By Alexey Sukachev
Leisure Centre in Huddersfield, England - In a super featherweight classic, defending BBBofC British champion Gary Sykes (18-1, 4 KOs), and experienced veteran Carl Johanneson (30-5, 19 KOs), unified their pugilistic efforts to produce one of the best British thrillers of early 2011 with ebb, sweat and blood flowing all around the place. Despite a hard knockdown in round nine, Sykes came out as a winner at the end of the day with a rather narrow unanimous decision in his favor.
Sykes, 27, fighting in front of the partisan crowd, looked to erase the sad memories of his crushing defeat to Gary Buckland in the last year's best Prizefighter series. He did well in the first couple of round to convince many that he put that loss behind him.
Sykes was circling around slower, although smaller, Johanneson, 32, sticked his hard jab into challenger's face and used quick body punches as well. Johanneson started to find his rhythm in the third and was especially competitive in rounds four and five by going to the body of liquid Sykes and using effective left hooks to give him some trouble. The sixth stanza was just as good as both fighters were doing their best to rock each other time and again. The challenger was slightly better also through the next couple of rounds.
Round nine produced a major change in the game. While it looked like an instant moment of success for Johanneson after he crushed Sykes down with an annihilating right hook to the whiskers, it turned to be a curse for him in a long run. Sykes barely beat the count and survived an ongoing onslaught by Johanneson, who was almost completely exhausted after throwing too many punches. Sykes quicky sensed the change and rallied back with an unusual energy to get the better of Johanneson in rounds ten through twelve. Carl seemingly had so little left that he was lucky to last until the final bell.
Scores were: 115-113 (John Keane), 115-112 (Mark Green) and 116-112 (Steve Gray) - for the defending champion. Glenn McRory's card was 114-113 - for Sykes, while this reporter saw the bout even 114-114. Referee was Marcus McDonnell.