Mighty Celt star Tyrone McKenna takes centre stage on Belfast fight night
TYRONE McKenna tops the bill for the first time at the Devenish Complex on September 16.
“It's about time,” jokes the six-foot light-welterweight who took his career stats to 14-0-1 with a clinical beatdown win against Ferenc Katona back in June.
That was his third inside-the-distance victory on-the-trot and he'll be looking for a fourth at the Devenish against an as yet unconfirmed opponent. Three potential rivals have been offered the fight and all three have turned it down which is an indication of McKenna's growing stature as he builds towards a major breakthrough – possibly against former IBF lightweight king Tommy Coyle – in the autumn.
Tall, mobile, well-organised and a spiteful puncher, McKenna has put together a series of eye-catching performances and his elevation to the ‘draw card' is not a moment too soon.
“It's an unbelievable bill,” he says of the Ginley Promotions line-up.
“There's Olympians, highly-rated prospects like Gary Cully, Tyrone McCullough, Stephen Ward, Marc McCullough… It's a massive bill and it's an honour to be headlining it.
“My last fights have been on TV but this one means more because I am headlining and the show is being built around me. It's very flattering.
McKenna readily admits to being something of ‘a showman' and of course his Devenish headline act won't be the first time he has taken centre stage.
As a kid he played the role of Donal in 2005 feature film ‘The Mighty Celt' (his ring nickname), starring alongside Gillian Anderson and Robert Carlyle and had to choose between acting and boxing before deciding his immediate future lay in the ring.
“There's no age limit on acting,” he reasons and dedication to the sweet science is paying off for the MTK fighter.
Perhaps not your stereotypical boxer, McKenna's music tastes include Amy Winehouse and Funkadelic, but he sees no contradiction between his personas inside and outside the ring.
“I love my music,” he said.
“Boxing is only one side of me, but it's the main side. I've done a bit of acting, I was in the Mighty Celt and I had a small part in Middletown but it was either boxing or acting and I thought the boxing was going better so I decided to stick to it.
“I'll go back to the acting after it hopefully. I'd love to do a boxing movie, you can act whenever you want so I decided I'd devote myself to boxing for six-seven-eight years and if it doesn't go well I'll go back to the acting.”
He added: “Some people see boxing as a macho thing but if you go into the ring trying be macho and thinking ‘I'm gonna fight to the death here' that's how you get beat,” he explain.
“If you lose the head you start making mistakes and slipping up. In boxing you have to be very cool and collected and not get angry. You have to be able to see things instead of seeing red and going forward to try and kill someone.
“Obviously in boxing you have to be tough but you have to be smart as well.”
JAMES Tennyson will appear on the undercard on Ryan Burnett's IBF & WBA bantamweight unification battle at the SSE Arena on Saturday, October 21.
Burnett tops the bill against Zhanat Zhakiyanov and the supporting cast also features Tennyson's MHD Promotions stablemate Paul Hyland jnr versus Stephen Ormond in a defence of Hyland's IBF European Lightweight title.
Tennyson's manager Mark Dunlop explained: “James' opponent will be revealed in due course by Matchroom and it's great for both MHD lads to be part of such a momentous occasion.
“The WBA world rankings have just come out and James has risen to number five in the world. He's in touching distance of a world title shot against WBA champion Jezreel Corrales and he knows there can be no room for error on October 21.
Trainer Tony Dunlop added: “James has great ability and potential to go all the way, while the team don't shout about how good he is we let the results do the talking, one this is for sure his power is following him as his level of opposition rises.”
Belfast super-featherweight Tennyson has had an excellent year. Now 24, the Poleglass puncher has racked up 21 professional contests with 19 wins against two defeats.
He has already won two Irish titles in impressive fashion, a British Boxing Board of Control Celtic Featherweight Title and is the current WBA International champion.
‘The Assassin' has ferocious power with either hand, giving him one of the highest knockout ratios (71 per cent) in British and Irish boxing.
NATHAN Cleverly announced his retirement after losing his WBA light-heavyweight title when being stopped in five rounds by Badou Jack in Las Vegas.
The Welshman showed his bravery with his willingness to fight on while he was being outclassed at the T-Mobile Arena, but amid his inability to defend himself from increasing punishment, required referee Tony Weeks to come to his rescue.
Having previously considered retirement following the first defeat of his career, by Sergey Kovalev in 2013, and long appeared in a steady decline, he has chosen to retire at the age of 30 with his options minimal.
"Well done to the new champ Badou Jack," Cleverly wrote on social media. "Thank you for the opportunity to fight on this event. Also, a massive shout out to those that have supported me over the years. I've lived it and loved every second of the sport.
"(I have) a few too many miles on the clock. (It's) time to say goodbye. Thank you and goodbye boxing."
Such a one-sided defeat again demonstrated Cleverly lacks the ability to challenge the elite at 175lbs that includes Kovalev, the great Andre Ward, and now new champion Jack.
The Swede had made a fine start to his first fight in the division after stepping up from super-middleweight. He had fought to an entertaining draw against James DeGale in January, and in 2015 also defeated George Groves, whose skill sets Cleverly had long lacked.
Jack landed with two big rights and a left during the opening round, and also threw the more eye-catching combinations against Cleverly's ineffective work-rate until he also responded with a big right.
As early as then and despite that right, the fight already looked Jack's amid his superior variety and Cleverly's long-term inability to adjust. The challenger responded to that in the second with another hurtful right hand and continued to dictate the range and pace of the action.
In the fourth after Jack swung and missed with a left hook, he landed with another and the Welshman's resilience began to break down. He had succeeded with several further lefts and a right, appearing to break Cleverly's nose as it began to heavily bleed.
By the end of the fourth Cleverly was in survival mode, struggling to cope with the levels aggression and power Jack has rarely produced at world level.