Daily News Social: McKenna on song, Fury vow and Nico’s secret

In a new series, published every weekday on Boxing Social, the incomparable Terry Dooley delivers his unique look at the boxing news.

Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna (21-2-1, 6 KOs) meets Mexico’s Jose Felix Jr (39-4-1, 30 KOs) in a contest for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental light-welterweight title tomorrow night. He has vowed not to take a backwards step against the man who replaced Zhankosh Turarov after the Kazakh became the latest boxer whose well-developed immunity system fell foul to Covid-19 the day before they were due to meet back in April. Turarov didn’t agree to the rearranged contest and date so Felix Jr stepped in. 

McKenna serenaded the media at the Balmoral Hotel with ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ by Sam Cooke before vowing to take the fight to his Mexican opponent rather than spending his time feeling his foe out. Indeed, McKenna insists that he took the hardest possible replacement fight in order to put on a show for his fans. 

“He has 39 wins and 30 KOs — more KOs than I have had fights — and is a tough fighter,” he said when speaking to David Mohan of the Belfast Telegraph.   

“Jamie Conlan, my manager, put two people on the table and asked if I wanted this guy [Felix] or another who had a record of 13-3,” he added. “I chose what I believe to be the tougher fight because I love entertaining fans. I’m going in with the attitude that I’m going to war in front of 8,000 fans against a Mexican who is a come-forward fighter, who is dangerous and has heavy hands. I think it has the potential to be an epic fight on an epic show.” 

‘The Mighty Celt’ hopes a win will boost his place in the ratings following a decision defeat to Ohara Davies in the Golden Contract final in September. For the southpaw, though, the main draw tomorrow night is the presence of up to 8,000 fans at Belfast’s Falls Park.  

“I’d usually be buzzing for a fight a few days before, but I have been for weeks in the lead up to this as the fans are back,” he said. “Belfast fans love a boxing show and because there hasn’t been one in two years, this is going to be even more special.” 

The Belfast press conference also featured a back-and-forth between headline act Michael Conlan (15-0, 8 KOs) and his opponent TJ Doheny (22-2, 16 KOs), who fight for the vacant WBA Interim world featherweight title. Doheny says that he expected the fight to be fought at super-bantamweight in a 10-rounder, and had prepared accordingly, only to be informed that they would do 12 rounds at a catchweight of 124lbs. 

With a possible fight against the winner of WBO 122lbs holder Stephen Fulton and WBC titlist Brandon Figueroa in the pipeline for the victor, Belfast’s Conlan insists that an agreement was made to contest the interim featherweight belt at the stipulated weight of 124lbs to maximise their post-fight options and that Doheny agreed to these terms.

“The fight was at 124 and agreed at 124 even if he says different, so I said I would take that — it’s an interim title,” said Conlan, as reported by the Belfast Telegraph. “My aspirations are still at 122, that’s not changing and I’ll still be aiming to go where I’m going, but these interim belts open other opportunities so I said no problem. If you can add a bit more carrot to the cake then it’s nice. 

“He’s been crying all week about this saying he wouldn’t fight at 126 and he wanted 122, but he agreed to 124 the other week. Then he said he didn’t want to do 12 rounds and had only trained for 10. If he wants to walk away from it that’s no problem as we have A, B and C on standby.” 

Doheny raged back, claiming that his 29-year-old opponent can no longer make 122lbs and this is why they are fighting at an artificial weight for a meaningless title. “There is no confusion, it’s clear,” he insisted. “The fight was agreed at 122 and they’re just trying to say that now. He can’t make the weight and now they’re saying it’s at 124. 

“I’m still working on this with my team and no weight has been agreed as it stands. Why would I agree to this, especially when the winner goes on to fight Fulton or Figueroa? We need to weigh-in at 122 for that fight to happen. I’d my bag packed ready to go back [home] to Portlaois the other day, but the team told me to sit tight. This is Michael Conlan who can’t crack an egg so it won’t bother me in terms of weight, but this is professional boxing, so be professional.” 

Despite his harsh words, clear unhappiness and unease, it was unlikely that Doheny will join the small, exclusive list of fighters who withdrew from a fight on the eve of it on general principle. It will go ahead; at the poundage stipulated by Conlan and it sounds like the former IBF super-bantamweight titlist had to swallow his pride and accept it.  

“I want to use this fight to get back up to the top of the super-bantamweight division, now they move me up into featherweight where I don’t belong,” added Doheny, sounding very much like a man who was resigned to his fate.  

People claim that Tommy Fury (6-0, 4 KOs) is just a pretty face following his stint on ITV reality TV show Love Island, but Fury has shown that is there a brain behind the looks and brawn after vowing to “smash the front” of opponent Anthony Taylor’s face, rather than the back of it, when they meet in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 29, so we can rest easy knowing that this won’t be a Frank Bruno-esque festival of rabbit-punching.  

Fury released an Instagram video in which he made it clear that he would beat Taylor (0-1) and the MMA star’s friend Jake Paul on the same night. Fury-Taylor takes place on the same card as Paul’s fight against former UFC fighter Tyron Woodley. Daniel Dubois meets Joe Cusumano on the same show as boxing continues to blur the line between celebrity boxing and the real thing. 

Due to the nature of two of the fights on it, the build-up to this show has taken place across social media and filtered through to TMZ, with Fury’s video the latest missive. “Anthony, you ain’t going to be so pretty after the 29th, mate,” he said, referring to Taylor’s nickname. “I’m going to smash all the front of your face clean in and that’s a promise. 

“After I’ve done you, you little Oompa Loompa, I’m coming for your best pal Jake Paul…I look forward to seeing you on fight week because talk’s cheap, and I want you to say it to my face, and see how brave you are then. I’ll see you soon boys, take it easy.” 

Fury is due to drop down to 180lbs for this one, a loss of about 9lbs since his last fight but in keeping with some of his recent weights, so Taylor responded by warning the 22-year-old that he could rue the day when he agreed to take this fight. “I hope you have an easy weight cut Tommy Fury because remember if you don’t make weight at 180lb your ass is cooked,” he said when speaking exclusively to his personal Instagram account. “Welcome to the fight game, kid.” 

Muhammad Ali’s grandson, Nico Ali Walsh, has revealed that he initially had to hide his famous family heritage as his famous surname is both a “Blessing and a curse”. Ali makes his pro debut later this month, the 20-year-old has signed a deal with Top Rank and is being trained by SugarHill Steward, who also trains WBC heavyweight titlist Tyson Fury.  

Fury has offered some words of advice, but Ali told MyBettingSites that he kept his family history secret for years in order to avoid putting a big, fat target on his back. “Everyone wants to knockout Muhammad Ali’s grandson,” he said.  

“I would never tell anyone who I was but they’d always find out. And when they did, they’d always try to knock me out or hurt me because they wanted to be able to say: ‘Hey, I hurt Muhammad Ali’s grandson, I knocked out Muhammad Ali’s grandson’.” 

“My last name is Walsh, so I tried to hide behind Walsh,” he explained. “But at some point, every coach I had told me that at some point you have to become the name, be the name, and accept it because there was no hiding from it. I’ll definitely have a target on my back as a professional but where I’m at now mentally, I’m able to handle the pressures.” 


Main image: Tyrone McKenna/MTK Global.