Paul Sykes was a heavyweight boxer and weightlifter from Wakefield in England, he had ten professional fights but his entire adult life was marred by alcohol abuse and both petty and violent crimes. All ten of his fights came during a period of rehabilitation and relative sobriety between 1978 to 1980, in his sixth fight he knocked American David Wilson out cold and continued to punch him. The American was put on a life support machine and spent a month in hospital.
Sykes spent 21 out of 26 years incarcerated in 18 different prisons – mostly for violent crimes – in a period spanning the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, and was considered one of the countries most difficult prisoners. Upon his release from Hull prison in 1990 producer Roger Greenwood followed him in order to make this documentary, Paul Sykes: At Large. The film reveals Sykes to be a very intelligent but clearly unhinged individual.
In the years which followed this documentary Sykes failed to control his drinking and his physical and mental health further declined, he was given an ASBO by Wakefield council at the turn of the century after a string of incidents of disorder whilst drunk. He died in 2007 from alcohol related liver disease. He was survived by two sons, both of whom are now serving life sentences for two separate murders.
BOOK: Whilst in prison Paul Sykes wrote a memoir, Sweet Agony, which was published by Lofthouse Publications in paperback, the paperback edition has since become collectible and fetches high prices but it has since been made available on Kindle for those who wish to read it.
In 2017 a biographical book written by Jamie Boyle, Unfinished Agony, was published. That book tells the story of what happened to Paul Sykes in the years between this documentary being aired in 1990 and his death in 2007.