TYRONE McKenna was worried he was the forgotten man of Irish boxing but the Mighty Celt will make a spectacular comeback against Nicholas Esposito for the IBO world title on the Conlan Boxing show in Dublin on September 16.
Welterweight McKenna hasn’t fought since last August when he won a trademark blood-splattered slugfest against Chris Jenkins at the SSE Arena and he is now determined to make up the lost ground by winning a fight that could propel the 33-year-old on to the world title shot he has been chasing throughout his entertaining career.
“It’s a big fight,” McKenna said intriguingly as he looked ahead to his duel with 17-0 Italian Esposito.
“There’s a title on the line.”
McKenna has spent a frustrating spell on the sidelines since he battled it out with Jenkins last year.
“It’ll be over a year (since he last fought) by the time the fight comes around and it hasn’t been because of injury or not training or not wanting to fight, it’s literally been down to bad luck,” he said.
“It’s been frustrating because I’m fit and healthy. It’s not like I’m young, I’m 33 so these are the vital years, the last years I have, so to waste a full year just sitting on the sidelines has been very frustrating for me. But I’ve been trying my best to keep on top of my fitness and keep my weight right and stay ready for a fight. Finally one has come along and it’s a big one and it’s a good fight for me that’ll boost my rating right up there to where I can go for a massive world title fight after it.”
McKenna lost to Regis Prograis in Dubai in March last year but bounced back to beat Jenkins in a typical hell-for-leather war that delighted even the boxing casuals watching in the SSE and on TV. He is determined to get back into the world title mix.
“Prograis is at an unbelievable level,” McKenna acknowledged.
“He’s one of the best in the world, if not the best at my weight. I had a crowd-pleased fight with Jenkins who is a great fighter and I beat him in a war and I thought: ‘Momentum is going to start building here’. Everyone loves watching a war, they love watching me have a bloodbath. I was thinking everything was going to kick off and I’d have another big fight and get up to the level of Prograis again.
“Unfortunately the Liam Taylor fight fell through and a couple of other fights fell through and I was thinking: ‘Here, I’m the forgotten man’. It was frustrating because I feel like I haven’t past my best, I feel like I’m still at my peak. I’m still fighting well, I’m training hard…
“It’s been frustrating but these things happen and I just have to forget about it and kick on. This fight in September will be worth the wait. I’ve been asking for a big fight and this is a much bigger fight than Liam Taylor would have been, it’ll give me a platform to be able to call out the big names in the division. It’s exactly the fight I needed at this stage of my career, it’s the fight that I wanted and I’m excited for it. It’s getting me out of bed in the morning, it’s getting me training and motivated and happy so I can’t complain.”
A DISPUTE over how Naoya Inoue wraps his hands put his WBC and WBO super-bantamweight battle with former Carl Frampton sparring partner Stephen Fulton in Tokyo on Tuesday (9.30am on Sky Sports) in serious doubt.
The Fulton camp objected to Inoue’s method of wrapping his hands. After using the traditional material, the Japanese adds a layer of gauze and then another layer of wrap on top of that. That amount of wrapping isn’t allowed by the British Boxing Board of Control but it is permitted in Inoue’s native Japan so ‘The Monster’ - a fearsome puncher with 21 stoppage wins in his 24-0 career - isn’t breaking any rules.
"Coming up to junior featherweight to be able to challenge Stephen Fulton for the title has given me great motivation,” said Inoue.
“I get excited thinking about this fight and about how I will perform. I’ve been watching film of Fulton, and I think he is a very intelligent fighter. I haven’t been a challenger in five years, and that has heightened my motivation as well. I think I will be able to perform better than before.
"Due to my injury, the fight had to be rescheduled for the 25th. And I feel grateful for the co-operation from all the people involved in the promotion and Team Fulton to make this happen. And because of that gratitude, I want to fight with everything I have on the 25th."
IN boxing it can sometimes appear as if the judges have their minds made up on the winner before the first bell rings and see what they expect to see.
George Kambosos was expected to beat Maxi Hughes in last Saturday night’s IBO lightweight title clash in Oklahoma and, despite the Englishman dominating his Aussie rival for long periods of the fight, that’s the way the two of the three judges at ringside scored it.
Afterwards Kambosos denied that Hughes had been robbed by the judges who posted scores of 114-114, 117-111 and 115-113. Hughes, who beat Belfast’s James Fryers at the Europa Hotel in 2016, started well and looked to have done enough to take a clear points win but the judges disagreed and Kambosos says they got their majority decision right.
“We won the fight by many rounds,” he said.
“That’s no discredit to Maxi Hughes. He had a couple good rounds but a couple good rounds don’t win you the fight.
“We won a majority of the rounds. That’s the reason we chose him, he was a hard test and a lot of guys coming off losses wouldn’t want to take a test like him. This was a hard challenge.”
The Aussie added: “I need to get grittier. He was moving a lot and wasn’t engaging a lot but that’s the way he fights. We knew he was going to be a tough challenge, but styles make fights. I’ve got to be more gritty with these guys.”
Understandably Hughes said he was “absolutely devastated” after a career-best performance failed to earn him the result it should have.
“Nobody thought I was supposed to be in George’s league,” he said.
“Tonight, I came and I showed that I should have had my hand raised. I don’t want to take George’s moment. I used my footwork. I made him miss and pay. I landed the cleaner shots. I don’t want to sound like a sore loser, and I will watch it and assess it, but everyone here now knows who Maxi Hughes is.”