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Tennyson eyeing path to the top ahead of world title eliminator against unbeaten O'Reilly


Clear mission: James Tennyson has a world title opportunity in his sights

Clear mission: James Tennyson has a world title opportunity in his sights

Clear mission: James Tennyson has a world title opportunity in his sights

Amid all the gloom of 2020, James Tennyson finds himself in his own bubble of great opportunity as he approaches this Friday night's world title eliminator at Wembley Arena.

Victory over unbeaten Josh O'Reilly would push him to the brink of a possible shot at boxing's latest superstar Teofimo Lopez, holder of the WBO, WBA and IBF world lightweight titles. It would quite simply be one of the biggest fights an Irish fighter has ever been involved in.

While some would seek to somehow find an easier path to a world title shot and possibly wait until Lopez moves up a division, the hard-hitting Belfast man insists he would relish such a shoot-out.

"I'm not in this sport to sell myself short. If Lopez is the man with the belt then that's the fight I want and what an opportunity that would be. I would love to share the ring with Lopez, one of the biggest names in the sport," said Tennyson.

"For someone like me to get to that level and have that chance would be unbelievable and I suppose to beat someone like that would be the ultimate dream.

"It would be an all-action dog-fight and one the fans would love and when I stop to think that it's a real possibility it's very exciting. I would love to have that opportunity and a win over Josh O'Reilly moves me a lot closer to that fight."

The 27-year-old, coached by fellow Belfast man Tony Dunlop, is currently ranked 10 in the WBA ratings, while O'Reilly is at No.8 due to holding the governing body's North American belt. Despite being unbeaten, his record suggests O'Reilly will be the underdog against Tennyson who is clearly much more at ease in the lightweight division having previously campaigned at feather and super-feather.

In August, Tennyson lifted the British title with a fine stoppage of Gavin Gwynne and believes the improvements he demonstrated in that victory will only be enhanced in this clash with O'Reilly, which will be screened on Sky Sports on the undercard of the world super-middleweight title fight between Billy Joe Saunders and Martin Murray.

"I've always enjoyed fighting but I would say that the last few camps I've enjoyed more than ever before. It's probably a lot down to the fact that I'm not having to always focus on making weight - I can make lightweight easily whereas before it was very tough and it did leave me vulnerable to body shots. That's gone now, I'm a lot stronger at lightweight," said Tennyson, who is managed by Mark Dunlop and promoted by Eddie Hearn.

"As you move up the levels you realise what is needed and while I know that everyone sees me as an aggressive guy who wants to slug it out all the time, I know I need to keep working on my boxing. I feel I showed that against Gwynne but it can be better.

"We're always looking at improving on certain things in every camp and I just feel that everything is really coming together for me. I really feel good about where I am in my career and I know how big an opportunity this is.

"I don't know a lot about O'Reilly apart from he's unbeaten. My coach Tony has been looking at him and I just listen about what I need to do. I want to put in another very good performance and then enjoy Christmas and look forward to a massive 2021."

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