James ‘The Baby Faced Assassin’ Tennyson is only 19 years of age and in less than eight months as a pro, he secured the Irish Super Featherweight – becoming the youngest Irish champion in the past 65 years. He has been expertly guided to seven straight wins by his manager, Mark Dunlop, and Tennyson will be hoping to make it 8-0 tonight at the Holiday Inn, Belfast when he faces Andrei Hramyka (10-6-3).
However, an intriguing feature of the James Tennyson story is his lineage to arguably the greatest Irish fighter of all time, the great Jimmy McLarnin. Tennyson is related to McLarnin but the Belfast fighter is unsure exactly how the ancestry to McLarnin is:
“Somewhere down the line from my father’s side, I am not sure what way it works, but he was related to my grandmother through my daddy’s side of the family.”
It is not a surprise to hear that Tennyson cannot detail exactly how he is related to McLarnin, but perhaps he should get noted Irish boxing historian, Patrick Myler to look into as Myler has experience in examining McLarnin’s Irish roots.
In Jimmy McLarnin’s book by Andrew Gallimore ‘Babyface goes to Hollywood’ there was much research and debate about the exact birthplace of Jimmy McLarnin and it was Irish boxing historian, Patrick Myler who finally unearthed McLarnin’s birth certificate which shows James McLarnin was born on 19th December 1907, in Hillsborough, County Down. McLarnin travelled with his family to Canada when he was barely three years old. They travelled in steerage and it was a journey that left one of his old brothers dead. McLarnin’s family settled in Vancouver before McLarnin travelled to the USA, with his manager Charles ‘Pop’ Foster to make his name in boxing.
When McLarnin left Vancouver for San Francesco, he was still a deceptively frail looking boy; his mother gave him her last $20 and he held closely Pop Foster’s promise to make him a champion of the world if he did what he told him.
Tennyson’s entry into boxing was his mother’s intervention and his journey began at the Poleglass Amateur Boxing Club in Belfast.
“As a youngster I had a bad temper and my mummy wanted me to get into a sport where I basically blew off all of my energy.”
Tennyson took to boxing and quickly racked up an impressive haul of amateur prizes including 5 Antrim titles, 6 Ulster titles, 3 Irish titles and Gold in a multi-nationals tournament in Portugal, as well as boxing for Ireland in Azerbaijan.
Tennyson describes his style as a come forward fighter and he can ‘trade, box and move and mix it up”.
Working with his trainer Tony Dunlop at the Belfast Kronk Gym, Tennyson has made adjustments for the professional ranks and learning to pace himself more:
“As an amateur it was always like high pace, straight in and brawling. It’s more about picking your shots, moving about and waiting for your opportunities. I prefer professional than amateur, as an amateur the head guard and vest was a distraction as well.”
Tennyson’s manager Mark Dunlop has worked tirelessly to keep his fighter very active in his first year as a professional, and Dunlop has secured opportunities on a number of shows across the UK and Ireland, as well as promoting his own small hall shows.
In only his fourth fight Tennyson defeated experienced campaigner and former Irish Champion, Mickey Coveney over six rounds and then met the same fighter a few months later in an Irish Super Featherweight Title fight.”
“I fought Mickey Coveney in Scotland (in the first fight) and paced myself, hit and move and got the rounds in. That was my first six rounder. The second time around, my team just basically said to me ‘step with high pressure early’ and see how it goes. I did that and his corner threw the towel – he had enough.”
It was a very special moment for Tennyson and his family and friends when he secured his first professional belt:
“It felt great, I was surprised I got an Irish title fight so soon in my career, I am over the moon with it and the atmosphere on the night, made it so much better, having a home crowd behind me.”
The road to bigger prizes for Tennyson is still ahead of him, but if he can achieve a fraction of what his famed distant relative, Jimmy McLarnin did, then he will have made his mark.
A barometer of McLarnin’s impact is captured by Andrew Gallimore’s words below:
“Jimmy McLarnin, with his fierce blue eyes, bright green robe and shamrock on his shorts fought like an Irishman’s supposed to fight. He was brave and game and knocked opponents out cold. Jimmy became, in the words of one Ring columnist ‘an absolute Godlike idol with the Irish.”
Below is an interesting behind the scenes documentary called ‘BabyFace’ of James Tennyson winning the Irish Title:
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