Sykes aims to send statement to Walsh

Gary Sykes is hard in training ahead of his West Yorkshire derby with Femi Fehintola in Leeds on December 21.
Gary Sykes is hard in training ahead of his West Yorkshire derby with Femi Fehintola in Leeds on December 21.

Dewsbury boxer Gary Sykes believes he has the perfect chance to send a clear statement to title rival Liam Walsh on December 21.

Sykes faces West Yorkshire rival Femi Fehintola on the undercard to Stuart Hall’s world title fight at the new First Direct Arena in Leeds.

By his own admission, Sykes has sometimes found it hard to get motivated for warm-up fights but sees the Fehintola clash as the perfect preparation for his British and Commonwealth showdown with Cromer’s Walsh early next year.

The 29-year-old said: “I don’t see this as a warm-up fight at all as it isn’t against one of your usual suspects or journeymen.

“Femi has a great record of 26 fights and only two losses and I know he has been training like a demon for this fight.

“But I’m determined to let Femi know he’s not in the same league as me and it gives me chance to send a clear statement out to Walsh.”

The Fehintola bout will be fought at 9st 7lb, just three pounds above the official super featherweight limit and Sykes believes this will also play into his hands.

He added: “When I fought Mark McKray, I went in around 10st 3lb, but I’m already a lot lighter than that and fighting at 9st 7 will be the perfect preparation for the February title fight.”

Sykes has again been clocking up the rounds in some brutal sparring sessions at his Central Boxing Club base in Batley.

Fehintola also based himself at the Batley gym prior to his last fight — a four-round points win over Qasim Hussain — in September and this has added to the spice of the December 21 showdown.

Sykes added: “I quite liked Femi when he was at ours but I feel sorry for him that he has chosen me as a route back because it is going to end badly for him.”

Sykes’s trainer Julian McGowan has come in for some harsh criticism from Fehintola but has vowed to have his charge in top condition for the clash in what will be a historic first boxing show at the Leeds Arena.

Sykes will enjoy a few days off after the Fehintola fight — a rare chance to enjoy the Christmas festivities — but will be back in the gym before new year as an eight week camp in preparation for Walsh begins immediately.

Sykes added: “Julian has told me, we will be in the gym on New Year’s Day so any celebrations will have to be put on hold until after Walsh.”

Sykes racked up a 25th win as a pro when he defeated McKray on September 28.