Champions Khan and Sykes inspire boxers

Just Champion Gary Sykes, and Amir Khan with Keith Tate at the Cleckheaton Boxing Academy. (NS)
Just Champion Gary Sykes, and Amir Khan with Keith Tate at the Cleckheaton Boxing Academy. (NS)

IT’S not every day that you can rub shoulders with a World Champion and a British Champion but boxers, fans and members of the public turned up in their hundreds to see Amir Khan and Gary Sykes at Cleckheaton Boxing Academy’s open day on Saturday.

Amir and Gary spent two hours at the gym, based in the former Flexitallic Gears mill, Bradford Road, Cleckheaton, talking to fans, signing autographs and posing for pictures.

It was only confirmed late on in the week that the unified Light Welterweight World Champion Khan was going to be popping into Cleckheaton.

It is a mark of respect for the Cleckheaton Boxing Academy’s head coach Keith Tate that Amir gave his time to support the thriving club and acknowledge his own roots as an amateur. He won an Olympic silver medal for Britain at the 2004 games in Athens when he became the youngest winner of an Olympic boxing medal.

Although based in America now he came over to Cleckheaton from his home town of Bolton, with his father, who is also part of his coaching team, both hugged Keith and Amir presented him with a punchbag as a gift for the gym.

It was a bit of a reunion as Amir also met up again with British Champion Gary. Over the years the pair have spent hours sparring together.

Gary started his amateur career with Keith Tate and won national titles and represented England with him before turning professional.

The pair were glad to have a chat and Khan passed on his good wishes for Gary’s next British title defence at Ponds Forge, Sheffield at the end of this month.

Boxing clubs from Selby, York and Scarborough also brought over teams of boxers, girls and boys to take part in sparring sessions with members of the Cleckheaton Academy.

They demonstrated their skills and training techniques to the visitors. Members of the public who dropped in were impressed by the facilities in the newly refurbished gym. They were also enthusiastic in their praise of the youngsters who showed off their sport to its best advantage.

A delighted Keith Tate said: “It was a brilliant day there were so many people who came and to have Amir and his father and Gary there made it very special.”

The day also marked a scaling back of the involvement of Keith Tate in the day to day operation of the gym.

Mo Azzie, a parent of boys who attend the gym said: “It was really fantastic to see these champions. Amir Khan was really great and humble with it.

“Our family really respect Keith Tate for this and all he puts into the community.”