Tyrone McKenna to return with Mimoune rematch as Pody McCrory closes in on all-Ireland Keeler battle

Belfast favourites McKenna and McCrory to return at SSE Arena fight night on August 3

Brothers in arms. Lewis Crocker and Tyrone McKenna after 'the Croc' won their derby battle
Having been physically our-gunned by Lewis Crocker, Tyrone McKenna will return to light-welterweight for his return

TYRONE McKenna’s ‘retirement’ lasted a few days (if that) before he started getting the urge to get the gloves back on and he’ll return with a score to settle against Frenchman Mohammed Mimoune at the SSE Arena on Saturday, August 3.

McKenna – controversially some would say – got the decision over Mimoune in London in 2020 and the Belfast fighter – who will return to light-welterweight for the fight – intends to shut his doubters up in the rematch.

“I got a lot of people slabbering at me and a lot of online abuse after that fight,” he explained.

“I always said I would love to revisit it and I think now is the perfect time to do that. The first time I fought him it was in the running for Fight of the Year – it was an unbelievable scrap and one of my toughest fights.

“I’m excited to get back in there, beat him up even more and put all the ‘robbery’ comments to bed by beating him again.”

Controversy over decisions is obviously nothing new in boxing. Last week the latest storm surrounded Sean McComb’s undeserved loss to Arnold Barboza junior in New York. But most fighters take the win – deserved or not – and move on with a sigh of relief. It’s typical of McKenna that he wants to set the record straight.

“People still send me pictures of Mimoune saying ‘you robbed him’,” he explained.

“I get constant abuse and it’s left a dirty mark on my career. A lot of fighters would be happy they got the win and they wouldn’t go near that dangerous fight again but I’m a different kettle of fish, I want to prove I beat him the first time and I want to do it again.

“I did think I won the first time. The rounds he won, he dominated – he battered me – but they’re still (scored) 10-9 and I won six of the 10 rounds although I didn’t dominate them. I always fight for the fans, I always take the hardest fights and I don’t want anyone to say: ‘Aye, remember he robbed Mimoune that time?’

“If anyone thought I robbed him, I’ll fight him again and I’ll beat him up again.”

As for his short-lived retirement, McKenna admits he was “bored to the ballix” and soon felt the need to begin training again. After 11 years and 28 fights (23-4-1) as a professional, he didn’t realise how much he would miss the sport.

“I always thought retirement was what I wanted but, when I got retired, my head was away, I was bored to the ballix sitting in the house. I need a bit of structure in my life and I love boxing, I didn’t realise how much I would miss it. I’m glad to be back out.

“When I got beat there were all sorts of emotions going through my head and a few hours later I put a post out saying I was retired.”

In hindsight, he says he shouldn’t have announced his retirement, he should have announced he was returning to his original fighting weight – 140lbs, light-welterweight. Last time out, mixing with a genuine welterweight in Lewis Crocker was a bridge too far for even him.

“Going up to welterweight was the wrong move,” he admits.

“I don’t feel I’m over the hill or anything. I still feel good, I feel like I can do something in boxing but Lewis was far too big for me. I showed a bit of grit and saw the 10 rounds out but he was too heavy.

“He could take my punches, shrug them off and keep coming forward and there was always the danger in that fight that if I traded with him or did what I wanted to do – go to war with him – I could end up hurt. I was very cautious and that’s because of the weight because he was a stone heavier than me in the ring.”

Also on August 3 at the SSE – Owen O’Neill versus Dylan Moran and Rudy Farrell and Gerard Hughes will meet again after they drew last year.

Edgar Berlanga and Padraig McCrory fight it out at the Caribe Royale in Orlando, Florida. Picture: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom. (Ed Mulholland/Matchroom./Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.)

PODY McCrory could return to action in an all-Ireland battle against former amateur opponent Luke Keeler at the SSE Arena on August 3.

‘The Hammer’ admits he hasn’t been in a gym since he lost to Edgar Berlanga in Orlando, Florida in February but he has been keeping himself fit by training with his GAA club Cardinal O’Donnell’s – he played in the win against East Belfast in the South Antrim League last week - and is keen to get his gloves back on.

“There’s nothing concrete,” said McCrory.

“It’s got to the stage where we need to make a decision on what’s next. The Keeler fight appeals to me because he has a win over me as an amateur. He has boxed at world title level and, at this stage of our careers, I think it’s a good fight to make and the winner can go on and maybe roll the dice and see what’s next or retire with a good win.

“It’s the fight that would entice me back. There’s been no numbers discussed but it’s a good fight for Irish boxing fans, I think they’d be interested in it so we’ll see what happens with Conlan Boxing and DAZN.”

Hopes were high that underdog McCrory would claim a famous win against home favourite Berlanga in Orlando but ‘The Chosen One’ returned to form and forced the first loss of the Belfast southpaw’s career at a partisan, Latino-dominated Royale Caribe Hotel.

“My ego is still a bit hurt from that,” McCrory admitted.

“It was such a high-profile fight that every time I go onto my social media there’s new stuff about it – I feel like de-activating my accounts sometimes! But that’s boxing and when you take a risk these things can happen.

“I would love to get the opportunity to end my career on a high or get another chance to test myself at the top level. We’ll see, it’s about taking one fight at a time. If I never fought again I wouldn’t be surprised but deep down I know there’s more in me, I’m 35 but I’m still fresh.

“I haven’t had any mad wars, I’ve only been dropped once in my whole career – from sparring and fighting – and that was in my last fight.

“I still feel like I have a bit to give and I feel I owe the people who couldn’t get to Florida a big night in Belfast and I think me and Keeler is a great fight to give them. It’s Irish v Irish, two lads who have boxed at a really good level and there’s a bit of history between us from the amateurs.”