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James Tennyson weighing up new plan of assault for title glory

By David Kelly

One of the biggest enemies for any fighter is the process of making weight and James Tennyson has fallen victim on two crucial occasions and so tonight at the Ulster Hall he starts out on a new journey towards further title success.

Beaten in his IBF World featherweight title challenge at the hands of champion Tevin Farmer in November, Tennyson has decided to move up to lightweight with coach Tony Dunlop believing it is the right move for the 5ft 8in Belfast man.

Garry Neale of Portsmouth is the man in the opposite corner for their 10-rounder and while he comes to Belfast with an unbeaten record it is not one that suggests he should be a danger to former European super-featherweight champion Tennyson.

This evening is all about the performance from Tennyson as he settles into a new weight division, though coach Dunlop insists he will be taking nothing for granted.

"Neale is going to be walking into a mincing machine - he's going to get minced, simple as that," said Dunlop.

"We're not overlooking him because when you look at his record you can see that for him this is his big chance - this is like his Rocky moment, he has the chance to shoot himself into the British title picture if he beats James but we're feeling very confident.

"It's good that James is starting off the year in the Ulster Hall and it's at lightweight. So far in two big fights it has been one fight too many at the weight -when he lost his British featherweight title to Ryan Walsh and then against Farmer in the world title fight.

"I was even a little concerned when he fought Martin J Ward for the European super-featherweight title last summer because it was tough for him making the weight. He started off as a boy in the pro game and now he is filling out into a man and this is the right time to move up to lightweight.

"I think with a good win here he can be looking ahead to another big fight pretty quickly - that bit is up to his manager Mark Dunlop and promoter Eddie Hearn."

Dunlop feels together they have learned from the painful experience of that loss to Farmer in Boston when a series of body shots cut short his world title challenge.

"You learn from every defeat and we have been working on a few tweaks in his style - we've been looking at improving his defence without taking away his natural aggression," added Dunlop.

"James is a natural fighter with a warrior's mind. He didn't let the loss to Farmer effect him one bit - it has just made him even more determined."

The show also features fellow Belfast lightweight Paul Hyland who is seeking to push towards another British title shot, having lost to Lewis Ritson last summer.

Hyland meets Miroslav Serban, the Czech Republic's national light-welterweight champion in a 10 rounder.

"This is a good fight for me to kick off 2019 in style. This guy is coming down in weight so he will be strong and he likes to come and have a go so it should be a good one for the fans," said Hyland.

It is also an important night for Coalisland favourite Feargal McCrory as he seeks to pick up the Irish lightweight title with victory over Karl Kelly before then targeting super-featherweight honours.

McCrory's coach John Breen said: "I think this could be a very big year for Feargal. He is making big progress and deserves his chance at major titles."

Cruiserweight Tommy McCarthy, super-fly Luke Wilton and Cathy McAleer also feature. First bell is 6.30pm.

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