Amir Khan describes him as the toughest sparring partner he has faced.

His trainer reckons Gary Sykes, England's No 1 amateur featherweight, is the best he has worked with.

Promoter Frank Warren is said to be watching his progress closely.

Sykes, from Cleckheaton, is not short of admirers.

"He is the real McCoy," beams Keith Tate, the man who works with him every day at the town's boxing academy.

"I've taught Mark Hobson, James Hare and Steve Conway and this kid ranks as just about the best.

"James maybe is a bit better in his defence but Gary is the fittest I've ever seen.

"I used to train Charlie Watson, a light-middleweight from Bradford, who had a pulse rate of 44 beats per minute. But this lad is something else and he just never stops.

"In 4x2s he just keeps upping the pace all the time and nobody can live with him."

Denmark's Fadi Charchrour had no chance in last week's international at Sunderland. Their bout was stopped seven seconds into round three, by which time Sykes had rattled up a 20-point lead.

It was a useful work-out for the 21-year-old, who had taken time off in the summer to have a mole removed from his chest.

The Commonwealth Games in March is his goal and that means winning the ABAs again.

Sykes, who at 5ft 8in is not short for a featherweight, crushed Michael Robinson last season with the biggest win of the night.

Now he is aiming to retain his title in the same year - the finals have been moved forward to next month to accommodate the Commonwealths.

The 57kg final is expected to come down to a straight shoot-out between Sykes and Liverpool's Steven Smith, who has stepped up a division after dominating at bantam.

"The Commonwealth spot is between the two of them," said Tate. "Whoever wins the ABAs will be in there.

"But whatever happens, we're definitely looking for Gary to turn pro after the Commonwealth Games.

"He's very good friends with Amir Khan and they wanted him to go to the Olympics last year to help with sparring.

"I've no doubt that Amir has spoken to Frank about Gary and I'm sure something will happen there.

"He's a great kid and totally committed to his boxing. He's got a big career ahead of him."