James Tennyson shows steel getting up off the canvas to clinch European and Commonwealth titles in Ward war

Thomas Hawkins and Declan Warrington

Down and out for Belfast fighter James Tennyson in the second round of his European and Commonwealth super-featherweight battle against Martin J Ward at the at The O2 in London?

Not on your life boy!

But that's exactly how it looked like when rangy 24-year-old Tennyson was dropped by a powerful body shot hammered home by the Essex fighter.

The Tennyson v Ward war was down on the undercard of the much-hyped heavyweight rematch featuring Tony Bellew and David Haye.

That one went as expected with an underwhelming Haye knocked to the canvas in the fifth and the referee Howard Foster waving an end.

There was to be no coming back for a hollow Haye.

But for comeback tenacity he should take a close look at Belfast's James 'The Assassin' Tennyson.

Up against the unbeaten Ward, he displayed true grit, much like his trainer Tony Dunlop exuded back in his fighting days.

An inch-perfect body shot sucked the breath out of Tennyson in a traumatic second round.

Lesser fighters might have wilted but not James Tennyson, (now fought 24, won 22).

He weathered the storm brilliantly, stayed composed and by the close of the fourth he was in command, a great left hook flashing out a warning to a ruffled Ward.

The end came soon after.

When Tennyson trapped the Brentwood fighter on the ropes in the fifth, pummeling him with a barrage of blows, referee Victor Loughlin intervened, sparking scenes of celebration in the Belfast camp.

“What another fantastic experience in London for another one of the lads,” said Tennyson's manager Mark Dunlop.

“What can I say? James Tennyson, last night you were a throw back to the Jack Dempsey days.

“To get up from the perfect body shot from a very experienced and great champion like Martin J Ward you showed the heart and will that true champions are made of.

“To do another demolition job and collect another two titles to add to the other four that you have won at the tender age of 24 is pretty special.

“For me the defining moment was scraping your own gum shield of the canvas and shoving it back in your mouth and going back in for the finish.”

Dunlop also paid tribute to “an amazing camp.”

He highlighted the part played by “Paul Hyland Jnr, Ronnie Clark, Marc McCullough, Maxi Hughes, Anthony Cacace, Eric Donavan, Stephen McKenna and Lucas Ballingall for the top class sparring to help The Assassin get ready for one of the greatest away victories in Irish boxing.

“And Tony Dunlop deserves a lot of credit for how James has been developed, he has improved him no end.

“Like all the fighters he has trained for me, Tony is at their beck and call and for this I am deeply indebted

“A special mention also to Eddie Hearn and Matchroom boxing for giving my boxers countless opportunities and a fair platform to showcase their skills.”

Meanwhile Tony Bellew has insisted he will continue to fight and has targeted Tyson Fury and Andre Ward as potential future opponents.

The 35-year-old stopped David Haye in five rounds in their rematch at London's 02 Arena, dropping the former WBA heavyweight champion three times and leaving him to consider retirement.

Bellew's trainer Dave Coldwell and his promoter Eddie Hearn revealed they would also like their fighter to retire, given two significant purses against Haye followed him having achieved his ambitions of winning a world title and fighting at Everton's Goodison Park.

Despite his victories at heavyweight and the fact he continues to improve, Bellew recognises his natural size compared to that of reigning world champions Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder means they are too big and powerful for him to challenge.

He regardless considers the less powerful Fury a worthwhile risk and believes American Ward - a world champion at super-middleweight and light-heavyweight - can be tempted out of retirement.

"It's hard when you've had your defining moment in this sport. What am I chasing?," Bellew said.

"I don't know. I like fighting and challenges, and I've definitely got a screw loose, so I'll keep fighting until the screw detaches itself.

"I'm not stopping now. See if I can talk (wife Rachael) round and we'll go from there. That's my biggest fight.

"It doesn't matter what I do I can't beat (Goodison Park).

"My first words to (Haye, post-fight) were 'Please stop'. This is a very unforgiving sport, it's a young man's game for the attributes Haye relies on. All the attributes he had, he doesn't possess them. He's an amazing fighter and will go down better than me.

"I'll beat Andre Ward. An amazing fighter, but I will beat him.

"I'd love to knock Tyson Fury out, I really would, and I know I can flatten him. But (I'm not waiting for the returning Fury to have) three or four fights."

Bellew had struggled with the death of his brother-in-law Ashley Roberts last year.

He said: "It's been emotionally one of the worst camps I've had, and I'm in a room at night crying myself to sleep. It's hard losing a brother-in-law, your missus and the family is broken.

"I had his dad there (ringside), his brothers, and I left an empty seat (for Roberts) - they're not cheap - but I know he was there and I dedicate this fight to him. My life's a mess but it all makes sense in a boxing ring.

"I was hoping for a really hard fight, a war, that he would beat the fight out of me, but this has just added to the flames."

Hearn also claimed Bellew and Fury had previously agreed a fight before his rematch with Haye, who at 37 is considering hanging up his gloves.

"I'll have to go back and review exactly what happened then make a decision," Haye told talkSPORT.


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