SAM STOKES and Darrell Church are two budding Essex pros trained by Mark Massow at the Mi-Gym in Chelmsford. Both are with busy promoter Steve Goodwin and hope to be out next in December.

Stokes, from Basildon, is a middleweight with a 6-1 (1) record. The defeat came last time out in July when he was disqualified for headbutting Bulgaria’s Daniel Borisovs in round one.

“My missus was suffering from post-natal depression,” explains Stokes. “I had a lot of things going on outside the ring and my head wasn’t right. The Board of Control have been very supportive about the fight and I’m going to counselling twice a week.”

From a Romany gypsy background, Sam had a dozen fights as a junior amateur then started doing the unlicensed at 17. After 11 fights, all wins, he turned “Board pro” as a light-heavy. But now Sam, who works as a personal trainer, is down to middleweight.

“I work with Kell Brook’s nutritionist Greg Marriott,” he explains. “Greg texts me every day. He’s really good, because I’m never weak.

“I’ve sparred people of title level and held my own, but it’s about converting that form into performances in actual fights. Maybe nerves hold me back in the ring. Whatever, I’m 26 now and not hanging about.”

Church, 27 and from Witham, knows Stokes from their unlicensed days, when they boxed for the same club in Maldon. Explains Darrell: “I went to the only boxing club in Maldon and it turned out to be unlicensed. I won 14 and drew one, and was number one at light-heavy, so I moved to pro boxing.”

After two wins, Darrell lost a decision to Angelo Crowe in June 2015. He recalls, “It was my first loss ever, unlicensed or pro. I didn’t agree with it but a rematch never happened.”

Church didn’t box again for 10 months, explaining: “I work for myself in public maintenance and decorating. I had to put work first for a while, because I’ve got a little girl and a mortgage to pay.”

His comeback in April 2016 brought a draw with experienced Mitch Mitchell. But there’s a story to that.

“It was the last fight on the show and it started about 12.30am!” laughs Darrell. “They’d turned the lights up at York Hall and were sweeping the stage when our fight was on! Mitchell is a tough guy and a hard puncher, much better than his record.”

Now settled at light-heavyweight, Darrell wants a couple of wins before moving up to six-round level by next May.