James Tennyson takes on Atif Shafiq in WBA International Lightweight title rumble

James Tennyson takes on Atif Shafiq for the WBA International Lightweight title tonight. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Andy Watters

WBA International Lightweight title: James Tennyson (24-3) Atif Shafiq (21-2) (O2 Arena, tonight, live on Sky Sports Box Office)

A SHOT at the British lightweight crown is the most valuable prize on offer for James Tennyson if he can get past experienced Atif Shafiq on the undercard of Luke Campbell’s world title rumble with pound-for-pound king Vasily Lomanchenko at London’s O2 Arena tonight.

Belfast Kronk-based Tennyson is still relatively new to the lightweight scene having out-grown featherweight and super-featherweight since making his pro debut back in 2012.

The Poleglass native fought at British title level at feather and world title level at super-feather after winning the EBU and Commonwealth titles at 9st4lbs.

Looking healthy and strong in comparison to the gaunt, pale hopeful who took on Tevin Farmer for the IBF featherweight title in Boston last year, Tennyson says the 9st 9lb lightweight limit is much more suited to him.

“It makes a massive difference,” said the former Lamh Dhearg GAC forward.

“I’m sitting strong, healthy and fit. Taking those extra few pounds off when I was at super-featherweight was starting to take its toll on me and it was making a difference in my performances on the night. You’re going to see a whole lot better from me now.”

Reigning British champion Joe Cordina (9-0) makes the first defence on the belt he won in April against Gavin Gwynne (11-0) on tonight’s bill. Tennyson says he’s delighted to be back in “the title mix” and he’d like to take on the winner before the end of the year.

“It’s a massive chance and a massive opportunity to get my career back into the title mix,” he said.

“I’m ready and I can’t wait to get in there, get the show on the road and get the business done.

Rotherham’s Shafiq has lost just twice in 23 fights but hasn’t come close to title standard before now despite being a pro as long as Tennyson. With five stoppage wins on his record, he isn’t regarded as a big puncher but he is an experienced lightweight who is determined to take this long-awaited opportunity.

“I’ve been professional for many years now,” said the Yorkshire scrapper.

“I’ve learned my trade and it’s time to put on a show. Tennyson has had some good wins, he has fought for a world title and come up short but I feel that my skills will be the difference on Saturday night and, up at lightweight, my strength also.”

Tennyson ‘s defence has let him down at title level and he has been floored by bodyshots from Ryan Walsh and Farmer however, Shafiq hasn’t shown evidence of being in the same quality.

‘Tenny’ may have to take a few tonight, like he did in his previous appearance at the O2 last summer when he got off the canvas to stop heavy favourite Martin J Ward, but Shafiq does not have the punch to keep him off and Tennyson’s power should make the definitive argument tonight.

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