Sport

Tyrone McKenna ready for war in Dublin fight night * Tommy McCarthy world title shot * Goodbye to warrior Kiko

Ready for war. Tyrone McKenna predicts a spectacular win in Dublin
Ready for war. Tyrone McKenna predicts a spectacular win in Dublin Ready for war. Tyrone McKenna predicts a spectacular win in Dublin

A NATURAL entertainer inside and outside the ring, war-monger Tyrone McKenna predicts a stoppage win against Nicholas Esposito when he meets the Italian for the IBO world welterweight title at the RDS in Dublin on September 16.

Just over three weeks’ away from the biggest night of his boxing life, McKenna has been training three times-a-day, Monday to Friday, with Pete Taylor. Boxers will often report that camp has gone well and that they’re in amazing shape, but there is a sense that ‘The Mighty Celt’ is on the verge of a career-defining breakthrough against Esposito (17-0) who has never fought outside his native Italy.

‘The Good Boy’ is unbeaten but he hasn’t fought at the level McKenna has been campaigning at for the past five years.

The Belfast man’s three losses have all come against world class opponents in Jack Catterall, Ohara Davies and Regis Prograis and he intends to treat his army of fans to a special victory in Dublin next month.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever headlined a show,” he says.

“I know it’s going to be a special night and, I don’t look too far ahead, but I know there are big fights out there for me when I beat him.

“I’ve watched a bit of him and he comes forward sometimes and sometimes he stays on the back foot but, whatever he does, I know I’ll have an answer for it. He’s not a big puncher, I know he can’t hurt me and I’m very confident I’ll get him out of there. I think I’ll stop him around the sixth or seventh.

As one half of the popular ‘Whiskey & White’ podcast and live show along with fellow pro fighter and long-time friend Tommy McCarthy, McKenna has plenty going on outside the ring. But his other interests aren’t a distraction, he says. On the contrary, they help him focus on his boxing.

“People say sometimes: ‘Ah you’re doing too much outside the ring’,” said McKenna.

“But the acting, the podcast and the live shows and all of that is just to keep me on the rails when I’m not boxing. Boxing is my life but you need a distraction from it too, you can’t be doing it 24-7 or you’d crack up so it’s a release for me when I’m not training.”

Tommy McCarthy's world title clash has been postponed but "It's not over yet" says manager Mark Dunlop
Tommy McCarthy's world title clash has been postponed but "It's not over yet" says manager Mark Dunlop Tommy McCarthy's world title clash has been postponed but "It's not over yet" says manager Mark Dunlop

TOMMY McCarthy’s WBA world cruiserweight title fight against Arsen Goulamirian has been postponed again because of the French champions’ issues with his promoter Y12 Boxing.

McCarthy was originally due to fight USA-based Goulamirian at the 8,000 capacity Dome de Marseille in the south of France on August 26. The duel was postponed until September 10 and then again to September 30. With no new date agreed, the behind-the-scenes wrangling in the Goulamirian camp means McCarthy will have to keep his powder dry for now but his management at MHD Promotions remain determined to make the fight happen.

It is understood that McCarthy’s team have a contract to fight Armenian-born Goulamirian but the water became muddied after an offer was tabled for Goulamirian to fight Londoner Richard Riakphore.

“There’s a whole mess that needs to be sorted out but we’re going nowhere until we get our opportunity. I’ve told them we want the title fight,” explained Mark Dunlop.

“Tommy still wants to fight for a world title. It has hit a stumbling block because Goulamirian is having issues with his promoter but it’s not over yet.”

McCarthy has had no shortage of success on the road in the past. He travelled to Italy in 2019 and came home with the WBC International title after arguably a career-best performance against Fabio Turchi. The following year he beat Billal Laggoune to win the EBU cruiser title and he came agonisingly close to taking the prized scalp of Shane McGuigan-trained Chris Billam-Smith in London two years’ ago.

Since losing the rematch against Billam-Smith, McCarthy has bounced back with two low-profile victories. He hasn’t fought since September last year but he has been training with Dan Boyle in Belfast and reports from the camp suggest that he is in very good shape for his long-awaited world title shot.

When will it happen? Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn was critical of the ongoing wrangling last weekend.

“Fighters are very vulnerable and they get talked into making terrible decisions,” he said.

“They (Riakphore’s promoter Boxxer) are trying to scramble for the Goulamirian fight but he’s got a contract to fight Tommy McCarthy, so it’s all a bit all-over-the-place.”

Kiko Martinez and Carl Frampton clashed twice in Belfast
Kiko Martinez and Carl Frampton clashed twice in Belfast Kiko Martinez and Carl Frampton clashed twice in Belfast

IT seemed like he might go on forever, but ring legend Kiko Martinez has finally announced his retirement after 19 years, 22 title fights and 58 all-action rumbles as a professional in total.

The term ‘warrior’ is over-used in boxing, but the gritty Spaniard earned it over almost two decades in the ring which included seven appearances in Ireland and unforgettable fight nights against Carl Frampton (twice) and Bernard Dunne.

That Dunne fight in 2007 was Kiko’s first appearance outside his native Spain and he stunned a packed Point Depot by knocking out the Dubliner in the first round of their EBU super-bantamweight title clash.

It was six years’ later that he travelled to Belfast to lock horns with Carl Frampton in an intense battle at the SSE Arena. Martinez pushed ‘The Jackal’ all the way but it was a coming-of-age night for Frampton who grabbed centre stage as he dug in to win a thriller by stoppage in the ninth round.

Three years later, Martinez returned to Belfast as IBF world champion. He had won the title by beating Jonathon Romero in the USA and defended it in his native Spain and in Japan before – in typical matador style – he agreed to return to Frampton’s home turf, this time for a fight at a purpose-built amphitheatre on the Titanic slipway.

He poured everything he had into an all-action 12 rounds that night but Frampton was at his counter-punching peak at that stage and was a clear winner on points.

His world title was lost but Martinez was a long, long way from being finished. He regained his belt in 2021 when he knocked out an unsuspecting ‘Kid Galahad’ in his native Sheffield.

He lost the belt last year against Josh Warrington in Leeds (Warrington suffered a broken jaw in the process) but he regained the European title when he blitzed Jordan Gill in London.

He didn’t fight again until earlier this month and losing to Reiya Abe in Japan turned out to be the end of the road for the hammer-handed, granite-jawed fighter with a heart the size of a house.