Boxing

'I'll shake-up the world...' Tyrone McKenna promises desert thunder in Regis Prograis showdown

Tyrone McKenna tangles with former world light-welterweight champion Regis Prograis in Dubai in March. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker.
Andy Watters

YES, he’s 6’1”. Yes, he’ll have height and reach advantages over Regis Prograis (5’8”) when he gets it on with the former WBA and WBC light-welterweight champion in Dubai next month.

Yes, Tyrone McKenna could plan a strategy to stay on the outside and use those natural attributes but we all know that’s not his style. McKenna isn’t going to go in against Prograis to jab and move on the back foot, he wants war and so you can expect blood-and-desert thunder when he meets the American on March 19.

“It’s pointless me talking about my height advantage and my reach advantage because I think we all know what’s going to happen,” says Belfast’s ‘Mighty Celt’.

“I’m going to be standing toe-to-toe with one of the hardest hitters in our division (Prograis has 22 stoppage wins from 27 fights). It’s going to be about who’s got the better punch and the better chin. Me or him? I believe I’ll come out on top every time.”

Maybe he’s planning on a double-bluff this time, but battles get McKenna’s juices flowing. He wants to be regarded as Ireland’s most entertaining fighter and he’s prepared to put his money where his mouth is and go in with the very best.

He’d been chasing Prograis since last year but the fight looked “dead in the water” and he was preparing for another opponent until a couple of weeks ago when Jamie Conlan rang and asked if he wanted the good news, or the bad news.

“In my head the Prograis fight wasn’t happening and I was in England sparring Jack Catterall and, all of a sudden, Jamie rang me and said: ‘Your fight’s off but the Prograis fight is back on’.

“I was buzzing because, as I’ve said after every fight: I want to be one of the most entertaining fighters in Ireland and to do that I have to fight the best.

“As it stands, Prograis is the best fighter I can get at my weight outside of Josh Taylor.

“I’m not deluded. I know he’s an unbelievable fighter, he’s world class. He has mixed with the best, he’s been unified world champion and he’s only been beaten by Taylor.

“But I believe in my attributes, I believe in my heart, my pace, my guts… I think everything I do will come together in this fight and I think his style suits me. He stands in the pocket, he’s not that elusive and I think my aggression will get the better of him.

“It’s the biggest fight of my career but it’s not going to be his biggest fight. I’m working hard and putting it all in in the gym but he’s going to be slacking a bit, he’s not going to be putting it in as hard as me and I think that will come into play.

“I’ve been in plenty of camps where I’ve been supposed to win the fight and I haven’t put it all in, even if I thought I was. Until you’re fighting someone that you’re worried about you don’t put it all in and I don’t think he’ll be that worried because he has been to the pinnacle of the sport, he has fought for all the belts and been a unified world champion.

“He could view me as a stepping stone whereas I’m looking at him as a massive platform for my career. I’ll be shaking-up the world.”

Rounds with Jack Catterall will sharpen McKenna’s skillset in the build-up. Catterall is preparing for a clash with undisputed light-welter king Taylor in Glasgow on February 26 and victory against Prograis would put McKenna in line to fight the winner.

Sparring former opponent Catterall has been “perfect preparation” says McKenna.

“When I went over first, the Prograis fight hadn’t been confirmed but there’s no better sparring than Catterall and he’s supposed to be coming over next week (to Dublin) for more sparring so I couldn’t ask for better,” he explains.

McKenna-Prograis will take place at the ‘Duty Free Tennis Stadium’ in Dubai. It’s a long way from home for McKenna who loves the buzz of his fans but he won’t need extra motivation for a fight that will propel him onto the global stage.

“I’d have preferred it to be in Belfast but really I don’t care where it is,” he says.

“It’s a massive fight and a massive opportunity with a lot of people watching it. Sometimes I like to feed off the crowd and get myself psyched up for a fight but this is such a big one I won’t need that. I’ll be raring to go so I don’t care where it is on the planet.”

********************

Grudge match. Chris Eubank jnr will battle it out with Liam Williams in Cardiff on Saturday night.

BAD BLOOD AS EUBANK JR AND WILLIAMS SET TO COLLIDE

BAD blood hangs thick in the air as Chris Eubank junior and Liam Williams prepare for their grudge match at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff on Saturday night (live on Sky Sports).

At 29, Williams is three years’ Eubank’s junior and there has been no shortage of ‘smack talk’ ahead of the Wales-England showdown. Eubank says the back-and-forth between the fighters has been personal and he intends to “punish” former world title challenger Williams, who these days is trained by Michael Conlan coach Adam Booth.

“I’m going to punish him,” said Roy Jones junior-trained Eubank.

“He’s embarrassed himself enough. I don’t think I need to embarrass him. I just need to let him know and show him what it is: Who I really am and who he really is.

“He may think he’s this big, bad bogeyman, but he really isn’t. He talks a good game, but when it actually comes down to it, I think he’s going to fold.

“He’s going to get hit with every shot in the book, and he’s going to get beaten up and down the ring for as many rounds as I want it to go, and then he’s getting put to sleep. I don’t pick rounds, but it’ll end when I want it to end. I’m going to have fun and enjoy myself, and then I’m going to end the fight when I see fit.”

Fighting on Williams’s home turf doesn’t bother Eubank who says he’ll “feed off the energy” whether it’s negative or positive.

“If it’s a hostile crowd and it’s people booing me and wanting me to lose, I’m going to use that energy to help myself fight harder and better. So I’m just looking forward to it,” he said.

A genuine hardman, Williams doesn’t pull his punches inside or outside the ring. The three losses on his record (Liam Smith twice and Demetrius Andrade) came against top level opponents and he is determined to break Eubank down on Saturday night.

“I just want to punch his head in and move forward,” said Williams.

“I don’t like the way he goes about his business. He’s not my type of guy and he’s not somebody I’d want to be friends of outside of boxing or inside of boxing.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Boxing