IT’S a new chapter for Tyrone McKenna at the SSE Arena on Saturday as ‘The Mighty Celt’ makes his bow in the welterweight division in a very decent test against former British and Commonwealth champion Chris Jenkins.
McKenna had been planning a move up from 140lbs for a while, but opportunities too good to turn down including last time out against former light-welter king Regis Prograis prolonged his stay at the lower weight.
But the time has now come to seek out a fresh challenge and at 32 years of age, he feels it is long beyond time as he physically outgrew it some time ago.
Standing at 6’1, just how he remained at light-welter for so long is a nod to his dedication and professionalism, and he will still hold advantages in his new division, but will have added strength which is bad news for Jenkins on Saturday night.
“I’m setting into my new weight division - eating more and I’m a happier man,” he reports.
“I had been contemplating it (move up) after my last few fights, but then there was always an opportunity that came up like the Prograis fight that was too big an opportunity.
“I was going to step up after that and then a fight for a big title was offered at 140. I agreed to it, but it then fell through so I just said to them (management) to move me up as I feel like I lose something when I fight at 140. Hopefully, I will be a new and improved McKenna at 147.”
Jenkins is no stranger to these shores having lost out to Phil Sutcliffe back in 2016 and then at the Falls Park in 2019, scored a hugely controversial win over Paddy Gallagher in a fight that went to the cards after nine rounds due to a cut that was adjudged to have come about accidentally, but replays clearly showed a punch had caused the damage.
‘Rock’n’Rolla’ also had to pick himself off the floor in the fight and the general consensus ringside was that the Swansea native was behind, yet all three judges had him slightly ahead at the time of the stoppage.
McKenna knows exactly what the 33-year-old with a record of 23-5-3 brings to the table and is expecting an all-action battle with Jenkins fighting for his own career having lost last time out against Florian Marku after defeating former unified world champion Julius Indongo in February.
“He has been here a few times and always gives a good account of himself,” notes the West Belfast man.
“I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves and sometimes he’s been a bit unlucky.
“He’s always in exciting fights and entertaining fights, so this will be no different as I always want to entertain the fans and this fight will entertain.
“The first half of the fight will be tit-for-tat and then I think in the last stretch I will put it on him and hopefully do the damage.”
McKenna is also bidding to get back on the winning trail having lost out to Prograis in Dubai in March, sending his record to 22-3-1.
However, he earned a lot of respect in defeat as he took all that ‘Rougarou’ had to throw at him in the early rounds when he was sent to the floor in the second.
He came through that early storm and there was a sense he was beginning to come into the fight in the fifth, but the fight was stopped on a cut he revealed didn’t even require stitches.
There was no question he was well behind on the cards and while he knows that pulling off the win from that far back was the tallest of orders, he still would have liked to have seen what would have happened had the fight continued for another couple of rounds.
“When you’re in the ring, you can feel the energy and the way momentum is going,” he explained.
“I felt I was getting into the fight and round five was a good one for me and was turning into a fight I enjoy.
“I’m not going to say I was going to win the fight at Prograis is an unbelievable fight, but I was enjoying it and knew the final stretch would have been exciting.
“People probably thought I’d get blown away in one or two rounds, but I was only stopped on the cut and didn’t feel like I lost any credibility.
“I’ve now stepped up a weight and feel a lot better and that I have a lot more energy. It’s something that should have happened a year ago.
“When I was super-lightweight (140) I was always looking at who to call out, but now I’ve moved up, this division is stacked and there are 10-to-15 fighters I can call out after, so I’m excited for this division.”
Jenkins joked that a side battle will be who will come out requiring more stitches given both men's propensity to cut up, but he is also aware that defeat could leave him with nowhere to go in his career and is determined that will not be the case.
"We'll put the odds on to see who has the most stitches, but I'll go with myself," he said.
"There will be blood and it may be a cliche, but an orthodox against a southpaw will have banged heads. I just hope it goes past four rounds (to avoid a technical draw).
"I'm coming towards the end of my career now and I've had some good wins and another one on Saturday, who knows what will be next?
"It's not a last hurrah, but the final chapter of a career of ups and downs, so it's just about doing what I can."