James Tennyson: I’m capable of winning world titles

Belfast lightweight James Tennyson has admitted he is “absolutely buzzing” ahead of his British title fight against Welshman Gavin Gwynne this Saturday at Matchroom’s ‘Fight Camp’ in Brentwood, Essex.

“I’m feeling great,” Tennyson, who turns 27 next week, told Boxing Social. “The way things have been [with the Coronavirus] I didn’t think we would see boxing happening any time soon or this early in the year, so I’m absolutely buzzing to have a date. It’s so close now. The excitement’s building and I’m really looking forward to it.”

The ever-upbeat Tennyson speaks warmly about the benefits of lockdown, such as spending more time with his young son, but also stresses that he took pains to stay sharp and in shape throughout the strange and unprecedented times we have been living through since March.

“I kept in good nick and kept my weight down. Throughout lockdown, I had a punch-bag and stuff up at home so I was always doing stuff myself. When Matchroom announced the possibility of running the ‘Fight Camp’ shows, [manager] Mark [Dunlop] said to me, ‘Look, there’s a good chance you’ll be on this, keep yourself in good nick’.

“Once lockdown eased up a bit, I started doing some outdoor sessions with my trainer Tony [Dunlop] at the [Belfast] Kronk and, once restrictions were lifted, I was able to start sparring with the McKenna brothers [Aaron and Stephen]. I’ve had plenty of good hard rounds with the McKennas. I’ve put the work in.”

There has been a definite spring in Tennyson’s step since he moved up to lightweight, a decision he made after losing to Tevin Farmer for the IBF super-feather title in October 2018 while severely weight drained. Since campaigning at 135lbs, the hard-hitting Tennyson has chalked up four stoppage victories in as many fights. 

‘The Assassin’ admits that the move up has revitalised his career. “At lightweight I don’t need to any drastic weight cuts, which makes a huge difference. I walk about comfortably with my weight nice and low. I feel good, fit and healthy. The move up has been very good for me. I’m very happy with how things are going.”

Tennyson has been rejuvenated at lightweight. Photo: Matchroom.

With European and Commonwealth belts already banked during his time at super-feather, Tennyson admits the chance to add the British title to his list of honours this Saturday is an attractive prospect.

“It’s huge for me. It’s as big a fight as any of my previous fights including for the European and Commonwealth titles. It’s the only belt I haven’t won yet. I’m very eager to get the win and get that belt. It’s going to be a great fight. I’m really excited.”

Turning his attention to his opponent – the 12-1 (2 KOs) Gwynne – Tennyson speaks in a measured and respectful tone, as we have come to expect from a man who reserves his venom for his fists, not his rhetoric.

“I believe Gavin Gwynne will bring the best put of me. I’ve seen bits and pieces of him. He’s very tall for the weight. He’s a tough lad, He comes forward. He has a go. He can take a good shot. He gave a good account of himself when he fought Joe Cordina.

“I’m not expecting an easy night, but I’m more than ready for what’s ahead of me. My camp’s been amazing and my confidence is sky high at the minute. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Puncher Tennyson (left) faces tough Welshman Gwynne (right) on Saturday.
Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom.

The fight represents Tennyson’s first contest as an official Matchroom fighter, having signed a multi-fight promotional deal with Eddie Hearn in January. 

“The deal I’ve got with Matchroom is absolutely huge for my career. Funnily enough, a lot of people thought I was already with Matchroom because of the amount of fights I’ve had on their shows, including the IBF world title fight,” he said/

“Right now, a lot of fighters with smaller promoters are going to struggle because they can’t stage events without bringing a crowd in whereas Matchroom have got that huge platform and can run these shows no problem.

“I’m not going to fall behind, they’re going to keep me active, even with these tough times going on. So I’m expecting some big things now I’m a Matchroom fighter and I’m really excited to see where we go with things.”

One of Tennyson’s most endearing qualities, as well as his inherently good nature and positive attitude, is his loyalty.

Although now officially aligned with Matchroom, he is still managed by Mark Dunlop and trained by Tony Dunlop (no relation), the duo who have guided his career since he turned pro as an even more fresh faced youngster of 19, back in 2012.

As Mark Dunlop once said: “The boxing game is full of dogs and snakes and so on but James has been so loyal to both me and his coach. When things don’t go his way he doesn’t make demands or play the blame game.”

The fairy tale ending, of course, for Tennyson and the two Dunlops, would be for ‘The Assassin’ to win a world title.

And although he is careful to emphasise he isn’t looking past Gwynne or taking victory on Saturday for granted, Tennyson is clear that world honours are still the aim. 

“I’ll have to sit down and speak with my team after the fight,” he says of his future plans. “I’m top ten with the WBO, and pretty close to being top ten with all the governing bodies.

“So I’m hoping that within the next few fights I’ll be knocking on the door for another world title shot. That’s the aim. I want to be back fighting at world level for world titles and I believe that at lightweight I’m capable of winning world titles.”

Tennyson is planning to unleash his vaunted power again this weekend.

Unsurprisingly, Tennyson – who has never shirked a challenge – admits that facing the winner of the mooted showdown between Luke Campbell and Ryan Garcia for the WBC interim title is a challenge that appeals.

“The winner of that fight? Absolutely I’d be interested. I believe that Campbell will have too much experience for Ryan Garcia at the minute and I believe that will be a big factor in the fight. But yeah, the winner of that I’d be very interested in,” he said.

“I wouldn’t turn that fight down, not in a heartbeat!”