Boxing

Tyrone McKenna vows to continue his reign as 'King of Ireland'

Thanks to boxing fan John Matthews for sending in this classic picture of a stadium fight night in Belfast. The pic shows the referee giving a count to one boxer while the other waits in a neutral corner and John guesses the bill was held at Grosvenor Road football pitch – then home of Distillery - and it could be one of Tommy Armour’s battles with city rival Patsy Quinn in the 1930s.
Andy Watters

TYRONE McKenna intends to continue his reign as the “King of Ireland” when he takes on Darragh Foley in the latest in his series of all-Irish derby battles at the Ulster Hall on June 21.

After seeing off domestic challengers Jake Hanney, Sean Creagh and Anthony Upton, McKenna (18-1-1) takes on Australia-based Dubliner Foley for the vacant WBC International Super-Lightweight title. ‘Mighty Celt' McKenna is in no mood to give up his crown.

“I think Ireland must be running out of men to fight me,” he said.

“It's another Irish derby and I love them, they always get me more pumped up than a normal fight.

“There's a lot at stake, there's pride and I want to stay king of Ireland, I have been king for the last five years and I want to continue my reign.”

Foley was based in Sydney for the first 17 fights (15-2) of his career but he fought in England twice last year and has his first outing on home soil at Belfast's famous Bedford Street boxing venue.

Whether he comes to mix-it or box and move, McKenna says he has the beating off him.

“I never heard of him in the amateur scene and then he turned pro in Australia,” he explained.

“I went to one of his fights in Glasgow but it only lasted three rounds before it was stopped on a cut. I've seen a bit of him and I know what he's like, I know what he brings to the table and I think I'm much better than him in every department.

“He might come and try and box or he might come for a war… It doesn't matter what he comes with because everyone knows that I've got good boxing skills. If he tries to drag me into the trenches, well that's where I live, I love the trenches and I love wars so I'll be at home there as well.”

McKenna is not one to die wondering and even in his amateur days he was renowned for leaving his natural advantages in height (at 6'1” he is a massive light-welterweight) and reach to one side and letting his hands go at close range.

But he has been trying to curb those warrior instincts and has worked on defence and boxing in the gym. There was evidence of a change in his style when he boxed to a competent points win against Oscar Amador in March.

“That fight was all about getting back into things after Christmas,” he said.

“I enjoyed my Christmas so I had to get a lot of weight off and get my Christmas back. It wasn't high level opposition but I showed some of the things I've been working on in the gym. I've been working on boxing instead of getting into wars and taking shots to give shots.

“We're in the gym every day, twice a day working on defence, moving and getting back to boxing so that fight was perfect me to try and showcase and practice that and get ready for third fight against Foley.”

With a 17-3-1 record, Foley is a credible opponent and the 30-year-old has won the WBA Oceania, WBC Asian and WBO Oriental super-lightweight titles in the past. The winner on June 21 will get a top 15 ranking with the WBC and McKenna says that will put him firmly on the trail of current world champion Jose Carlos Ramirez, the champion who fights WBO champion Maurice Hooker in a unification clash next month.

“It'll get me a step closer to that world title where I want to be,” said McKenna.

“Obviously, the WBC International isn't the final goal for me but it's a stepping stone and a good stepping stone to get me closer to Ramirez.”

STEVEN Ward takes on former sparring partner Liam Conroy for the WBO European light-heavyweight crown at the Ulster Hall on June 21.

Unbeaten Ward (11-0) predicts an ”electric” atmosphere on Bedford Street as he goes toe-to-toe with former English light-heavyweight champion Conroy. It is a genuine test for ‘The Quiet Man' who feels that home support will give him an edge in the fight.

“A ring is a ring but being at home is more comfortable because I can see the kids the day before the fight and it just makes everything seem more normal,” he said.

“The atmosphere in there will be electric. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. It was great last time but I can only imagine what this one is going to be like.

“Neither of us are big talkers so I doubt there'll be any disrespect in the build-up to this one. We're both happy in what we're doing.”

Conroy countered: “I still want to build myself back up to the British title mandatory position. It's still my dream and I won't stop until I get it.

“Hopefully I get this fight won looking good and start building towards that. Whoever's in the way, that's who I'm going for.”

Also on the Tyrone McKenna-headlined Ulster Hall bill are Paddy Gallagher, Lewis Crocker, Caoimhin Agyarko, Owen O'Neill and super-middleweight Taylor McGoldrick.

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