Men Of Steel: Gary Buckland Dethrones Gary Sykes With Thrilling Repeat Win In Sheffield

(Gary Sykes, left; Gary Buckland, right)

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND — Gary Sykes’s pre-fight mantra had been that “lightning wouldn’t strike twice” in his rematch with Gary Buckland, yet it was the thunder clap from the first blast which cost him his British junior lightweight crown after a pulsating rematch at the Steel City’s Ponds Forge Arena.

The memory of that right hand last year, a flash which had fried Sykes into oblivion, allowed Buckland a vital edge throughout the bout’s opening third. Buckland appeared convinced he could land it again, whereas Sykes wasn’t altogether clear what would happen should he manage to. After both men were reassured — Buckland rattled home vicious hooks repeatedly, while Sykes held firm under fire — the champion rallied hard in order to make a real argument of it, yet it was Buckland’s earlier work which carried him to a hard-earned decision win.

Buckland (129 ½ lbs.), jug-eared and with sloping shoulders, was chomping at the bit as he emerged from the backstage area to the strains of “We Will Rock You.” A gamecock with menace in his eyes, he looked a fighter from another age as he waited in his corner, gown open and draped around his neck. Sykes, meanwhile, very definitely represents the here and now. Chiseled, tanned and with a shock of flaxen hair, the Dewsbury lad could cause insecurities within a boy band. With a dance track accompaniment and his sequined shorts, he jarred in contrast to the old fashioned challenger from Cardiff.

Buckland roared out of his blocks, shooting booming hooks which were delivered artfully from a crouching position. Sykes stood in with his man, looking to give as good as he got, perhaps keen, injudiciously so, to revisit the coup de grace which has blighted his thoughts ever since leaving him decimated in London. The pair battled willingly, but it was the greater power in Buckland’s shots which was carrying the rounds.

Sykes (129 ½ lbs) worked hard in the 3rd, landing some beautiful uppercuts which were overruled with single, meatier replies from Buckland that helped stir an already rollicking atmosphere. After a big right and a sweeping left clattered home in the 4th, it appeared as if Buckland might run away with things; however, Sykes kicked on in the next, landing quick bursts before moving off and away.

Everything Buckland threw was forceful and escorted with a shrill chuff as he exhaled, as though he were a little steam train, chugging into Sykes over and over. Sykes began to ram home right hands, with particular success underneath and, while Buckland remained dangerous with his own jack-in-the-box hooks, the champion had grabbed a foothold.

Buckland had a big 7th, hurting Sykes before slipping in mid-flow and then clocking him with a gruesome left hook on the bell. On they went, toiling themselves into a fever state as Sykes began to sit down on his shots, which bothered Buckland not a jot. The penultimate session was titanic and featured furious exchanges and, with Sykes finishing well, the TQBR was unable to find a winner, scoring 115-115.

A ringside photographer ruined the suspense for press row, motioning that Buckland had taken the verdict, and so it proved, with unanimous scores of 115-114, 115-113 and 116-113. Elated as he made his off with the Lonsdale belt, Buckland stopped to slap hands with previous conqueror John Murray, celebrating a win he probably deserved due to his forthright aggression throughout. Sykes, though, was no loser and will have plenty of options available to him on his return.

Leicester’s Rendall Munroe went through the motions against a tired looking Japanese import in Ryuta Miyagi, winning a tepid ten-round decision before a pocket of boisterous supporters, who showed far more bite than the boxing bin-man managed to himself. Munroe is, at times, a kinetic mess in the ring and does not remain still for an instant in order to consider what he’s doing. He seemed content to box well within himself here and no more, to take referee Howard Foster’s nod with a tally of 98-92.

Munroe extends to 23-2 (9) and will be hoping for one last foray into world class. Young guns Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton, meanwhile, will be snapping at his heels a little harder after this performance. Miyagi falls to 21-6-4 (16).

Undercard fight of the night went to middleweights Adam Etches and Yauheni Abdurazakau, who went at it with gusto in their four-round prelim. Belarusian Abdurazakau cut a menacing swathe on his approach to the ring, one which made you pensive for the man following him (it’s never quite clear who that might be until they arrive). Unfortunately for him, Etches looks a bit special and is very definitely a prospect worth keeping tabs on.

Etches, who brought with him good support, is extremely talented. His style looks to be based loosely on that of Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto, yet rather than a patient stalker, he goes after his opponents with sneaky and clever power punches – it was a joy to watch him fathom Abdurazakau out.

After taking a pounding in rounds 2 and 3, the visitor started to lose his gumshield with some regularity in a bid to catch his breath. Etches, clearly miffed at this turn of events, actually half-volleyed it into the air at one point, a sure-fire entrant into BBC quiz show Question of Sport’s “what happened next?” round. Etches went all out for the kayo in the 4th, battering his man unmercifully, yet he was forced to settle for a whitewash on the referee’s card as he moved on to 5-0 (3). Abdurazakau, who put up stiff resistance, falls to 8-7 (3).

Richard Towers, an intimidating and monstrous looking heavyweight from the nearby Ingle gym, struggled to swat portly Belarusian Yuri Bihoutseu. A decent body shot did the job for him at 2:28 of the 3rd and he rises to 12-0 (9). Bihouetseu suffers his first blemish on a record which now reads 5-1-1 (5).

Elsewhere, light heavyweight Carl Wild showed real guts in battling to a draw with Welshman Justyn Hugh over four, while junior featherweight debutant Tommy Stubbs outscored Anwar Alfadli over the same distance.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.