Grimsby boxer Kevin Hooper down but not out after valiant effort against Gary Sykes
GRIMSBY boxer Kevin Hooper has vowed to 'come back stronger' after tasting his first pro defeat at the Beachcomber on Friday night.
The 28-year-old fell to a unanimous points reverse against Yorkshireman Gary Sykes, who now holds the previously vacant English super-featherweight title.
With 500 people packed inside the venue, the three judges scored the bout 98-92, 96-95, 97-94 in favour of the visitor.
While 'Super Hooper' was eventually beaten for the first time, he stood firm against the experienced Sykes and dominated the middle rounds.
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In the end, though, it was 'Five Star' who took the victory, but he was made to work incredibly hard by the Grimsby man.
Hooper told the Telegraph: "I knew what Gary was going to do. It was a close fight and it could have gone either way – but unfortunately it went against me.
"But I have given a former British champion a very tough fight. I'm gutted but it shows that I'm up there at that level – things didn't really go my way.
"The crowd were brilliant. You could hear them chanting all the way through, and they helped me home in the end – they have always stood by me.
"It was very hard and obviously not the result I was looking for. It's time for me to take some time, reflect on things and come back even stronger."
Following a three-fight undercard – courtesy of Greaves Promotions – 'Super Hooper' entered the stage amidst a wave of hope and expectation in the crowd.
But, spurred on by around 60 visitors, it was Sykes who started the brighter – taking the opening three rounds.
The Grimsby fighter then rejuvenated, proving his pedigree with a strong showing in the mid stages of the bout.
Using his reach advantage, 'Super Hooper' began to land with his jab and countered Sykes with two well-executed uppercuts.
Hooper's new-found rhythm was constantly interrupted by the referee, who penalised the home man three times for holding and allowed 'Five Star' to re-strap his gloves in round six.
As the seventh round began, the sense of anticipation was raised – Sykes emerged with fresh impetus and looked to score a late knockdown.
Indeed, the Dewsbury man threw everything at Hooper – who suffered a small cut above his left eye in round nine.
Ultimately, though, the home favourite remained strong and saw out the contest in front of his home fans with a deserved win in round ten.
Despite the loss for Hooper, coach Sean Wood said: "Kevin stood toe-to-toe with Gary. We think it was Sykes' fight but one of the judges had it as close as one point.
"It was his first loss, and for a major title. Failing is not falling down, it is when you don't get back up. Kevin Hooper will be getting back up. He will fight for another title in front of his home fans."