Tyrone McKenna has the heart to rise again following Catterall reality check
As he nurses his cuts and bruises while handling the pain of defeat, Tyrone McKenna should reflect on the fact that he gained more in his loss to Jack Catterall than from any of his previous 16 victories.
Entering Belfast's SSE Arena ring on Saturday night, the cold reality hit home that the Belfast man was taking a huge jump in class from anyone he had faced before. Others would have enjoyed a more steady progression but McKenna accepted the step from Irish level to tangling with a man ranked five by the WBO and expected to fight for a world title.
At the end of the 10 rounds McKenna lost a unanimous points decision, 95-91, 94-93, 94-93 but proved his resilience having climbed off the canvas on three occasions while also leaving a question mark over the engine of Catterall who while clearly a classy, fluid puncher only seemed to be content working in short bursts.
"I want to thank everyone for the support I got during the fight. It made me feel special and credit to Jack Catterall because he's going to go on and do big things," said McKenna, who was left with blood dripping from the side of his right eye.
Boxing behind a high guard and using his freakish height and reach advantage for a super-lightweight, McKenna made a promising start in the opening round but then Catterall showed his class with a rapid-fire burst which had the Belfast man on the canvas. In the same moment the WBO inter-continental champion gave evidence to his ruthless streak, hitting McKenna flush on the chin while he was on the floor.
Referee Steve Gray gave McKenna time to clear his head before signalling the deduction of a point from Catterall for the illegal blow.
McKenna was still stunned, not so much from the punches it seemed but the realisation that he was at a level where the slightest error is punished.
The Englishman simply marched straight back into close quarters and a short left and right hook had McKenna on the canvas just as the bell sounded. To most at ringside the end seemed nigh but McKenna's heart would now allow that to happen and even another trip to the canvas in the fifth from a waspish right hand could not deter him.
In the last third of the bout he came up with snappy leads and hooks to outwork Catterall who continued to threaten with quality work but only in spurts and even those became more sporadic as the finishing line loomed ever closer.
McKenna won the last three rounds to tighten up matters on the scorecards but it was not going to be enough to take the belt from Catterall.
But, the Belfast man can surely lick his wounds and push for a British title shot.