Tyrone McKenna has set up a Golden Contract final showdown with Ohara Davies following a shock win in London tonight.
The Belfast light welter, 30 next month, defeated Frenchman Mohamed Mimoune on a close and controversial decision at the York Hall to move into the decider of the lucrative eight-man competition.
The final verdict on the Sky Sports-broadcast show prompted condemnation from many quarters but the result was just that – final.
It was an early contender for Fight of the Year and a bout which would stand up to any of the famous brawls that have taken place in Bethnal Green but this will all be forgotten such has been the reaction to the result.
With supposed rival Davies drawing the ‘golden ball’ on Wednesday and opting to instead face rank outsider Jeff Ofori – whom he knocked out in six rounds – McKenna was left with tournament favourite Mimoune.
The Frenchman came into prominence for fans in this neck of the woods when he outclassed Sam Eggington to claim the European welterweight title back in 2017.
Moving down in weight, Mimoune won the lightly-regarded IBO belt before being defeated by Victor Postol.
Entering the Golden Contract, the 32-year-old came through an early knockdown to dominate and stop Darren Surtees in the quarters and started tonight’s fight a 1/4 favourite.
McKenna, however, was typically confident and in good form having bounced back from his sole career defeat to Jack Catterall with three solid wins over Lewis Benson, Darragh Foley, and then Mikey Sakyi in the tournament quarters.
‘The Mighty Celt’ did make a confident start in the battle of the southpaws, planting his feet and punctuating his combos with heavy right hooks that caught the eye.
The already-high pace accelerated in the second. McKenna was being made to work hard and was being caught by some sharp counters but was landing plenty himself on Mimoune whose face was starting to show damage.
War broke out in the third, initiated by Mimoune. The Toulouse lefty landed heavy early and McKenna responded in kind, digging in but being slightly outworked by his opponent.
Mimoune began to turn the screw early in round four, cornering and hurting McKenna. The Lenadoon fighter, though, was not for moving and roared the visitor in before eventually weathering the storm.
McKenna enjoyed a strong fifth, boxing mainly from the outside to most likely bank the round.
Mimoune got through with big shots at the start of the sixth round before McKenna found his feet, slugging away for the duration but perhaps falling behind on the cards.
Now cut, McKenna looked to be in trouble in the seventh, finding himself shipping shots on the ropes and exhibiting his noted iron chin.
New trainer Pete Taylor was imploring his fighter to box but the Mimoune juggernaut continued into the eighth and the bloodied McKenna was in danger of being stopped.
A closer ninth, however, saw the Ulsterman show his incredible guts and heart and land some sharp volleys as we entered into the final stanza.
With most feeling he required a stoppage, McKenna threw everything in the tenth, a war of a round, but the bout would go the distance and to the scorecards.
And then the controversy began. Most pundits and onlookers had the brave McKenna being beaten by a somewhat clear margin – but this sentiment was not shared by the three scoring judges who all sided with the Irishman.
Mimoune [now 22(3)-4(0)] was distraught by the 97-93, 96-94, and 96-94 cards but it is McKenna [21(6)-1(0)-1] now who progresses into the final this summer where he will have his grudge showdown with Davies.
Irish-Boxing.com scored the bout 97-93 to Mimoune.