Yorkshire boxer Gary Sykes produced a courageous display but ultimately the biggest night of his career ended in defeat to Liam Walsh on Saturday.
Dewsbury’s British super featherweight champion recovered from an horrendous start which saw him knocked down in the opening stages of the bout at London’s Excel Arena to produce a spirited display and battle through the full 12 rounds.
Sykes had some success in the middle rounds but Walsh’s superior strength and power proved decisive as he added the British title to his Commonwealth strap and the Cromer man can now dream of potential European or World title fights in 2015.
Walsh took the fight by wide margins of 118-109, 119-108, 118-111, on the three judges cards, although many at ringside thought Yorkshireman Sykes deserved more credit than those scores would suggest.
A stinging right through the guard just a minute into the fight sent Sykes crashing to the canvass and the Dewsbury man did well to survive the following onslaught as Walsh attempted to force an early stoppage.
Throughout the 12 gruelling rounds, Walsh targeted the body, while showing impressive movement to keep out of the way of Sykes’s best shots.
Speaking after the fight Sykes said: “He was definitely the toughest kid I’ve boxed.
“Normally when things are getting hard I can just grind opponents down but Walsh was cagey and clever as well.
“He was so strong and his punches to the body took everything I had out of me.
“I was surprised I didn’t go down from one of those body shots and I am proud of myself, to be honest, that I got through the full 12 rounds.
“I wasn’t surprised I came back from the head shot but every single body shot hurt. He was just better than me.”
Although Sykes bravely battled on, Walsh’s stinging body shots took their toll and sapped the energy from the brave Dewsbury warrior.
Sykes was badly hurt again in the ninth, this time with a fierce left to the head, but once again he bravely hung on to hear the bell.
Sykes saved his best round for the 12th as he bit down on his gumshield and fought bravely to keep hold of his cherished Lonsdale belt but Walsh knew he only needed to avoid a knock-out to claim victory.
Sykes added: “It’s been a great occasion and I really enjoyed being part of a big bill.
“It’s good been made a fuss of and walking to the venue people were stopping for autographs and pictures and I want more of these big fights.”
Sykes still boasts an impressive record, having lost just four times in a glittering 31 fight career but he may now contemplate a move up to the lightweight division.