NEWLY-CROWNED English super-featherweight champion Gary Sykes looks set to make a first defence of his title next month â€“ live on TV.
As part of his preferred route and with a future British title shot in mind, Sykesâ€™ team have agreed to fight Jon Kays on the undercard of former world champion Amir Khanâ€™s Sheffield show.
The Dewsbury fighter, who last Friday eased past Grimsbyâ€™s Kevin Hooper to clinch the vacant English crown (see page 30 for report and reaction), will again compete over 10 rounds against former amateur opponent Kays.
A winner in 15 of 18 pro bouts, â€˜Two Smokesâ€™ Kays is scheduled to appear on tonightâ€™s Leeds Town Hall bill (Fri), which features Sykesâ€™ stablemates Josh Warrington and Tony Aitcheson, in preparation of the April 24 contest. And ranked eighth in Britain â€“ six places behind â€˜Five-Starâ€™ â€“ the Manchester puncher is likely to offer stiff opposition.
â€œWe know Kays pretty well and he will see this a massive chance to move up the pecking order on a huge television show,â€ said trainer Julian McGowan.
â€œGary boxed him twice as an amateur and we sparred with him two years ago.
â€œJon may see this as his last chance to make an impact domestically and that presents a dangerous challenge for us once again.
â€œBut we want the British title so we will do everything we have to do in order to get another shot. And if that means fighting top opponents, time after time, then so be it. We will fight anyone and last Friday proved we will not go away.
â€œWe had other options, some bigger, but this is our preferred route.â€
Sykes has already begun making preparations for his next outing, having returned to Central Boxing Club â€“ as a champion â€“ on Tuesday evening.
And McGowan has laid out plans for a four-week training camp in a bid maintain his 2012 Prizefighter finalistâ€™s fitness levels.
â€œWe will ease in gently and do simple strength maintenance,â€ he added. â€œIâ€™ve already planned 20 to 30 rounds of sparring over a two-week period.
â€œGary took very few clean shots against Hooper, so weâ€™ll continue with similar principles in terms of his defence.
â€œThe main things is that Gary is keeping busy and is getting good fights. We must thank (his manager) Steve Wood, who has again delivered for us.â€
It is understood Sykes will make a â€œdreamâ€ appearance at Dewsbury Sports Centre, in June, if successful in five weeksâ€™ time.
Manager Wood has held talks with bosses of the complex, which could provide the backdrop for a hugely-anticipated homecoming of one of the townâ€™s greatest sporting talents.