Boxing

"Win or lose, somebody was getting knocked out..." Farewell to hammer-handed James Tennyson

James Tennyson celebrates after beating Declan Geraghty at the Waterfront Hall. Picture Matt Bohill.
Andy Watters

JAMES Tennyson’s career proved the old adage that there is no such thing as losing in sport – you win, or you learn.

Tennyson, who announced his retirement from boxing last week after 32 fights and 28 wins as a professional, will hang up his gloves alongside the enviable collection of belts he captured during his 10 years as a prizefighter.

Starting in the featherweight division and moving through super-featherweight up to lightweight, hammer-handed Tennyson won Irish, Celtic, WBA International, EBU European, Commonwealth and British titles and boxed for world titles twice.

The affable Lisburn native had setbacks throughout his career but each time he was able to go back to the drawing board and come back even stronger. He fell short when he challenged Tevin Farmer for the IBF super-featherweight title in 2018 but moved up to lightweight and cut a swathe through the 135lb division with six consecutive knockouts to secure a second world title shot.

He was stopped by Giovanni Straffon which was a disappointing way for him to bring down the curtain on his career but it was typical of Tennyson. Whenever he ducked through the ropes, someone was getting knocked out – usually the other guy.

Only four of his 32 fights went the scheduled distance – he was the early winner 24 times and was stopped himself four times and throughout his career, in the good times and the bad, the former Kronk ABC amateur had Mark Dunlop in his corner.

“To fight for the world title twice is unbelievable,” said Dunlop.

“Any kid reading about James should realise that a loss doesn’t mean the end. He took a loss early against a guy (an unknown journeyman called Pavel Senkovs) who couldn’t win a fight but he went on to fight for the world title. How many people do that? I never gave up on him and he never gave up on himself.

“He took chances that others wouldn’t take and when you take the chances you don’t know where you can go. When he retired he said: ‘You lose 100 per cent of the chances you don’t take in life’ and he took his chances when they came along.

“He won some and he lost some but if you don’t have a go you’re not going to win anything.”

Road warrior Tennyson was blessed with world class punching power and when he caught an opponent clean it invariably meant ‘lights out’. His most notable wins included his shock stoppage victory over Martin J Ward at London’s O2 Arena in 2018 and among his other fearsome displays was a TKO win in a British lightweight battle with Welsh hardman Gavin Gwynne in Brentwood in 2020.

“I thought I was winning the fight but he's just an unbelievable puncher,” said Gwynne who lasted six rounds with Tony Dunlop-trained Tennyson and has since gone on to win British and Commonwealth titles at lightweight.

“Because of my size, I spar middleweights but he's the hardest-hitting pound-for-pound puncher I've been in with in my life, he's got to be.”

Dunlop selected Tennyson’s win over Dublin’s Declan Geraghty as his favourite from Tennyson’s extensive highlights reel.

“Maxi Hughes put a message on Twitter and he said the hardest puncher he’d ever been in with was sparring James Tennyson with 16oz gloves on him,” said the MHD Promotions chief.

“Maxi has been in with everyone so that’s some tribute.

“For me James’s best win, the one that gave me the most pleasure, was the Geraghty win at the Waterfront Hall (in 2017) because everybody had written James off but we believed that he would knock Declan Geraghty out and that’s exactly what happened.

“That changed his career completely because he was expected to get beat that night. It was a Frank Warren show and they had him there like a lamb to the slaughter but we saw something different. He won and his contract with Warren expired on the Monday, he signed with Matchroom on the Tuesday and three months later he won the WBA International title at the Odyssey. That was the turning point in his career.

“He was always exciting to watch and, win or lose, somebody was getting knocked out.”

PADRAIG McCrory will take on former world title challenger Marco Antonio Periban on the ‘Return of the Mick’ card at the SSE Arena on August 6.

Super-middleweight McCrory hasn’t seen action since November last year when he spectacularly knocked out Celso Neves at the Ulster Hall to progress to 13-0. ‘The Hammer’ has had a frustrating 2022 so far. Breaking his thumb in sparring in April has kept him out of the ring so the ambitious 33-year-old will be particularly anxious to get back to winning ways.

Mexican Periban has locked horns with Joshua Buatsi, James DeGale and Badou Jack over his 14 years as a professional and challenged Sakio Bika for the world title.

AARON McKenna will return to the ring at the Coventry Skydome on June 25. Highly-rated middleweight McKenna hasn’t fought since December last year when he out-pointed Carlos Montijo to win the WBC Youth world title.

CAVAN middleweight Declan Donegan will take on Limerick’s Graham McCormack for the BUI Irish title at the Europa Hotel on June 25.

In the latest in the series of action-packed small hall shows at the Belfast venue, the middleweight title battle is the headline act on a bill that will also include promising featherweight Colm Murphy (3-0) against Engel Gomez and unbeaten Belfast super-welter Owen O'Neill (7-0).

Also in action is featherweight Cian Doyle (2-0) who takes on Tatenda Mangombe, Jamie Morrissey versus Seamus Devlin at super-middleweight and there’s a debut for Dublin middleweight Daniel O'Sullivan who will take on English journeyman Luke Middleton.

TOMMY McCarthy and Ruadhan Farrell both scored second round stoppage wins in Estonia last weekend.

Cruiserweight McCarthy, now trained by Dan Anderson at Belfast’s Gleann gym, had too much for Pauls Vilbergs and returned to winning ways after his rematch loss to Chris Billam-Smith. Then Farrell blasted out Antons Zacests to record his second stoppage in-a-row. Farrell moved to 3-0 with the victory.

ANTHONY Joshua’s rematch with Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia in August is set to be formally announced this week.

Usyk beat Joshua on points last year to win the WBA (Super), WBO and IBF title but the rematch has suffered months of delays due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn has confirmed paperwork is now completed

"This fight is on,” said Hearn.

The delays had been in part caused by Usyk's return to Ukraine after the invasion of the country by Russia, however broadcast deals have also been a factor with a suggestion Joshua could move from Sky Sports to DAZN.

A date of 23 July was pencilled in for the rematch but Usyk's promoter Oleksandr Krasyuk said they have been told to prepare for 20 August.

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Boxing