but two rounds later went on to hand Ahmad his first defeat and in the process, pick up his first belt.

“It does give me confidence that I can do it on the main stage when it counts” says Noble.  “In the gym you know you can take shots and punishment but you never know how you are going to react when it happens in a title fight.  No head guards, smaller gloves; it’s good to know you can take it.  Obviously I don’t want to be taking many shots like that again for my health!  One thing about me, my resilience and recovery will always get me through.  I don’t want to have to use it, but I know it’s there.” 

On October 29th Noble will be making the first defence of the title, when he steps into York Hall to face another undefeated fighter in Kay Prospere on a Goodwin Boxing show.  It is an intriguing matchup; Noble is renowned for his phenomenal fitness while Prospere has built a reputation as a fearsome puncher.  Given that Noble has proven his toughness in getting off the canvas to win the title, do the stories of Prospere’s punch power bother him heading into the fight?

“I’m curious.  I’ve heard he’s a hard hitter and punches hard, but within the first five or ten seconds of being in the ring with someone you can make the analysis yourself of whether they’re worth the hype or if they’ve been over hyped with their power.  I’ll know in five to ten seconds, then you can adapt as required.  What I’ve heard is he has monstrous power, can knock you out with either hand going forwards or backwards so we prepare for that.”

So does that mean that Rakeem and his team have prepared themselves specifically for the power of Prospere, or has this training camp been business as usual?  “I’ve done both.  My trainers don’t like to watch too much of a fighter as they may be doing stuff they won’t do on the night, you become too fixated by the footage.  We’ve seen what he’s about, what he can do and we have that in mind.  We’re tweaking and changing little things which we believe will make the difference in the fight and be his undoing.  On top of that, we’re preparing our own ways.  My coach has things he wants to see me picking up as I progress as a professional so we’re working on that too.”

That training team around him have been on a high of late at Miguel’s gym in Brixton.  As well as title success for Noble they have also laid claim to Southern Area titles for Dominic Akinlade and Isaac Chamberlain at heavyweight and cruiserweight respectively.  Successful boxer, happy boxers, happy gym then?  “The gym is on a high, we’ve all been by each other’s sides at ringside and training alongside each other.  We’ve seen the progression of each other bit-by-bit and it isn’t just this year, this is from 2013 when I started down there.  We’ve built ourselves up together and the place is buzzing and it also encourages other fighters to get to that level.  There’s a standard to keep, we have three Area champions and we all want to progress to bigger things.”

Given that Noble only turned professional in September 2013, success has come relatively quickly for him.  At only 26 years old and with 11 fights behind him, has he had time to take in the prestige of holding the Southern Area title?   “I’ve loved it.  When I turned professional that’s what I said; within three years I wanted a Southern Area title.  It took me two and a half years and I was like ‘YES’ I’ve achieved my milestone and I’m on target and I can go on to do other things, I can compete with these guys.  But that was eight months ago, I didn’t expect to be out for this long.  I’ve had the title, been over the moon with it, then I went under and now I’m up again with having this fight.”
Noble tells me that fights like the 29th October are why he signed up for the job, 50/50 fights with other boxers that are on a similar level to where he is, ones looking for the same opportunities as himself.  As he puts it himself, “you don’t get the same buzz when you’re fighting a journeyman or someone who isn’t coming to win”.  The one loss on his record for Noble came in a surprise loss to Ivan Njegac at York Hal in a four round bout, perhaps an example of where the struggle comes to get up for a fight of little meaning.  There is no risk of that with Prospere just around the corner.  “It’s someone I should have beat, but I just didn’t show up, I got it wrong and I’ve corrected myself” says Noble.  “It won’t be happening again.”

Many in the sport have seen this as a clear cut scenario; if the fight goes beyond the sixth round, Noble’s fitness will see him through and he will likely claim a points victory.  However is Prospere is able to let his gloves go early on and catch Noble, the fight could come to an abrupt end and the title changes hands.  So is that how Noble sees this going?

“This is boxing, you don’t know what can happen.  Of course Kay’s camp know my fitness is better than the average fighter and my camp know he’s a stronger puncher.  But when we get in there, who knows what it could come down to?  We might get in there and in the first few rounds my power overwhelms him, or in the later rounds his fitness may be better than mine.  I don’t have preconceptions of how it will go, we will get in there and I will adapt.  You might say Kay is the favourite in the early rounds and I am in the later, but I don’t have a view now of how I’m expecting it to go.”

We talk about the relationship with Rakeem’s Promoter, Steve Goodwin.  It is one that goes back to the start of Noble’s professional career, the two have had parallels in their successes within boxing.  As you would expect for a thoughtful person like Noble, he put the groundwork and research in before signing the paperwork.  “It’s been good.  When I first became pro I spoke to a few Managers and Promoters to get an idea of what I could expect.  Out of all of them, Steve definitely seemed the most promising, like he had the more things going on and that he could do a lot more.  I took a chance to go with Steve and over the last three years he has exceeded my expectations of what I expected from him.  He has a lot more going on that even I though.  He got me on as a reserve in PrizeFighter, he got me a Southern Area title shot, he took me to Turkey for the week to go training, this fight and the last one have been good opponents that have got my name out there.  There have been opportunities for other fighters, there are some that are fighting on the McGuigan show in November as well as the Haye shows.  I didn’t expect that stuff to be happening, but to see it happening now is incredible and I can’t wait to be a part of that.  I have to keep up my end of the bargain and keep on winning.  It gives me something to work towards, opportunities to flourish and expand within the sport.”

Indeed, Goodwin Promotions have just claimed their first English title as Johnny Garton won the welterweight belt against Ryan Fields.  Has Noble had thoughts about what steps he could move onto should he come through October 29th?  “I have absolutely no idea what the next step is!  It’s down to Steve and what he can put together for me for my next few fights, my main target is to get past the 29th.  I won the vacant Southern Area, now I’m fighting the mandatory from the Board, in the back of my head I’m thinking I could fight for a British or a Commonwealth title if they are free by them.  Those thoughts are in the back of my mind, I’ve not thought about them too much but it’s lingering.  Let’s get the first defence out of the way first and then I’ll think and talk about the next stage.”

After this forthcoming Saturday night both Rakeem and the boxing world at large will have a better idea of the next steps available to the talented Noble.  First he knows there is a task at hand, and with the backing of a buzzing gym and his training partners on the night, it’s a task that Rakeem Ashaye Noble is relishing.

Noble wished to pass on a special thanks to Noel Callan who has been providing Strength and Conditioning training throughout the training camp.