4th October 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20:  Gary Buckland ...
Last month Gary Sykes lost his British Super Featherweight title against Gary Buckland in a memorable battle at Sheffield’s Ponds Forge arena.

Buckland went onto win a unanimous decision 115-114, 115-113, 116-113 – But with Sykes doing everything to hang onto his Lonsdale belt, the fight turned into a hard close battle, which never let up for 12 pulsating rounds

For Buckland it was a repeat of his Prizefighter victory over Sykes, but a completely different fight over twelve gruelling rounds.

Last week I spoke to Sykes trainer Julian McGowen about his thoughts on the fight in hindsight and was there anything that his fighter could have done differently or indeed himself?

McGowen has known Sykes since he was an amateur and when the Yorkshire fighter made up his mind to turn professional in February 2006, McGowen was the man he asked to go on the journey with him as chief coach.

It was a journey the pair had a very good run at until they came up against Gary Buckland twice. Last year Buckland knocked out the British champion Sykes in the first round of the Prizefighter tournament.

Sykes at the time was the Lonsdale belt holder but the title was not on the line and so a rematch was arranged for Buckland to get a shot at Sykes for the title.

Buckland went onto win the second meeting leaving Sykes and McGowen to re-build.

Julian McGowen Boxing Trainer
BB: How do you look back on Gary’s defeat to Buckland?
JM: I thought Buckland looked excellent, great conditioning and he stuck to the game plan – that was key. Gary (Sykes) just didn’t do what we had worked on, was very frustrating but I appreciate the heat of the battle makes it easier said then done.
I can create a blueprint for any opponent, but when he’s just as good as you, it’s hard to pull off. We worked on side-to-side movement, just like he did with Carl Johanneson in March. He didn’t take risks then, but his movement allowed him to still score points with little bursts early on, in and out. Spinning, feints, keep Buckland guessing but he didn’t do this at all.
We planned on jab, move, singles and doubles early on, then step in with a short right hook or uppercut, quick combo, and as soon as this landed spin out, roll or step off.
Gary executed the first part of this strategy, but then after landing stayed in the pocket. Buckland every time countered, he didn’t even have to look because he knew Gary was stood bang centre in range.
The judges remember the end of an exchange not the beginning. I spoke in-between rounds about this, but Sykes is Sykes, his reckless style attractive but so vulnerable.
In terms of the decision, it was fair. I had it Buckland by 2 rounds. I told Gaz this, never dress anything up otherwise he won’t look to improve.
BB: How is Gary after the fight, what frame of mind is he in?
JM: He’s gutted he lost, the belt has gone but he will be back. He’s a tough kid, will go through a rollercoaster of emotions but come out of this wiser and stronger. He’s still 2-3 good years left, knows he’s still growing as a fighter.
BB: How do you re-build Gary back up and on the title hunt again?
JM: In terms of public perception, many thought he was a weak champion who had been exposed at the top level. Now, he’s just lost a razor sharp decision to the number 1 in Britain at the weight, TV and fans love him, he’s a real fighter, so he doesn’t take any building up in terms of marketing. But he has to change things himself.
I don’t dress things up, he has to live like a fighter, think like a fighter, and be a fighter. Gary needs dates to train to, and getting regular fights has been a problem, but Chris Aston and I always say “stay in the gym, because the call just may come”.

He also has to look at his career, and perhaps take his destiny into his own hands. I have 4 kids, hold down a senior role in Publishing, and maybe can’t give Gary the time he needs to get to the next level. He doesn’t want to hear it, but it’s true. Maybe it’s time for us both to review this? Regardless, that’s a discussion he and I will have shortly. We are good friends, whatever we both decide that won’t change our relationship. He’s a great lad, like a younger (annoying) Brother!

My gut-feeling is Buckland gets Foster next, then Europe and vacates, and the title becomes vacant. Gary Sykes is already in the mix, and other than Buckland I don’t see anyone else who can beat him. The old guard will fade away, Liam Walsh will go his own route, he won’t fight Buckland anytime soon he’s just not tough enough for the Welsh kid! Who is left? Ben Jones could happen, but Gary now is too seasoned for a kid like that.

BB: Can Gary come back from this better and wiser for the experience?
JM: He has to! – Boxing’s a short career, he needs to get back fighting for belts and quick. Gary needs to listen to his coaches though – during camp and outside of a camp. I won’t say any more than that!

BB: What did you learn from this fight and how can you improve?

JM: I am always looking to improve! – I love travelling to different gyms and talking to other coaches like Joe Gallagher etc. always trying to build on my experience.

But realistically boxing isn’t my career, Gary Sykes asked me to train him 6 years ago after a conversation we had when he was an amateur. If he hadn’t, I’d be doing something else. Coaching at this level is basically a second job, and I’m very tired at the moment so taking some time out to try be a better Husband and Dad – though the kids think it’s very cool dad’s on TV!
Good to speak to you Julian I look forward to seeing Gary and yourself back on the title trail in the near future.
Interview by Chris Maylett
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