James Tennyson back in title mix with lightweight rumble on undercard of Lomachenko verus Campbell at O2 Arena

James Tennyson is back in title mix with lightweight rumble on undercard of Lomachenko verus Campbell at O2 Arena
Andy Watters

JAMES Tennyson meets England’s Atif Shafiq for the vacant WBA International Lightweight title at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday night.

The fight, one of the undercard highlights of Shane McGuigan-trained Luke Campbell’s WBA, WBC and WBO lightweight title fight against Vasily Lomachenko, has been in the mix since June but was only officially announced yesterday and Tennyson, who has never been one to pass up a challenge, is on the weight and ready to go.

“I’m back in the title mix,” he said.

Shafiq (21-2) has been around the pro circuit for almost seven years now but hasn’t reached anything like the level Tennyson has. ‘Tenny’ fought Ryan Walsh for the British featherweight title before moving up to super-featherweight and forcing his way into a challenge for the IBF title against Tevin Farmer in Boston.

“He (Shafiq) hasn’t been near the level I’ve been at and I think that will make a massive difference on Saturday night,” he said.

“In terms of experience, he hasn’t been in any fights like the one he is going to be in with me.”

Making weight was always an issue for the Poleglass fighter and this year he stepped up to the lightweight limit of 9st 9lbs. His punching power has transferred and Tennyson has recorded stoppage wins over Gary Teale and Brayan Mairena in 2019.

“Lightweight is comfortable,” he said.

“I’m making the weight a lot better than I was at super-featherweight which was a bit of a push for me. I’m fit and I’m strong so it is all going good.”

The O2 was a happy hunting ground for Tennyson last year. The Belfast Kronk-trained fighter travelled there as a rank underdog but got off the canvas to knock out favourite Martin Joseph Ward and win the WBA International, EBU and Commonwealth super-featherweight titles. He is confident of another win on Saturday night.

“I knew the fight was happening a couple of weeks ago but with it not being announced I was questioning it for a while,” he said.

“I didn’t take my eye off the ball though. I kept myself focussed, I kept training hard and working away as normal. Thankfully now it has been announced and I can really start pushing on with the last week of the camp.”

Tennyson has been sparring with USA-based brothers Aaron and Stephen McKenna at Tony Dunlop’s Belfast Kronk gym in the New Lodge and says the county Monaghan natives have left him in great shape for the Shafiq rumble.

“I got some real hard, tough rounds with them,” he said.

“Those boys give you good rounds, I got everything I needed and I was more than happy with how things went there. When you’re sparring with them you know you’re going to get good work because they bring it, they really do every time.”

He added: “I want to keep busy.

“I want to pick this title up and I have Craig Evans in the pipeline after it, there are a lot of big fights out there at lightweight for me and I want to keep myself busy and stay in the title mix.”

MARCO McCullough takes on Viorel Simion for the IBF European super-featherweight title at the Ulster Hall on October 11.

Simion (22-3) has tangled with former world champions Lee Selby and Scott Quigg and Shakur Stevenson so it’s no surprise that McCullough (22-4) regards this match-up as the toughest of his career so far.

“His only defeats are to world class opponents,” said McCullough who returns to the Ulster Hall after his impressive knockout win over Dublin rival Declan Geraghty in May.

“He took Quigg and Selby the distance so I see this fight to be my toughest so far, but I’m getting to the end of my career and I only want world level opponents.

“I’m buzzing for the fight. There are always fireworks in my fights. Simion comes to fight and he’s very tough, so it should make a great fight. Fans should make sure they don't blink when I fight.”

McCullough versus Simion is part of a packed night at The Ulster Hall, which includes Paddy Barnes, who faces undefeated European and Commonwealth flyweight king Jay Harris, rising star Sean McComb, who takes on former IBO world title challenger Emiliano Dominguez Rodriguez, Lewis Crocker, Gary Cully and Pierce O’Leary.

CATHY McAleer had never been on the canvas until local artist Sean McHugh captured her steely focus and determination in a superb painting unveiled by legendary Belfast coach John Breen on Saturday.

Former world karate champion McAleer – the North’s only professional female fighter - was due to challenge for the Commonwealth bantamweight title in October. Unfortunately, the MHD Promotions show has been cancelled but former Down Ladies’ Gaelic footballer McAleer is determined to bounce back from the disappointment.

“First the Scottish bantamweight Kristen Frazer pulled out and then I went up a weight to super-bantam to get a commonwealth title opportunity,” she explained.

“I was disappointed to find out the show was cancelled but the portrait event on Saturday lifted my spirits and it was brilliant to spend the evening with my supporters and family.

“I am still with John working away in the hope that another promoter will jump at the opportunity to run my fight on their bill. Fingers crossed this will happen in near future. Maybe it’ll be third time lucky?”

Meanwhile, Tyrone super-featherweight Feargal McCrory has linked up with American promoter Andre Rozier's Havoc Team. ‘Fearless’ (11-0) will travel to New York in October to start his new journey. He will be trained by Brooklyn-based Rozier and intends to campaign at featherweight.

JOE Fitzpatrick will top the bill at the Devenish Complex in Belfast on October 12 when he meets Spaniard Iago Barros (5-15-2) for the vacant BUI Celtic Lightweight title.

Unbeaten Fitzpatrick (9-0) will hope to kick on from his impressive knockout win against Stephen Webb at the same venue in May and Webb features on the undercard against (3-1) Dubliner Martin Quinn.

Also confirmed for the bill are cruiserweight Conor Cooke (2-0) who will take on Staz Tomasevski, super-bantamweight Sam Carroll, super-welterweight Eddie Treacy, Jamie Douglas and debutant Senan Kelly.

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