Boxing

Underdog James Tennyson has the power to star on memorable night for Irish boxing

James Tennyson knocks out Darren Traynor in October last year
Andy Watters

IBF World Super-Featherweight title: Tevin Farmer (26-4-1) v James Tennyson (22-2) (live on Sky Sports & The Zone)

IT’S Boston, it’s October and one of these rags-to-riches fighters has to fall. James Tennyson and Tevin Farmer are both certain it’s the other guy.

An intriguing battle between the boxer (Farmer) and the puncher (Tennyson) awaits at the TD Garden and a win for the Belfast man will stack up against all of the great Irish fighting wins.

A couple of years ago, a night like tonight was a million miles away for him but he has earned his shot thanks to a series of stunning KO wins that have seen him collect the Irish, Commonwealth, EBU and WBA International belts.

He travelled to London in May and left highly-rated champion Martin J Ward in a heap on the O2 canvas and he and his team believe he will do the same to Farmer. No-one deserves success more than Tennyson because he has had to recover from disappointments and scrap every step of the way.

But so has his opponent.

A self-described “Philly street kid” Farmer has emerged from the mean streets of that city and he fell into boxing as a 19-year-old. He lost his debut and won only half of his first eight fights but since then he has knuckled down and turned his career around.

Farmer was able to put an awful decision in his first world title fight behind him and travel to Australia where he outclassed Billy Dib in May to become a world champion and the 28-year-old has no intention of letting Tennyson take his belt in his first defence.

“He trained hard like I trained hard,” said Farmer.

“This is an opportunity for him and I know how it feels to want to be a world champion. When you want to be world champion you want to come and give it the best of your best.

“So I know he’s going to come and try and take me out of there but you don’t become a world champion for no reason.”

There were rumours of him struggling to make the weight and talk that he was already looking ahead to a lucrative showdown with US rival Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis but Farmer argued convincingly that he has spent the last eight weeks thinking of nothing but Tennyson.

“People can say all they want about me overlooking this and overlooking that,” said ‘American Idol’.

“At the end of the day, I can write a thousand things on Instagram and Twitter but we are in the gym every day working for Tennyson. Sometimes you have to let people talk but me and my team know what we have to do.

“I’ve done a 21-week camp. I did 13 weeks for Billy Dib and I was back in the gym on Monday getting ready for this fight. I’m ready, I’m in shape and if they think they’re going to walk through me they have another thing coming.

“A lot of fighters say: ‘Oh yeah, I’m gonna knock him out’ but since 2013 you can’t name a fighter that back me up and I don’t worry about no-bodies’ power.

“Skills pay the bills. Everybody that I’ve fought was supposed to have been a harder puncher than me but they all found themselves being backed up.

“On Saturday night I’ll hear: ‘And still…’ and after that I’m gonna be on Tank’s ass.”

If their fighting styles are contrasting, so are their personalities. Naturally quiet, Tennyson has remained gentlemanly and courteous throughout the build-up and there were no sparks when the IBF rivals squared up yesterday.

“It’s a dream opportunity,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to getting in there. The training camp was unbelievable, it was tough but I’m in the shape of my life and I know I’m going to be rewarded.

“I deserve this spot and I’m ready to go and get the job done.”

Tennyson’s coach Tony Dunlop has predicted a stoppage win for his protégé and ‘The Assassin’ is confident that he has the firepower to finish the job early tonight.

“He (Farmer) has bags of skills, he has a really good operator,” said Tennyson.

“He has some story behind him throughout his career so I’m expecting a tough fight, he’ll be a tricky opponent but I’m more than ready and I’ve got the power to end it inside the distance.”

At 25, Tennyson is three years younger than Farmer and he will enjoy considerable advantages in height and reach tonight but boxing behind a long jab is not his game.

He has often been accused of being a slow starter and against Ward in London he was out-boxed early on. He could be again but the plan, simple as it sounds, will be to knock Farmer out.

What he lacks in finesse, he more than makes up for in power so expect him to start cautiously, keep the distance to avoid Farmer’s counters, and then start to cut the ring off, hem Farmer into a corner, target his body to slow him down and then go to work on him. If he lands clean on his chin – with either hand - Farmer will be in trouble.

Meanwhile, Farmer has been annoyed at suggestions that he will have to box off the back foot to win tonight. He predicts that he’ll push Tennyson back which could be good news for ‘the Assassin’ because, if Farmer wants to trade with him, there will only be one winner.

It’s hard to see that happening because movement and fast hands are Farmer’s strengths so, although he’ll look to earn Tennyson’s respect early on, he’ll box and move and look to pick Tennyson off, force him into mistakes and wear him down.

Bodypunching will be the key to stopping his movement and, if that happens and Farmer become a static target then a Tennyson win could be on the cards. The Belfast man is the underdog and, against a hungry, determined and skilful fighter who is on home soil, you’d have to admit he deserves to be.

But Tennyson has that ace up his sleeve, that magic sparkle, a God-given quality that can’t be coached: Power. If he uses it well we could see an upset and a famous night for Irish boxing.

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