McGowan promises festive fireworks in warm-up clash

Level Above: Gary Sykes has beaten some of the best boxers in Britain during his 28-fight pro career, including two victories over Manchester's Anthony Crolla. Pictures: Javed Iqbal
Level Above: Gary Sykes has beaten some of the best boxers in Britain during his 28-fight pro career, including two victories over Manchester's Anthony Crolla. Pictures: Javed Iqbal
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Trainer Julian McGowan has promised a Christmas classic display from Gary Sykes when he meets Femi Fehintola in Leeds on December 21.

Sykes has the honour of being selected to fight on the first boxing show at the new First Direct Arena in Leeds against his former training partner.

Fehintola was welcomed by Central Boxing Club trainer McGowan when he prepared for his last fight in September.

However, the former British title challenger has since turned his back on Central and has now set to clash with the Dewsbury man.

While falling short of calling the clash a grudge match, McGowan admits Sykes is motivated to prove a point.

McGowan said: “Gary has switched on mentally since this fight was announced.

“Gary has sometimes found it hard to get motivated for non-title fights but there is no chance of that happening on December 21.

“Femi Fehintola is stepping up in levels and will be coming up against Sykes, who has been sparring(world lightweight champion) Ricky Burns and (Olympic gold medallist) Luke Campbell.

“Sykes has been in the ring with a 13-0 Tommy Coyle, ended Kevin Hooper’s unbeaten record, has twice beaten Anthony Crolla and has fought unbeaten Terry Flanagan.

“Femi has not fought at that kind of level but we are not overlooking him, we are taking this fight very serious.

“We will train for Fehintola as we did for Adrien Broner and just like Kevin Hooper, like we do for every fight.

“Me and Gary started together and we will end our careers together and that is what makes this journey extra special.

“People are now realising Gary Sykes will not be around forever and there has already been interest in this and, especially, the Liam Walsh fight.”

An added twist to the Fehintola fight has been added that the Bradford man is now being trained by Sean O’Hagan — dad and trainer to newly crowned Commonwealth featherweight champion Josh Warrington, who had based himself at the Central Club.

McGowan is disappointed with the way things have worked out.

McGowan added: “Josh won four title fights after basing himself at Central. He and Gary Sykes buzzed off each other and loved working together and I believe those will be the two casualties to come out of this.”