Boxing in Eddie Hearn's back garden won't bother James Tennyson says coach Tony Dunlop

Big-hitting lightweight James Tennyson returns to the ring against Gavin Gwynne on August 1 - and coach Tony Dunlop has backed the west Belfast man to force his way into the world title picture once more. Picture by Hugh Russell
Neil Loughran

COACH Tony Dunlop believes the second half of James Tennyson’s career will far surpass the first – starting in Eddie Hearn’s back garden on August 1.

The Poleglass banger will defend his British title against Welshman Gavin Gwynne in a bout that was originally scheduled for May 9 before falling victim to the Covid 19 pandemic. Instead, it will take place at Matchroom HQ as boxing slowly works its way back after a long lay-off.

It is just over 18 months since Tennyson came up short in his world title challenge against slick American Tevin Farmer, but he has bounced back in hugely impressive fashion with inside-the-distance victories over Garry Neale, Brayan Mairena, Atif Shafiq and Craig Evans.

And, having moved up from super-feather to lightweight, experienced coach Dunlop believes the 26-year-old is headed back towards the top.

“I wasn’t one bit surprised, I knew Tennyson would bounce back. He has a lot left in the tank.

“I had told him the fight before the world title fight to forget about doing junior lightweight, he couldn’t do it no more. He should’ve been lightweight.

“If he’d been comfortable at the weight I’d have been confident he would have beaten Farmer. He was fighting at a weight he shouldn’t have been fighting at. Once he lost to Farmer, he moved up and now he’s just a complete fighter.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if James Tennyson goes on to become champion of the world. The second half of his career is going to be far better than the first half. Physically, he wasn’t that mature after turning pro young, he had the weight problem, now he’ll probably end up at light-welterweight in a year or two.

“Tennyson’s just getting stronger and because he turned pro young and wasn’t burnt out in the amateurs, he’s very fresh and his dedication and his lifestyle mean he’s improving every day.

In the years to come you’re going to see a different guy.”

The fight with Gwynne – whose only defeat came to fellow Welshman Joe Cordina - will throw up a different kind of test, with no crowd there to create any sort of atmosphere at the first of Hearn’s Fight Camp series in August.

Dunlop doesn’t believe the lack of spectators will have any bearing on Tennyson’s approach once the first bell sounds, expecting ‘The Assassin’ to stalk his opponent from the off regardless.

“In Las Vegas, Madison Square Garden, all the young champions coming up end up boxing at five or six in the evening when the arenas are empty. I remember watching Erik Morales in Las Vegas early on and there was nobody in the crowd at all.

“In one of James’s last fights he was on very early and the place was empty. It’s not a bother on him, in all honesty. It’s like a street fight up an alleyway – once the first punch is thrown, nothing else matters.”

Meanwhile, Irish featherweight champion Eric Donovan has landed a huge opportunity as he will also box on an upcoming Fight Camp card.

The 34-year-old former amateur star, who has had a frustrating year, will move up to super-feather to face Commonwealth super-featherweight champion Zelfa Barrett on August 14.

That fight will be the chief support to Felix Cash versus Jason Welborn, and affords Donovan the chance he has been waiting for to showcase on skills away from Ireland.

The Athy native Donovan has a perfect record in the pro ranks, and won the Irish 126-pound title against Stephen McAfee in March 2019. ‘Lilywhite Lightning’ has fought and won three times since but against low-profile opponents, with Barrett the sternest test he will have faced to date.


Katie Taylor had been due to face Amanda Serrano on May 2, only for the fight to fall victim to the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture by PA


IT remains unclear whether Katie Taylor’s much-anticipated world title dust up with Amanda Serrano will take place any time soon following a social media spat involving both fighters and their respective promoters.

After years of talks and speculation, the pair were due to finally share the ring in Manchester on May 2, only for the coronavirus outbreak to put that showdown on the backburner.

Taylor-Serrano was slated for the same bill as the heavyweight clash between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin, which has now been rescheduled for August 22 – behind-closed-doors at Matchroom HQ.

The Bray woman will definitely defend her undisputed lightweight championship on that bill, but against whom remains to be seen. Taylor is not normally one for calling out opponents on social media, but in a Twitter post she implored Amanda Serrano to agree to the match-up that promoter Eddie Hearn dubbed "the biggest women’s fight of all time".

“We both signed contracts, all financial barriers have been removed and any training/travel issues are the same for both of us as I'm also training in the US,” she said.

“No more excuses, this is a fight to elevate the sport. August 22 is our time to make history. You in?”

Hearn insisted the plan remains for the 2012 Olympic gold medallist to face off against her Puerto Rican rival on that date.

He said: "It's the absolute plan to do Taylor vs Serrano. Both fighters have signed binding contracts to do that fight.

"She was written to with the new date under the full terms of the contract that she signed. That is the contract we will enforce and expect her to honour.

"We gave her warm-up fights, vacant world title fights to make sure that she fights Taylor. Do as you promise."

Hearn confirmed he had been in touch with Delfine Persoon in the event the Serrano fight falls through, and that would also attract huge interest after Taylor narrowly edged to victory over the Belgian police officer in New York last year.

"Katie will be in a big fight. She is ready for a defining moment. Your promoter [Lou Di Bella] will confirm that we confirmed in writing the new date and that you would be paid the full amount that was in your contract," Hearn told Serrano.

"Yes there were two date changes due to a slight global pandemic. You have eight weeks no excuses.

“We know our position, we are eight weeks from the fight, you have been training throughout and train in the same State as KT. Katie took your purse reduction because she wants legacy. There is no reduction for you - we hope to see you for a great moment for the sport."

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