James Tennyson chasing the belt he craves in world title eliminator against Josh O'Reilly
HUGH Russell took a pic of James Tennyson with his belts recently.
“Och, he looks like a clothes horse,” joked the former Olympic Games medallist and British champion-turned Irish News photographer.
As usual ‘Wee Red' is spot on. All-tolled, Tennyson has won nine title belts so far, from Celtic featherweight, to EBU super-featherweight to British lightweight but you can bet he'd swap the lot of them to have a world title strap fastened around his waist.
And the Poleglass native will take a massive step towards making that happen if he can get past Canadian Josh O'Reilly in Friday night's WBA lightweight championship eliminator at Wembley Arena.
Victory will clear the way for a shot at the current champion Gervonta ‘Tank' Davis and big-hitting Tennyson – described by Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn as “the most exciting pound-for-pound puncher in world boxing” – says he's ready for that challenge.
He has fought at world title level before but looked weight-drained and didn't produce his best when he took on Tevin Farmer for the IBF super-featherweight title in Boston two years ago.
The 2020 Tennyson, however, is a different animal.
Much more comfortable at lightweight, there is a been-there, done-that confidence about him these days and he knows exactly what he's about. Since moving up to 9st 9lbs, he has won five in-a-row (all early) and his most recent win against Welsh hardman Gavin Gwynne was an awesome display of precision power punching. Gwynne is as game as they come but he couldn't live with Tennyson's hitting.
“Gavin Gwynne is a real tough lad, he came to win and he didn't stop working right up until I stopped him,” said Tennyson (26-3 with 24 stoppage wins).
“He didn't stop punching, he had a heart of gold. I know I'm going a lot better now than I was at super-feather. I'm making the weight a lot easier so it's not killing my performances and I'm a lot more confident of becoming world champion at lightweight. I've always been confident, I've never doubted myself but I don't have the distraction of cutting weight now and I'm fully-focussed on training for the fight ahead.
“I know what I can do and, come fight-night, I know what I can produce and I have a bit more belief in myself. All-round, I'm a heck of a lot better.”
His opponent O'Reilly doesn't carry the same power but he is unbeaten at 16-0 and is a career lightweight who has won and defended the North American Boxing Association (NABA) title. He's the naturally bigger man but Tennyson is a step-up for him and the 29-year-old from Ontario will have to deal with fights outside Canada for the first time.
“I've seen him a lot, I actually enjoy watching him fight,” said O'Reilly
“I'm confident I can go in there and beat him. I'm going to have to box smart and be sharp and he'll probably underestimate my boxing ability and I think they'll underestimate what I can do with my own power too. He's been hurt before in fights and I can hurt him in this one.”
Tennyson has been around enough corners not to underestimate anyone, especially in a fight like this when so much is at stake. He's well aware that O'Reilly is ranked two spots above him (eighth) with the WBA and, although he is the clear favourite, says he is “not expecting an easy fight”.
“He's got the NABA title and he seems very confident so I'm really looking forward to this – it could be a good 'un,” said Tennyson.
“I'm over the moon to get it. I've been waiting and waiting for it to get confirmed and, once I saw it in black and white, the excitement kicked in.
“I'm really looking forward to it, I'm even looking forward to getting back into the ‘bubble'. I didn't mind it – in fight week I usually take it easy and relax so it suits me, I just chill-out. It's nice and quiet, it's just training-recovery and getting the weight off.
“I have to go in and be me. I've had plenty of good sparring and Tony has set out some gameplans that he thinks will work and we've been working away towards that. I'm confident of getting the win.”
FEARGHUS Quinn and James McGivern get their second pro outings on the undercard of tomorrow night's MTK Golden Contract featherweight title final between Ryan Walsh and Jazza Dickens (live on Sky Sports).
Walsh, who beat Derry's Tyrone McCullagh at the semi-final stage, and Dickens meet at the Production Park Studios in Yorkshire and south Armagh middleweight Quinn takes on Scott James (6-6-1) while Belfast lightweight McGivern meets journeyman Jordan Ellison (11-30-2) in supporting acts.
Former Orchard county footballer Quinn won his professional debut in August against Robbie Chapman and is expecting another test tomorrow night.
"I'm looking to be in tough fights which will test me and give me more experience,” he said.
"I just want to be as active as possible and keep being put in with quality boxers. I'll be in exciting fights and people will get to see what I'm about. It's class to get out on such a big card too. MTK Global are putting on big shows and I'm glad to get the opportunity to go out and showcase my skills."
Southpaw stylist McGivern added: “I fought at this venue in August, so we are definitely more prepared now we know what's coming when we land over in England.
“We know how the set-up goes, so we can put our own strategy in place as far as making weight and recovery.”