DEWSBURY’S Gary Sykes produced a courageous performance, but it wasn’t enough to end his 18-month reign as British super featherweight champion.
Old foe Gary Buckland inflicted the second defeat of Sykes’s career in Sheffield last Saturday.
The two warriors produced an absorbing contest which thrilled the sell-out crowd at Ponds Forge Leisure Centre and seems certain to be shortlisted for fight of the year.
Sykes actually landed more punches (146 to Buckland’s 136) but it was Buckland’s superior work rate in the early stages that proved decisive.
Sykes withstood a barrage of head punches, which earned the 27-year-old high praise from former two-weight world champion Ricky Hatton, who was promoting the fight.
The action was relentless, despite the stifling energy-sapping heat, as the two fighters went toe to toe, but it was Buckland’s heavier punches which caught the judges eyes and earned the Cardiff man a unanimous points decision.
Sykes battled bravely until the end and almost produced a knock-out in the final minute of the final round.
Sykes landed a magnificent right hand to Buckland’s jaw, rocking the Welshman to his boots.
The Dewsbury star lunged forward to try follow it up but Buckland clung on to Sykes, earning crucial seconds, which allowed him to clear his head and he battled through to secure victory.
Although Sykes was roared on by an army of fans who had made the 40-mile journey to Sheffield, the Dewsbury star did not start well as Buckland landed a thunderous head shot early in the first round.
Sykes rallied towards the end of the first session and then had the better of the second round, producing some neat work off the jab.
Buckland landed the better and harder punches in the third and fourth rounds as he built up a three-round lead.
Sykes reverted to throwing body shots in the fifth, while both men had decent spells in a pretty even sixth round.
Sykes looked to be getting on top but Buckland stunned the Dewsbury Moor man in the seventh, with two huge hits, one a lovely left upper cut to the jaw.
Buckland continued to land the more eye catching punches in the eighth and Sykes then sustained a bloody nose in the ninth.
With the title slipping from his grasp, Sykes produced a stunning final three rounds as his superior stamina took over.
Sykes went into overdrive, landing a barrage of body shots, which left Buckland reeling and with 10 seconds of the 10th round left, he rocked Buckland with a stunning right to the head.
Unfortunately for Sykes, the bell saved Buckland from further punishment, or a potential knockdown.
You will not see a better round of boxing as the 11th as both men went at it hammer and tongs.
Sykes was hurt early on before rallying superbly to win the round and keep alive his hopes of winning his treasured Lonsdale belt outright.
Buckland’s promoter Ricky Hatton roared on his charge in the final round but he was almost stunned into silence.
Sykes was in complete control of the 12th but needed at least a knockdown to sway the judges in his favour and it almost came in a dramatic finale.
Sykes landed a magnificent right to Buckland’s jaw but somehow the Welshman hung on and it was just enough to see him snatch the Lonsdale belt away from the proud Dewsbury battler, who, despite defeat, enhanced his status as one of the most exciting fighters in Britain.