The Irish Eye: May 2018

Kane Clarke
03/06/2018 7:10pm

Kane Clarke's May edition of The Irish Eye is headlined by James Tennyson's thrilling victory against previously unbeaten Martin J. Ward...

On 5 May at the Wembley Arena, James Tennyson stopped the previously unbeaten Martin J. Ward in a scintillating back and forth five-round war to become the new super-featherweight European and Commonwealth champion, whilst also defending his WBA International trinket and, perhaps more importantly, his No.2 world ranking with the organisation.

The 24-year-old Poleglass puncher came into the bout as the clear bookies' underdog. The undefeated champion Ward was coming into the bout off the back of a career-best performance against Juli Giner, where he won the vacant European (EBU) title to add to the Commonwealth title he won previously against Anthony Cacace in a fight during which he also bagged the British super-featherweight title for keeps.

The plan for the 26-year-old Essex fighter was to have one defence of the European belt before moving on to world level, and Tennyson's lofty ranking with the WBA fitted perfectly into this plan. Tennyson himself took a major risk in accepting the fight with a world title shot on the horizon, indeed many thought there was no need for him to take such a tough fight and risk falling out of the rankings.

The fight was the first televised bout on the massive Bellew vs Haye 2 card on Sky Sports Box Office. After a tight opening round, Ward began to take over in the second, boxing on the back foot and opening up with hurtful combinations to the body and head, eventually dropping Tennyson with a piercing left-hook to the body, but the Belfast man rose to his feet to beat the count and immediately hear the bell to signal the end of the round.

Tennyson came out in the third with a sense of urgency about his work, marching Ward down and trying to land a big shot. Ward started finding success half-way through the stanza with sickening bodyshots, trying to take the sting out of Tennyson's shots, but Tennyson kept marching forward, landing a massive left hook that snapped back the head of the champion in a tight close round that was probably just edged by the champion.

Ward came out and got behind the jab in the fourth, as Tennyson stalked and looked to cut off the ring to rain some big shots. Forty-five seconds into the round, 'The Assassin' caught Ward with a massive straight right hand down the pipe that sent the champion pedalling. A left-hook fifteen seconds later momentarily wobbled Ward who immediately looked to grab hold of the challenger, visibly hurt.

The Belfast puncher then began to up the pressure, walking him down and opening up with venomous punches when pinning his foe to the ropes. Ward bravely fought to the end of the round but was caught with another major left-hook-right at the finish, to conclude a clear one-sided Tennyson round.

Ward looked to be back in control at the start of the fifth, sticking the jab and using his superior footwork to evade Tennyson's onslaught, but again, the former two-tome Irish champion found a gap with an explosive overhand right over Ward's jab that shook the Essex man, forcing him on the defensive once again.

Tennyson then proceeded to stalk Ward, eating punches just to get up close to land his own. Eventually, with a minute left of the round, Tennyson started breaking Ward's guard with thumping one-twos, forcing Ward to the canvas, who rose immediately when he probably should have took the eight count to get himself back together but, regardless, he earned a few spare seconds when Tennyson's mouth guard fell out and proved quite difficult to put back in with 8oz gloves on.

Eventually the action got back under way, only for Tennyson to land two right uppercuts to again send Ward to the canvas, forcing referee Victor Loughlin to correctly wave off the bout, and see Tennyson become the European and Commonwealth champion.

"It was an amazing battle, real tough fight," said the Poleglass puncher in his post-fight interview. "Martin J. Ward - undefeated - European and Commonwealth champion - I knew it wasn't going to be easy. He caught me with a lovely body shot, it landed deep, I recovered well, came back and turned it into a dog fight, and produced the goods."

Asked about whether he thought he could change the fight around after being down in the second round, the new champion replied: "Definitely, I knew if I could dig deep enough that I could come back from it that I've plenty of heart and determination, that's what got me off the floor and kept me going.

"I knew he was real sharp, a slick operator, I knew he'd be slippery in there and he'd be quick and hard to catch, but I knew I just had to keep stalking him, not really rushing in, just stalking him, stepping about, and it worked. I'm learning every fight, every training camp, I'm always learning and always getting better and improving so I wanna just keep the ball rolling, keep moving forward, keep improving, just try and gradually get myself to the very top of the game."

When asked whether he thought his punching power could cause all of the top super featherweights problems, the Kronk fighter answered: "So far so good, yeah. I never ever go into the fight saying I'm going into knock this guy out, I prepare for twelve rounds, I prepare for a tough twelve rounds at a good pace, and if it comes any quicker then it's a bonus."

'Tenny' [now 22(18)-2(2)] will most likely now look to defend his European title, with French champion Samir Ziani [27(5)-3(0)-1] the touted opponent.

Elsewhere, Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan continued his stellar form on 4 May on a Golden Boy promotions card at the StubHub Centre, Carson, California, with a third-round stoppage of Puerto Rican Berlin Abreu [14(11)-2(2] to up his professional record to 28(20)-2(1).

The Corkonian middleweight has been a mooted opponent of both Gennady 'GGG' Golovkin and Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez in recent months, and will be hoping to keep himself in the mix to challenge one of the biggest names in the division, should the opportunity present itself.

Staying stateside, 18-year-old Monaghan welterweight Aaron McKenna moved to 4(3)-0 on 23 May with a third-round stoppage of Darel Harris [1(1)-2(1)-1] at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, Santa Monica.

At the Corn Exchange, Ipswich, undefeated Mayo light-welterweight Ray Moylette moved to 10(4)-0 with a seventh-round knockout of Nicaraguan Jorge Moreno [9(4)-7(3)-1 on 26 May.

On 12 May, Peter McDonagh [28(3)-28(2)-2] fought to a controversial ten-round draw against undefeated prospect Peter Kramer [8(5)-0-1] at the Bolton Whites hotel, Bolton, with many onlookers thinking he done enough to get the win.

Finally, Dublin welterweight Jay Byrne once again moved up in weight to challenge for the BUI light-middleweight Celtic title on 25 May at the Crowne Plaza, Glasgow, losing out on a points decision to undefeated Paul Kean [8-0] 79-74 to see his record slip to 7(2)-5(1).