Sykes shows quality to retain English title

Gary Sykes v Jon Kays'English super featherweight title defence. Motorpoint Arena Sheffield
Gary Sykes v Jon Kays'English super featherweight title defence. Motorpoint Arena Sheffield
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Dewsbury’s Gary Sykes retained his English super featherweight title with an impressive victory over Ashton’s Jonny Kays at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield on a magnificent night of boxing last Saturday.

Sykes made a slow start but took control in the middle and late rounds to secure a unanimous verdict on all three judges scorecards.

Relentless body shots almost forced an eighth round stoppage as Kays was pinned on the ropes but he dug deep to bravely survive, although it only prolonged the eventual outcome as Sykes racked up the 24th win of his professional career.

British Boxing Board of Control secretary Robert Smith was ringside for the fight and he must surely now mandate Sykes for another crack at the British super featherweight title and the chance to win the coveted Lonsdale belt for keeps.

There were a few anxious moments for Sykes, especially early on when Kays made the livelier start.

Sykes blocked most of Kays shots, while an early clash of heads didn’t help, as the Ashton man won the first session.

Sykes began to lead with the left hook in the second and had success to take the session.

The third was another hard round to score with both men covering up well but trainer Julian McGowan sensed the danger and demanded his charge up the tempo.

Sykes edged another close round in the fourth before taking control of the fight as he eased through the gears and produced some classy work.

A cracking right followed up by an upper cut had Kays on the back foot and Sykes began to hunt his opponent down in the fifth.

Sykes upped the pace in the middle rounds and Kays struggled to keep up as the Dewsbury man began to build up a healthy lead.

He landed six scoring head shots during the sixth and had the better of the seventh, as he began to target Kays’ body.

The eighth was by far the best round of the fight for the Dewsbury man.

The stamina Sykes showed as he produced a relentless barrage of punches was testament to the condition John Tallant had got him into.

A sickening left hook to the body left Kays wincing and, sensing a stoppage victory, Sykes poured on the pressure.

Four more body shots followed with Kays pinned to the ropes and at one stage referee Phil Edwards looked like he may jump in to stop the fight.

Kays responded with a decent right but Sykes ended the round with three more punches to the body to leave the Ashton man demoralised and facing defeat.

Another fierce body shot in the ninth left Kays dropping his hands to cover up as Sykes racked up another round.

Kays battled on bravely and deserved to get to the end of the 10th round but he acknowledged he had been beaten by the better main and raised the hand of Sykes before the official result was announced.

Judge Steve Gray awarded Sykes a 97-94 victory, judge Marcus McDonnell awarded it 98-94, while Terry O’Connor had him winning by five rounds at 98-93 to ensure the English title belt returned up the M1 to Dewsbury.

Speaking after the fight, Sykes said: “I’ve always got to trust Julian and John in my corner because in the first four rounds I wasn’t even getting out of first gear but I still thought I was winning them easy but apparently those were the closest ones.

“They told me to up it in the fifth, sixth and seventh and that’s what I did and then in the eighth I had him going but he covered up well and dug deep, so credit to Kays, he’s a tough kid.”

Sykes added: “I’ve not been a flash in the pan and have been at top domestic level for some time now and I definitely should be mandatory for the British.”

Trainer McGowan added: “Gary didn’t feel as sharp warming up as he did for the Kevin Hooper fight and I knew he was going to start slow and it would be three or four rounds before he got the snap.

“I thought Kays gave a good performance but it showed the difference between a top tier fighter and a fighter who is probably on the periphery of domestic level.”