Famous Yorkshire boxer dies at 60

Yorkshire boxer Paul Sykes has died in hospital.

The 60-year-old former British and Commonwealth title heavweight contender died at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, last Wednesday from pneumonia and liver cirrhosis.

He had become a heavy drinker.

His professional boxing career peaked in June 1979 when he narrowly lost to John L Gardner in a British and Commonwealth title fight at Wembley.

But after his last professional bout, a defeat to Ngozika Ekwelum in Lagos, Nigeria in March 1980, Sykes's life descended into a downward spiral of alcohol abuse, petty robberies, violent crime and prison. Before 1990 he had spent 21 out of 26 years in 18 UK jails.

Former professional Keith Tate, 63, boxed with Sykes as a teenager at Robin Hood and Thorpe Amateur Boxing Club near Wakefield. Mr Tate, who runs Cleckheaton Boxing Academy, said: "I'm sorry to hear that he's passed away.

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"The Paul I knew was a funny man and had a lot of talent, which was wasted in the end. He could box and knew how to move for a big fella, but even at a young age he was drinking.

"I remember a trip to Germany when he was 16. He was carried out of a bar the night before he boxed a senior German heavyweight. He lost."

Sykes's 10-fight pro career ended with a record of six wins (four by knockout), three defeats and and one draw. In his heyday the 6ft 3in fighter toured the US with boxing promoter Don King.

While behind bars he earned an Open University degree in physical sciences and wrote a book, Sweet Agony, which was awarded the Arthur Koestler prize for prison literature.

Sykes's death certificate states his occupation as Author (retired) and address as Peterson Road, Wakefield.

In 2000 Wakefield Council secured a two-year Asbo banning him from the city centre after a string of aggressive drunken incidents including shouting abuse and urinating in public.

The YEP understands Home Office chiefs are considering a request for his son Paul Sykes Junior, 33, a convicted killer, to be allowed out of prison to attend his funeral.

Sykes jnr was jailed for life in November 2004 after stabbing 50-year-old Michael Gallagher to death at his home in Lupset, Wakefield.