Defeat to Gary Sykes 'can drive Kevin Hooper on'
KEVIN Hooper may have lost his unbeaten professional record against Gary Sykes on Friday, but his performance evoked a sense of local pride.
With 500 fans crammed inside the Beachcomber, in Humberston, the 28-year-old stood face-to-face with Yorkshireman Sykes, and fully justified his right to fight for the English title.
Competing for the first time at super-featherweight, 'Super Hooper' went into the clash with a height and reach advantage, though both men tipped the scales at exactly the same weight (9st 3lbs).
But, in the end, the experience of Sykes shone through as he took a unanimous points decision – the scores read 98-92, 97-94, 96-95 in 'Five Star's' favour.
Chants of 'Super Hooper' echoed around the compact Humberston arena, billed in the pre-fight talk as a potential cauldron by promoter Carl Greaves.
Indeed, the strong Grimsby following got right behind Hooper who, after a nervy showing in the first three rounds, enjoyed the better of the middle stages and may well have cause an upset.
And victory for Hooper would have been exactly that – remember Dewsbury man Sykes was last year on the cusp of challenging for a world title against highly-rated American Adrien Broner.
While Hooper found, this time at least, the ability of Sykes a bridge too far, there will undoubtedly be another chance for the Grimsby man to shine.
After all, this was his first defeat as a professional boxer.
In time it could prove to be a learning curve, something of a stepping-stone towards bigger and better things in his career.
Grimsby may have lost an unbeaten champion, but they have ultimately found a genuine hero – Hooper should be proud of his efforts, because the local people most certainly are.
At the end of the day, Sykes' experience and ability to soak up the pressure told – but 'Super Hooper' will come back from this defeat, and be much stronger for it.
- Liam Wood