JAMES TENNYSON: “I’LL NOT LEAVE THAT RING WITHOUT THE TITLE!” @FrankWarren_tv

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Fight communities on both sides of the Irish border are expected to come to a standstill this Friday evening when Lisburn banger James Tennyson and Dublin dandy Declan Geraghty face-off for the Irish super-featherweight crown at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall, writes Glynn Evans.

Between them, the multi-decorated amateur stars, have lost just three of 34 paid gigs and, in addition to securing Celtic bragging rights, they know that whoever prevails shall be propelled into the major title shake-up.

‘There’s been a big build up in the local media and among the fans. A lot of people are expecting it’ll be fight of the night. It certainly has the potential,’ says mallet-fisted Tennyson, whose 13 stoppage wins on a 17-2 slate have earned him the nickname ‘Assassin’.

‘It’ll be brilliant to fight at the Waterfront in my home city. I’ve been there before as a spectator and the seats sort of rise up in height over the ring so no one has a bad view. Deco will bring a good crowd himself up from Dublin so I expect it’ll be about 50-50, a cracking atmosphere.’

Formerly a three time All-Ireland junior champion during a 100 plus bout amateur career, Tennyson stormed to Irish and Celtic 130lb titles within 30 months of his September 2012 debut. Thus far, as a result of his nucleur hitting, the ‘Assassin’s’ 19 pro fights have averaged less than three rounds apiece.

But last April, the Tony Dunlop trained, Mark Dunlop managed prospect copped a painful reality check from the seasoned and high skilled Cromer southpaw Ryan Walsh, after boiling beneath nine stone to challenge for British featherweight title.

‘I want to take nothing away from Ryan. He was a real smart and compact operator who didn’t waste anything,’ says Tennyson, still only 23, who was dropped three times by body shots and stopped in round five.

‘But from my end I needed to take off quite a bit of weight and it left me drained of energy. My body was simply too weak at 9st to take his body shots.

‘Initially I was pretty down but I have a good family and a lot of good friends who picked me up and re-assured me that, at just 23, I had plenty of time to still reach my goals. I just had to dig deep, put 100% into every session and go again.

‘I weighed 9st 7lbs for my return in November (a shut-out four round points win over Nicaragua’s Rafael Castillo) and I felt a lot more comfortable, full of energy and far stronger.’

This weekend, Tennyson sensibly drops down a level and up a division to resume his reign as national 9st 4lb champion which began aged 19, in just his sixth paid outing, when he clattered London-Irishman Mickey Coveney inside five minutes at Belfast’s St Kevin’s Hall.

Opposing him, Dublin southpaw ‘Pretty Boy’ Geraghty can boast a pro apprenticeship under Freddie Roach in the US and shall waltz to ringside with a resume showing just one loss (by DQ) in 15 paid starts.

Thus far, neither principal has ventured past round eight but, though Geraghty is senior by three years, he is still to debut at championship level, whereas the Ulsterman has prepared for two 10 rounders and one 12 round title match.

Tennyson says: ‘I’ve done plenty of long spars at the Kronk Belfast gym – and quality sparring with awkward southpaws who replicate Geraghty’s style – and I’m ready for 10 tough rounds. But I’m sure Geraghty will arrive in top shape too. I doubt it’ll be decisive either way.

‘There’s plenty of respect from our end. Dec’s good overall; slick, fast, quick on the move. But we’ve prepared for that. And we’ve seen some weaknesses that we hope to exploit on the night. We’ve a solid game plan that we’ve been working on through sparring and we expect it to work the trick on Friday.

‘And now that Liam Walsh has got his world title fight confirmed, we can expect the British and Commonwealth belts to become vacant. An impressive win could put me right in the mix to compete for those.’

Back in his natural habitat, the ‘Assassin’ claims he’s primed to deliver another execution.

Early on we expect Dec will get on his toes and try to hit and move but 10 rounds is a long time,’ warns James.

Eventually we’ll have to trade. Though I’ll be looking to box smart, I’m the heavier puncher and believe that’ll be the decisive factor. I’ll not leave that ring without the title.’

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