AFTER three years honing his craft in the pros, former two time English ABA finalist Tom Baker finally steps onto the championship stage when he kick starts his 2015 campaign on Friday, writes Glynn Evans.
The 6ft 1in redhead with the ramrod left lead clashes with Essex rival Kevin Greenwood in a spicy looking 10 rounder for the Southern Area super-middleweight strap at the York Hall, Bethnal Green, live and exclusive on BoxNation.
And the Mark Tibbs trained starlet is adamant that it will be the first station on a championship journey that will culminate in the British title which just evaded his uncle Mark Baker, a hardy super-middle cum light-heavy during the late 1990s.
"Uncle 'Plod' (Mark) won the Southern Area belt but just got edged out in four attempts at the British or Commonwealth titles," says the 23-year-old from Chingford who is undefeated in 10 pro starts.
"He's where I get the boxing from. I really looked up to him when he was a pro. He came very close. Now I intend bringing back the Baker name and winning the family the British title that eluded him.
"'Plod' was very different to me. Whereas I'm a boxer, he was a tough brawler, loved the 'tear ups'. He also fought at super-middle. Today he's a super-heavyweight!
"He still comes to my weigh-ins and watches my fights and sometimes passes on coaching tips but Mark (Tibbs) is my trainer so he's the one I listen to most."
One of 13 children from a Romany gypsy family, the quiet, likeable Baker enters the championship arena with just 48 pro rounds on his ledger. He is yet to venture past round six but insists the prospect of an additional four won't be an issue.
"I expected it to be hard but I do 10,12 rounds nice and easy in sparring," says the part-time roofer.
"The slower pace suits my style far better than six rounders, which I always found a bit of a rush. And I've been doing it with fighters like Billy Joe (Saunders) plus light-heavies like Kirk Garvey, and Miles Shinkwin and Richie Horton who fight each other for the Southern Area title on Friday night. I doubt Greenwood can come at me the way they do. Mentally I know I'm 100% ready for this."
A graduate of the Repton and West Ham amateur nurseries, the Chingford stylist last fought publically last September when he schooled ex-WBU title challenger Nathan King over six at Friday's venue. However, he claims to have utilised his time away from the spotlight profitably.
"The break has just given me more time to build up the rounds. I used to be stiff and burn up energy but Mark has got me so relaxed, it's a breeze. You'll see a different me on Friday; more professional, stronger.
"I'm ready for the push. Now, I'm fighting at the right weight. I no longer need to struggle. Coping with the level of sparring I've faced has really built up my confidence. I know I'm ready for titles in 2015.
"I will win the Southern Area on Friday night and after a defence or two, I'll hope to be in the mix for a crack at the English title currently held by Jahmaine Smyle later in the year. I'll fight anyone in Britain outside the top six."
One dust-up the East End cognoscenti craves is a showdown with former gym mate Frank Buglioni - custodian of the WBO European belt at 12 stone - who is now tutored in Dublin by Steve and Paschal Collins.
Baker says: "Frank's a good mate - we grew up together - but he's got something I want and if the fight can be made, I certainly won't swerve it. Plenty want to see it and we know the time is right now. It's got to be done."
And Tom knows that the prospect of that classical boxer-fighter spat materialising will massively increase if he can take care of 'Green Machine' Greenwood in style.
"He's getting a good hiding," quips Baker.
"Kevin's a local lad to me, it's Chingford v Ilford, so he'll be coming for a fight and he looks really fit.
"But I'll have far too much pedigree. He's only been boxing five or six years whereas I've been doing this since the age of 10. I'll have an answer for whatever he brings and I'm going to make him pay.
"Since I was a young boy, I've worked really hard to become a professional champion and this is the first stage. Now I deserve a title."