Family affair for title fight

Sykes had his best moments when boxing at long range. Pic by Javed Iqbal
Sykes had his best moments when boxing at long range. Pic by Javed Iqbal

The eyes of British boxers will be firmly fixed on Liverpool on December 7 when three brothers box for British titles on the same night.

Never in the 104-year history of the Lord Lonsdale Challenge Belt have three brothers held British titles at the same time — until now.

Paul, Liam and Stephen Smith are reigning British champions and will defend their titles at the Liverpool Echo Arena on the same night.

However, at the Central Boxing Club in Batley, a tight knit group are plotting to wrestle one of those prized belts away.

Dewsbury’s Gary Sykes meets Stephen Smith for the British super featherweight strap and he is being supported by his own ‘family affair’.

Julian McGowan has been Gary’s trainer throughout his career and set up the Central Boxing Club just over 18 months ago.

He brought in a close ally in best friend John Tallant and last Friday the Central created another milestone when Julian’s brother Wayne McGowan was in the corner for Sykes’ fight against Mark McKray.

Julian explained: “The Smith brothers may all be fighting on the same night but we certainly won’t be isolated. I have got Gary, who 
is like a son to me, boxing plus my best mate (John 
Tallant) and my brother 
will be in the corner with me and we bounce off each other.

“This is why we are so successful and we will ride the wave until it comes to an end.

“Friday was a big night and another milestone as it was the first time my brother has worked a corner and Wayne will be in the corner for the Smith fight.

“He went and got his coaching license and that shows the mentality we have got at Central.

“I believe Sykes is going to be the ultimate party pooper come December 7.

“If Gary sticks to the game plan he will beat Stephen Smith.”

Sykes lost his British super featherweight title to Gary Buckland two years ago and it has been a long way back for the Dewsbury man to get another shot.

Smith meanwhile knocked Buckland out in the fifth round of their title fight in August to set up his shot against Sykes.

However, McGowan is far from concerned with those stats, adding: “The respective results against Buckland don’t interest me, it’s a case of Sykes is a better fighter than Smith on all levels.”