Dark demise of UKs toughest prisoner who punched shark and was set on fire

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    An author who penned three books about cult hero boxer Paul Sykes opened up about his tragic final years.

    Fearsome Sykes spent over 20 years in jail and was once regarded as one of Britain’s toughest prisonerers.

    But the former professional boxer from Wakefield, who also worked as an infamous debt collector, was a “shadow of himself” towards the end.

    READ MORE: Wild life of boozy cult hero boxer – prison to punching sharks 'in the f***ing earhole'

    He died aged 60 but looked like a frail old man who could have passed for 80.

    And Jamie Boyle, who has spent years researching Sykes’ turbulent life, spoke about his final years in a recent YouTube video.

    He used two comparison photos taken 20 years apart and said: “There was the guy who was like a brazen giant if you like and the guy on the right was broken, very old, very frail, a far cry to how he once was.”

    Jamie also referenced burn marks and scabs on Skyke’s face and said they came from being set on fire.

    He also said towards the end of his life teenagers would brag about beating him up.

    The author said: “He was found in Thornes Park in Wakefield. A gang of youths poured lighter fluid on him when he was asleep and set fire to him… horrific isn’t it.

    “I remember talking to a very well known actor who is possibly playing him and he said to me the biggest challenge about playing a character such as Paul Sykes is the social justice side.

    “He was once upon a time this incredibly powerful figure who everyone kind of knelt to.

    “And in the end as you can see in the photo he is kind of a shadow of his former self and that was a very sad factor to his life. Without doubt it will take an incredibly skilled actor to portray the role of Paul Sykes.”

    A movie is being made about Syke’s life with the help of Jamie – who said the story will start in 1989 after he was released from jail.

    And it will end in 2007, the year of his death when he “probably looked about 85” despite being 60.

    Jamie described how he was by then “ravished with diabetes and arthritis” and that he “struggled to open a can of beer”.

    Sykes died in Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield and was suffering with pneumonia and liver cirrhosis.

    His legacy includes being housed in 18 different prisons for numerous assaults including beating up police officers.

    And speaking of his brutality, he once said: “I’m an expert in violence – I’ve been at it all my life.”

    But despite the trouble he caused, which resulted in him being banned from boozers in Wakefield, Jamie has sympathy for how his life spiralled.

    He said: “It was very hard and a lot of people will say he got his karma and that. My opinion is does anyone really deserve the ending that guy got?

    “You know, often people who once upon a time had been scared of him, he would beat their dads up, their grandads up, and they would almost hunt in packs, lots of teenagers would brag saying ‘I just beat up Paul Sykes’.”

    “In actual fact they never. Paul Sykes was long gone by that stage. All that was left was a shadow of a man but of course it was the name and I think that is why he was hunted to the extent he was.”

    He also spoke about what a cop once told him about the outspoken hard nut who famously spoke about punching sharks “in the f***ing earhole”.

    Jamie said: “He said to me he knew him from them days and what a scary character… He said he knew him in the end when a gust of wind would have blew him over.

    “The only thing he could do was call names and one of the things he used to do was spit at people… horrific, horrible.

    “But that was the very tragic demise of Paul Sykes. What a film it is going to be.”

    Commenting on the video, one fan replied: “Were the animals that set him alight any better. Definitely not. Rest in peace Paul.”

    And another added: “Very sad what happened to him at the end of his life, whatever he had done he was still a human being.”

    Although he had many critics, one of his admirers was none other than Charles Bronson.

    The pair met behind bars and Bronson wrote in his book Legends: “A notorious hard man from Yorkshire, a fighting man in every sense.

    “A lot of people never liked him, even feared him but I respected the man and what he stood for.”

    Sykes has been dead 16 years and his son, Michael Sharp, is now serving a life sentence for murdering former policeman David Ward.


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