TOP TRIO: Femi Fehintola, centre, lines up alongside new stablemates Josh Warrington, left, and Gary Sykes
FORMER British title contender Femi Fehintola has revealed a burning desire to succeed under new coach Julian McGowan.
Fehintola, 31, was introduced to his Central Boxing Club stablemates Gary Sykes and Josh Warrington in Batley on Monday evening, before training for the first time under the tutelage of McGowan and his team.
Bradford-born Fehintola suffered his first pro defeat in fight 15 of his career at the hands of then British super-featherweight champion Carl Johanneson.
The man they call “Fire” battled back to claim the English super-featherweight title – owned these days by his new gym partner – a year later.
But his reign wasn’t to last, Fehintola suffering a knock-out defeat to Ryan Barrett in October 2008.
And the death of his adopted father Lancelot Bryan dealt a further blow.
Fehintola returned in 2009 and then again in 2011, but admits – under McGowan – this is his last chance.
“I have had some difficult times of late in my personal life, but I am not willing to retire with regrets,” claimed Fehintola, who boasts a professional record of 23 wins and two defeats.
“The fire is back in my belly, which hasn’t been the case for a long time, and I am ready to show people the real Femi.
“The burning desire to succeed is definitely there, but I am going to let the punches do the talking.
“I had been talking to Julian for some time about making a comeback and within five minutes of walking in the door, I knew he was the right man for me.
“He is renowned in boxing circles for his honesty and talent as a trainer. He is hands-on. He studies the sport.
“Julian cares for his fighters, he is incredibly dedicated and remains incredibly humble.
“I know he is the man to help me get to where I want to be and since the start of my career I have never genuinely been at my best.
“I am coming back and I am going to prove a point. I expect to be in the British title frame inside 12 months, I am not here to mess around. I haven’t got the time.”
There is history, however, between Fehintola and soon-to-be sparring partner Sykes.
In 2007, following Fehintola’s first loss, Sykes’ former manager Chris Ashton talked up a potential clash between the 9st 4lbs duo.
But the man who previously trained under Joe Gallagher, Clinton Woods and Richard Poxon, has played down rumours of bad blood between the pair.
He said: “The rivalry with Gary was really blown out of all proportion, I was very young. His manager Chris Ashton was talking up a possible fight and I was responding to it.
“Gary is a great fighter, someone I look up to and have always followed throughout his career, and it will be an honour to work with him behind the scenes.
“Having someone of Gary’s calibre to spar alongside and train with will only bring out the best in both of us.”
Fehintola is to begin a nine-week training camp on Monday ahead of his first outing under McGowan later this year, where he is likely to appear at lightweight (9st lbs) at Bradford’s Cedar Court Hotel.
“Femi is a very skilled fighter but suffered by being rushed into a title shot against a Carl Johanneson, who at the time was beating everyone up – including Ricky Burns,” added McGowan.
“He’s the right weight for our gym, he’ll have the best sparring on tap in Gary and Josh and his presence will only add to the atmosphere.”
By Ryan Sparks