London calling again as James Tennyson takes on Martin J Ward in European title rumble

James Tennyson stops Darren Traynor at the SSE arena in Belfast
Andy Watters

TWO years ago, James Tennyson boiled himself down to featherweight to fight experienced Ryan Walsh for the British title in London.

Drained and lifeless, Tennyson was stopped that night at the Copper Box Arena, but it’s only really a loss if you don’t learn, as they say, and since then he has stepped up to super-featherweight and looked a different fighter with five straight wins (three by knock-out) delivering the Irish and World Boxing Association International titles.

‘The Assassin’ is back in action in London this weekend, this time at the O2 Arena live on Sky Sports , where he takes on slick operator Martin J. Ward for the Commonwealth, European and WBO International titles. Tony Dunlop, his coach at the Belfast Kronk gym in Belfast’s New Lodge, reports that 24-year-old ‘Tenny’ is primed and confident. Dunlop admits that the Walsh fight came too early for Tennyson who was up against a clever, switch-hitting operator in Walsh who had shut himself away to train for the fight and looked a level above the Lisburn man.

“It was too soon,” said Dunlop.

“James had a weight problem and we were rolling the dice with it because we knew he was pushed for it. It wasn’t the real James Tennyson because that night he was only a shadow of himself and he never fought at featherweight again.

“He was maturing physically and the weight beat him that night. Half-an-hour before the fight we were doing the pads in the changingroom and I noticed the energy just draining out of him. I hoped that he’d be alright, but the energy never came back – it was just too soon for him and Walsh was very good.”

Tennyson has flourished since he moved up to super-feather and the win that gave his career real momentum was his KO victory over Declan Geraghty in Galway last year. Slick stylist Geraghty had been in control until Tennyson dropped him with a left hand and he closed the show with a thumping right hand in the next round.

“He has knocked out 17 out of 21 victories,” said Dunlop.

“He’s definitely a big puncher and I remember him as a kid, I think he was 11 or 12 when I first saw him fighting and he had a pro style then.

“He was a two-handed fighter going forward and he had punching power, his power and his physical maturity is improving with every fight – he’s just getting stronger and stronger so he’s going to be hard to stop as time goes on.

“It’s all about leverage, turning and twisting the body in with the shot. You have to work on that but not everybody can punch, it is a gift he’s been given.

“We can capitalise on that and he has worked on it from when he first turned pro. But you can’t teach someone to have power and we don’t call him ‘The Assassin’ for nothing.”

Laid back and relaxed outside the ring, Tennyson is committed, determined and ambitious. Currently ranked number four by the WBA, he’ll hope to be in the frame for a world title shot before long.

“He’s boxing since he was seven,” Dunlop explained.

“He’s been mixing in the best of company around the clubs in Belfast since then and there was loads of competition. He came right up through, he was boxing in Russia when he was 15 and he never feared anyone and he won’t fear anyone now.

“He’s very professional, very cool and he doesn’t care who he fights – if it was Lomachenko, he wouldn’t be worried about it. He just goes in and does his best and he goes in to win all the time.

“Same as me, I would let Lomachenko do the worrying. The difference between me and Lomachenko is I’m from the New Lodge and we’re a different breed!”

Former amateur stand-out Ward has a career record of 19-0-2 and has a points win over Anthony Cacace on his record so Dunlop knows a hard night’s work is ahead of his man.

“Ward is world class – even as an amateur he was winning medals,” said Dunlop.

“He’s very good; he actually lost by a point against Carl Frampton when he was 18. He’s undefeated as a pro so he is a world class kid. No matter who wins this fight, both of these lads will still climb up the ratings because they’re young and they’re class.

“We aren’t underestimating Ward in any way but we’re not concentrating too much on him, we’re concentrating on James and he will go in and do the business.

“Ward has a couple of good wins behind him and we know James will have to be 100 per cent, but James is ready for it and it’s going to be the best fight of the night.”

He added: “We’ve very confident and why wouldn’t we be? We’re in this game a long time and I know James Tennyson is ready for this.”


DAVID Haye says not acting like a "lunatic" in the build-up to his rematch with Tony Bellew will bring about a different result at the O2 Arena.

An injured Haye was surprisingly defeated in their first fight in March 2017 when Bellew stepped up two weights and produced an 11th-round stoppage.

The build-up to that bout was marred by bad blood, with the two trading insults and even punches at their pre-fight press conference. Haye was also reprimanded for his comments saying he would "legally do as much damage as I can inflict".

The pair will go at it again next Saturday and with interest in this pay-per-view fight already high, Haye has this time not allowed himself to get embroiled in Bellew's “ball of hate” and says he will be better for it.

“There is no drama whatsoever and it has been nice not to have that negative energy," he said.

“I remember prior to the first fight I wasn't in the right head space, I wasn't in the right frame of mind.

“It might have been the right frame of mind for people to be interested in the fight, because I was doing and saying crazy things so it seemed like I was a lunatic and people really seemed to like that.

"For me as a boxer that doesn't work, I don't get the best out of myself, I am a timing guy, I am a guy who uses speed and skills and athleticism and I was walking around feeling angry and I snookered myself by having that mindset.

"I have reined it in. The first time around I screamed and shouted because I believe the fight needed that. I embraced the hype way too much.

"But when you have got all the beef, when he's coming at me, kicking Toblerones, swearing at me...although we were both saying some horrendous things, it made people tune in and watch the fight.

"Fortunately, this time, off the strength of the first fight, I don't need to scream and shout, I can let my boxing do the talking.

"He loves an argument, he would argue with himself in the mirror, he is just an argumentative human being, always angry.

"He is just a ball of hate and I somehow allowed myself to get into that 'hate zone' with him, he is a natural born hater and I am not really.

"So this time he can do all the moaning."

Despite being 37, Haye wants to rise back to the top of a division where he once fought for the unification of all four belts against Wladimir Klitschko.

To be able to do that, though, he accepts he needs to put on a polished show against Bellew.

He added: "If I want to achieve the very best in the division and win the titles, this fight against Tony Bellew can't be a 50-50 fight, I can't be getting knocked down, cut, hurt because if I can dispatch Tony Bellew in real clinical fashion then what's it all about?"

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