Boxing trainer Julian McGowan is to retire from coaching professional fighters after 23 years in the sport.
McGowan has trained Dewsbury star Gary Sykes for all but the very first of his professional bouts and has helped bring unparalleled sporting success to the area.
McGowan guided Sykes from a one-fight professional novice to become two-time British champion but the pressures of working full time at UK Greetings in Dewsbury and family life have led to his decision to step away.
Speaking exclusively to the Reporter, McGowan said: “I spoke to Gary last Monday, and informed him I would be handing my BBBofC license in and walking away from coaching professional fighters.
“The decision has been several years in coming and comes with a heavy heart.
“The reasons are not related to any specific fight and although Gary was very disappointed, he understood my reasoning and this was no surprise to him.”
McGowan and good friend John Tallant have their own gym, Central EBC, in Batley, and will continue to train amateur boxers along with running their popular midweek classes.
McGowan added: “Coaching at the highest level has taken its toll on my personal life and over the last three years the pressure has been unbearable.
“Coaching an elite fighter is like being the England football manager. When a fighter wins he gets the glory, but if he loses people say his coach is useless but I knew that was the deal when I signed up.”
McGowan and Sykes formed an incredible bond, which was the catalyst for beating Andy Morris to win the British super featherweight title in March 2010, and twice successfully defended the crown.
Having lost the title to Gary Buckland in 2011, Sykes was forced to wait almost three years for a chance to recapture the Lonsdale belt, defeating Jon Kays on a famous night in Dewsbury last May.
However, there is one triumph more than any other which sticks in McGowan’s mind.
He added: “When Gary beat Anthony Crolla in the final eliminator for the British title, I knew then we’d arrived at the big time. That was the best moment I have had in boxing and better then the four British title triumphs.
“Other highlights over the years have been Zahid Kahut winning his debut under very tough circumstances and James Ancliff joining Central with 13 straight losses and earning an unlucky draw against a young prospect.
“I have being lucky to have had the support of my mate John Tallant, who took the strain in Gary’s last few training camps but, most of all, my wife Jane has sacrificed more then anybody and is the success behind Team Sykes that nobody has seen.
“Most parents take for granted attending parents evening and school plays but these are things I have missed out on over the years.
“John and I will still run Central EBC in Batley, there are great young fighters coming through the amateur ranks and I will work with them a lot more but after 23 years, out of the last 28 as boxer or coach, I am not sure what my long term plans are ahead.”
McGowan has one final fight on his hands — perhaps the biggest of all — as he begins a dispute with the British Boxing Board of Control to recognise Sykes as an outright winner of the Lonsdale belt.
Sykes had four successful British title fights, which should see him as an outright winner of the Lonsdale belt, but the BBBofC are refusing to recognise that, arguing the Dewsbury man never fought a mandatory defence, despite overcoming number one contender Carl Johanneson in March 2011.
McGowan concluded: “This battle will be harder then any we had in the ring but we are determined to get justice for Sykes.”