I'm going to settle grudge match with Ohara Davies once and for all says Tyrone McKenna

Tyrone McKenna says he'll settle his grudge match with Ohara Davies once and for all on September 30
Andy Watters

MIKE Tyson said that say every fighter has a gameplan until they get punched in the face and, all too often, that has been the story with Tyrone McKenna.

The ‘Mighty Celt’ has all the natural attributes required to be an elusive boxer. He’s a tall (6’1”) awkward southpaw, with a long reach, a crisp jab and good footwork but the Belfast man cannot resist mixing it with opponents when leather starts to fly and that habit could have cost him dear against Mohamed Mimoune in the ‘Golden Contract’ light-welterweight semi-finals way back in March.

McKenna got a disputed decision from all three judges on the night to progress to the final on September 30 and now he is preparing to take on sworn enemy Ohara Davies behind closed doors at London’s York Hall. He says the prospect of taking on the outspoken Londoner kept him focussed throughout the lockdown and, this time, the Pete Taylor-trained fighter has vowed to stick to the script and box his way to victory and a life-changingingly lucrative five-fight deal.

“I was lucky in that during lockdown I knew I had a big fight coming so I was able to stay motivated and keep training hard,” he said.

“I knew I had to stay on top of things during the lockdown because I was coming out with a massive fight. So that’s what I’ve done, I’ve been training very hard over the last three months for this fight and I’m ready.”

All three judges – including experienced referee Marcus McDonnell – scored the Mimoune contest for McKenna. The Belfast man says that criticism of the decision came from people who “don’t really know how to score a fight” but it must be said that, on another night, he would not have got the decision.

“The first five or six rounds were very close, either of us could have won them but obviously the judges liked my work better than his work so I got them,” he said.

“Yes, he did win a few of the late rounds and they were massive rounds for him and people were just looking at them and thinking: ‘Yeah, he (Mimoune) won the fight because he had a big two or three rounds’. But, at the end of the end of the day, they’re still 10-9 rounds whether he shaded them or won them by landslide. I think that’s where the confusion lies.

“In the first half of the fight I did enough to win the rounds and then I took the last couple of rounds as well. It was a great fight, I enjoyed it, I loved it – it was a war from start to finish. He’s an unbelievable fighter and to have him on my record speaks volumes.”

In boxing, grudges are often invented to stir up interest in fights. But the beef between McKenna and Davies is absolutely real. The pair of them came very close to trading blows in a car park when they bumped into each other at a fight night last year and had to be separated by boxing pundit Kugan Cassius.

“It’s a grudge match and it’s been a grudge match for the last four years on social media and in real life,” said McKenna.

“He’s been very quiet lately. He did post one thing, giving me grief on Instagram. He said he was going to ‘knock out this clown’ and said I talk too much but he quickly deleted it. He’s gone back to being humble OD (Ohara Davies) which I’m not happy about. After four years of trading insults now that we’re finally fighting and he starts getting quiet! It’s ruining the build-up!

“I think he’s worried about the fight. It has finally dawned on him that he has to fight me and he doesn’t like that kind of pressure of going into a fight where there’s a lot of pride at stake. I think he’s trying to be nice and trying to be humble so he doesn’t have that kind of pressure.

“It won’t work. Pressure or no pressure, I’m still going to beat him.

“I don’t think there’s any room in boxing for people like him and he feels the same about me. There is a real grudge there and we’ll get to settle the grudge in two weeks’ time and I’m very excited about that.”

Fighting out of Hackney, London, Davies has won 16 of his 23 fights by knockout and the two losses on his card came against Jamie Moore-trained Jack Catterall and Scottish world champion Josh Taylor. McKenna agrees that the Londoner is a dangerous puncher but says he has been in with bigger hitters.

“I don’t think he has much of a skill set to be honest,” he said.

“The one thing he has is power but other than that I’m faster than him, smarter than him and I’ve got more ring craft than him.

“I’m better than him at everything. He has power but that’s it. If I go out and box to instructions – which I’m planning on doing – I’ll win. Yes, I like getting dragged into a war, I listen to the crowd too much and I get dragged in but, lucky enough, with this fight there won’t be a crowd so I believe I’m going to stick to what Pete Taylor says and box to instructions.

“If you saw me in sparring compared to fights, I’m a completely different fighter and in this fight I’ll be sticking to what I normally do and that is boxing. I think I’m leagues above him in skillset and that’s going to show on the night.”

Meanwhile, after a spell working on building sites during the lockdown, Steven Ward returns to action on the McKenna-Davies undercard against former heavyweight contender Jone Volau.

Ward (12-1) was knocked out by hammer-handed Latvian Ricards Bolotniks last December and can recover lost ground against Volau but MTK Global Promoter Lee Eaton says he has a difficult assignment ahead of him at York Hall.

“Steven has been working hard over the past year ahead of his move to cruiserweight, and he has a very tough test ahead of him against Jone Volau,” he said.

"Volau has campaigned at heavyweight throughout his career, so he will be extremely motivated with this fight just slightly above the cruiserweight limit, so it's a dangerous challenge for Ward.

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