GARY SYKES will soon have his date with destiny – but Dewsbury’s boxing star is refusing to overlook Londoner Mark McKray.
The 29-year-old, who on Wednesday is to be informed of a time and place for his long-awaited British title bout against Stephen Smith, is gearing up for a six-round contest at light-welterweight.
Jamaican McKray, 30, has been confirmed as Sykes’ latest opponent for a September 27 appearance on the undercard of Central Boxing Club stablemate Josh Warrington’s Leeds bill.
And, despite boasting a unsightly record of 21 defeats, five wins and one draw from 27 contests, ‘Five-Star’ admits he cannot afford to fall short on the eve of a British title fight.
“Mark is a heavier opponent, so there is no stress whatsoever on my body,” super-featherweight Sykes told The Press.
“He will be a lot heavier than me, the bout will probably be fought at light-welterweight, but it doesn’t really matter.
“I am focusing on steady progression towards the British title fight, this isn’t about killing myself to be in the shape of my life for a six-rounder.
“Mark looks a decent prospect and it would be dangerous for me to overlook this one, people are still going to be watching and expecting something from me.
“There is pressure on if I am being totally honest but I have to do deal with business.
“This is part of my British title preparations so, first and foremost, there can be no slip-ups on September 27.”
Tottenham-based McKray suffered a points defeat to Huddersfield’s Tyrone Nurse last time out and is likely to enter at least a stone heavier than Sykes later this month.
But, having gone toe-to-toe with Scotland’s world lightweight champion Ricky Burns last week in what the 9st 4lbs talent believes could prove “a key ingredient”, the man from Dewsbury Moor has every reason to be confident of success – in relatively unknown territory.
Sykes said: “Ricky is a weight above me and he is a world champion. He was entering the final stages of his latest camp when I was sparring him and he was in great shape.
“Most people last a day at the most with someone like Ricky, but I held my own in there for the full three days.
“You can see why people get paid to spar him, though, he is brutal. From round one he is trying to kill you!
“He doesn’t hold back one bit, but that is him getting the best out of his training.
“I gained from the experience, there is no doubt about that, and the whole thing has provided me with a massive confidence boost.
“That session alone could be a key ingredient for the Stephen Smith fight. Every little helps and I will need to be at the top of my game.”