By Terence Dooley
Manchester's Jon “2 Smokes” Kays, 16-2-1 (4), took a sabbatical from boxing after a four-threes draw with journeyman Pavels Senkovs in December 2011. Kays had made a name for himself in March of that year when putting on a valiant display during his Commonwealth Super featherweight title loss to Liam Walsh. Although he was floored twice by Walsh en route to a 10th-round KO, Kays produced enough good work of his own to suggest that he could come again.
Kays, though, was MIA for seven-months following the loss to Walsh, his next outing was a six-threes win over Ibrar Riyaz, and he walked away after the Senkovs draw before returning in September of last year with a six-threes victory over Kristian Laight. A four-round decision over Abdul Rashid in March followed and he is due to meet Gary Sykes for the English Super featherweight title on the undercard of Amir Khan versus Julio Diaz at Sheffield's Motorpoint venue on April 27.
Now firmly settled in with a new training team of Darren McCarrick and Patrick Warde, he was formerly with Bobby Rimmer, Kays believes that his nine-month break helped recharge his batteries and that he has returned to the boxing style that made him a stand-out amateur.
“I decided to call it a day, but knew it was a good idea to come back,” said Kays when speaking to BoxingScene. “I didn't want to wait for three-years before coming back, it would have been too late and I'd have never forgiven myself. I feel better than I ever did. I'm not stale, I'm not rusty, after three or four years I wouldn't have been as sharp. I'm really enjoying it. It had been nearly 10-months so it felt like I was making my début again. I am back on my toes, back on my jab, and showing people that I'm a boxer, not a fighter.
“I felt I needed a new injection of ideas. I've know Darren and Pat for a long time — I saw what they've done for [the 9-1-1 (3)] Warren [Tansey] — so I went for a trial, loved it and feel like a new man with new ideas. It wasn't easy that first day back, they gave it to me and it was torture, but I thought, 'All right!'. This isn't anything against my last trainer — I was cheating myself and cheating on runs — but these two know about everything I do and eat. I can't get away with anything with them, and it is showing in my boxing.”
Kays won the International Masters 130lb title by beating Dai Davies in September 2010. It was one of his strongest performances and led to the fight with Walsh, who had too much variety and experience for Kays. Kays, though, believes that the best is yet to come and that his jab will pick apart plenty of defences during Phase Two of his professional career.
“The jab is the key to opening all doors,” he said. “When I get it going I start to enjoy myself. I was a good boxer in the amateurs and I've gone back to that. That's what will take me to the next level in the pros. I felt that the fight with Walsh would have opened up doors to bigger and better things, but things weren't going right. I wasn't right. I was cheating on little things, work was quiet, so I was struggling and my head was all over the gaffe, but I regrouped and things are going smoothly.”
Kays and Sykes met in the amateurs, Dewsbury's former British Super featherweight titlist won on both occasions yet Kays believes he can get his revenge on the 27th and that his boxing ability will negate Sykes's bustling professional style.
“Don’t get me wrong it’ll be a very tough test, but I’m super fit and can he stay with me for 10 rounds, that’s the question,” said Kays. “I’m a very talented, clever boxer myself, and it’s got all the ingredients for a very exciting fight.”
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