By Andrew Hunt
GARY Sykes will make his eagerly anticipated return to the ring in a non-title contest on Friday March 23 in Hull.
The Dewsbury boxer, who turned 28 on February 13, has not fought since losing his British super featherweight crown to Gary Buckland last September but he will take the first rung on the ladder to get back into the title mix next month.
Although an opponent has yet to be named, Sykes has been preparing for every style of fighter, with some tough sparring sessions this week.
Former British title challenger Carl Johanneson was at Sykes’s gym – the Central Boxing Club in Batley – on Monday, while the Dewsbury star is also having sessions with highly rated Manchester duo Karl Place and Terry Flannigan.
Place is a light welterweight who has only lost once in 16 fights, while Flannigan is a southpaw featherweight who has won all 12 pro fights.
Sykes has also struck a deal which will see him managed by Steve Wood in a partnership which he hopes will gain him greater exposure and a route back to the top.
Mr Wood, a former co-manager of Sykes, is one of the most respected managers in the north of England and has over 60 fighters on his books, so there will be no shortage of sparring opponents or small hall shows for Sykes to be involved in as he attempts to earn another shot at the British title.
Sykes says that is will now do everything in his power to get back into the title mix and is excited about the prospect of working with Mr Wood.
He added: “Steve has told me there are various things we can go for, which could even involve me moving up a division, and I will be living in the gym from now.
“This is a new stage of my career. After previous fights I have taken time off but I will now be straight back in the gym after this fight.
“We have been running classes at the Central Boxing Club and I have enjoyed having other people being around me and I want to stay involved and ticking over.”
Trainer Julian McGowan added: “Steve has a huge amount of fighters ranging from eight-stone-10 to 11 stone, so the boxers fighting out of our Central Club will have a huge network when it comes to sparring.
“Flannigan is an unbeaten southpaw, very sharp, who never stays in one place, so he will give Gary strategic problems that rushing in and work rate won’t solve.
“Karl Place is very strong, holds the centre of the ring well. He’s heavier than Gary, so again will cause different problems to deal with.
“We want as much variety as possible, but the key is quality. Commonwealth title holder Liam Walsh is a switch hitter and he is also on our radar potentially, so we need to look at such things now.
“Central BC has helped deliver sparring to our doorstep. We will still travel, to keep the fighters sharp and stop them getting comfortable, but the miles we were clocking up to spar has been drastically reduced.”
McGowan has also been passing on his vast knowledge to novice fighters with sessions at the Central BC on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Further details are available by calling Mark on 01924 440679.
Sykes has recieved an allocation of around 100 tickets for his next fight, which takes place at the Hull City Hall.
They are priced at £30 or £50 for ringside seats and are available from Gary on 07818 602702.
Top of the bill will see Hull’s unbeaten lightweight prospect Tommy Coyle fighting Blackburn’s Graeme Higginson for the vacant Central Area title.
Just 24 hours after Sykes returns to the ring, Buckland with make the first defence of his British super featherweight crown against Middlesbrough’s Paul Truscott in Sheffield in a fight the Dewsbury man is sure to have a keen eye on.