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Peter Pan Lyric Theatre

Tennyson set for huge title opportunity

James Tennyson returns to the 02 Arena where he enjoyed a career-best win over Martin J Ward at super-featherweight last year to claim the European and Commonwealth titles James Tennyson returns to the 02 Arena where he enjoyed a career-best win over Martin J Ward at super-featherweight last year to claim the European and Commonwealth titles
By David Mohan

JAMES Tennyson had been given a huge opportunity to blast his way into the world lightweight rankings when he faces Atif Shafiq for the vacant WBA International title at the 02 Arena in London this evening (Saturday, live on Matchroom Boxing Facebook).

The 26 year-old Poleglass man returns to the venue of his career-best win when he stopped Martin J Ward for the European super-featherweight title last summer before an unsuccessful world title challenge against Tevin Farmer in Boston.

Since that defeat, ‘The Assassin’ has made the step-up to lightweight and his assignment on Saturday comes on the undercard of a massive Sky Sports Box Office card topped by the division’s number one, Vasiliy Lomachenko who is bidding to add the vacant WBC title to his WBA and WBO belts against Luke Campbell.

A win for Tennyson should secure him a top 15 ranking with the WBA and therefore could put him on the ladder to face the winner of the main event down the line, but that is a long way off and to even get into that conversation, be must take care of business against the 25 year-old Yorkshireman.

“This is a massive opportunity for me to get back into the world title mix,” he said at Thursday’s final press conference.

“It’s unbelievable to get on such a massive bill so I can’t wait to get in there and get the show on the road.”

Shafiq holds a record of 21-2, which looks good on paper, but when delving a little deeper it is clear he is yet to face anyone of the calibre of Tennyson with just two of those victories coming against opponents with winning records.

The pair have some common opponents with both having previously defeated Simas Volosinas, but an interesting sub-plot is that Shafiq has a 2014 win over Pavels Sekovs, the man who inflicted Tennyson’s first career defeat in a shock at the Odyssey Arena a year earlier.

However, the West Belfast man was just finding his feet as a professional at the time and he has improved immeasurably since that freak outcome with his only other losses coming whilst badly weight-drained against Ryan Walsh in a British featherweight title fight in 2016 and then last year’s world title reverse against Farmer.

He will enter the ring on Saturday evening as a huge favourite having found his natural weight in the 135lb division whilst retaining his noted power having scored two second round stoppage wins already this year.

“Lightweight has made a massive difference,” he added.

“I feel fit and strong now. Taking off the extra pounds was taking its toll on me, so you will see a difference on the night.”

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