Boxing

Pete Taylor predicts upsets as Tyrone McCullagh and Tyrone McKenna take on favourites in Golden Contract semi-finals

Light-welterweight Tyrone McKenna takes on former IBO champion Mohamed Mimoune for the WBC International title
Andy Watters

Golden Contract semi-finals: Tyrone McCullagh v Ryan Walsh (featherweight)/Tyrone McKenna v Mohamed Mimoune (tonight, Sky Sports, from 7.30pm)

IRISH fighters Tyrone McCullagh and Tyrone McKenna are up against the pre-tournament favourites in the Golden Contract semi-finals at York Hall, London tonight.

Light-welterweight McKenna takes on former IBO champion Mohamed Mimoune for the WBC International title immediately after Derry’s McCullagh meets vastly-experienced Ryan Walsh in the featherweight semis.

The winners will progress to the finals where they will meet the victors of Leigh Wood versus James Dickens (featherweight) and Ohara Davies v Jeff Ofori (light-welter) and the Golden Contract winners will receive a lucrative two-year deal with MTK Global.

McKenna and McCullagh are part of Pete Taylor’s developing stable these days and the Dublin-based boxing guru, who also coaches Tommy McCarthy, expects both to cause upsets tonight.

“They’re against the two favourites on paper but I think the two Tyrones are the favourites,” said Taylor.

“It’s good the other lads being favourites because it takes the pressure off the lads. They are looking forward to the fights, they’re preparation has been great, the camp has been great so everything has gone well for us.

“We have a lot of pros in Dublin now and they have added something else to the camp. They are personalities and they have a great work ethic as well.

“They are messers outside the ring but they have a great work ethic – they’re probably the best trainers in the camp so we have no excuses.”

McCullagh is scheduled to be in the ring first against former British champion Ryan Walsh. Norfolk native Walsh stopped a weight-drained James Tennyson back in 2016 but lost a European challenge against Dennis Ceylan later that year. Now 33, he remains a powerhouse at British level and would be a notable scalp for ‘White Chocolate’.

“Walsh is very strong,” said Taylor.

“I think he’s overlooking Tyrone, I think he thinks Tyrone can’t beat him but you can’t get sparring for the likes of Tyrone because he’s unique in the way he boxes.

“When I took over coaching him I decided I wasn’t going to change anything he does because what he does is so effective for him and if you try to take that away, he’d become like everybody else.

“I know Tyrone well because when we used to have training camps away (with the Ireland amateur team) I would take him to spar with Katie because he was so awkward and she used to find him really difficult.”

After McCullagh versus Walsh, ‘Mighty Celt’ McKenna will duck under the top rope to take on Frenchman Mimoune and victory will propel the lanky Belfast native into the WBC’s top 10. McKenna stands over six foot tall and Taylor is encouraging him to forget his natural warrior instincts and stick to boxing.

“Tyrone has been sparring with Gary Cully all the way through the camp,” said Taylor.

“Gary was getting ready for the Joe Fitzpatrick fight so we got great sparring and I’ve been trying to get him to box a bit more and not get involved in so many wars.

“He is tall, everyone else is shorter than him so he doesn’t need to do that. As an amateur he boxed as on the back foot and then, when he had to fight, he could fight so we’re trying to bring that into his game a wee bit more.”

Taylor added: “Mimoune (22-3) is a very good boxer and he’s the favourite for the tournament.

“Out of all the opponents – even Ohara Davies – this is the most difficult fight. Davies has only got a punch and the other lad (Jeff Ofori) has come in as a replacement. This lad is the hardest fight but if you want to win these tournaments you have to beat everyone in them anyway so whoever Tyrone got, we were looking forward to the fight and we’re confident going into it.”

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