French titleholder next for new European champion James Tennyson


James Tennyson [22(18)-2(2)] has been European super featherweight champion for only a matter of days but already has a mandatory challenger to contend with.

The Belfast boxer scored a stunning fifth-round stoppage of reigning champion Martin J Ward at the O2 in London on Saturday in what was the highlight of the Tony Bellew v David Haye pay-per-view rematch undercard.

Ward, no doubt with his eye on Tennyson’s juicy #2 ranking with the WBA, took on the Poleglass puncher as a voluntary defence ahead of his mandatory Samir Ziani [27(5)-3(0)-1].

With 24-year-old Tennyson claiming the belt, along with the Commonwealth crown, the European Boxing Union have moved quickly to order a defence versus the Frenchman.

In a notice circulated by the Rome-based body, the EBU have ordered Team Tennyson and Team Ziani to negotiate a mandatory defence or, if an agreement can’t be reached by June 6th, closed purse bids will be called.

27-year-old Ziani hails from Blagnac in the south of France and is a two-time national champion, never losing the belt in the ring. His three defeats have come to strong opposition, being narrowly outpointed by countrymen Samir Kasmi, which he avenged, and Guillaume Frenois for the EU and European titles respectively as well as losing a close decision in Denmark to former world title challenger Richard Commey.

Unlike many French fighters, Ziani has shown a willingness to travel and, aside from the Commey fight, also travelled to Italy to stop Carel Sandon for the WBC International Silver rankings title – a belt which he defended in Ukraine with a dominant win over Andrey Kudryavtsev.

Tennyson’s team, which includes long-time manager Mark Dunlop and advisor Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Promotions, are open to the possibility of defending their newly-won blue belt versus Ziani. However, there are many options, as ‘The Assassin’ remains highly-ranked with the WBA and close to a shot at either of the organisation’s two (don’t ask!) champions, Alberto Machado and Gervonta Davis.

Additionally, Belfast’s Anto Cacace, who was forced to pull out of a Commonwealth final eliminator versus Joseph Laryea this weekend in Bolton through injury, is nearing the mandatory position for the rainbow belt and, should this slot be confirmed, he too will no doubt push for a derby with Tennyson – whom he helped prepare for the Ward fight.

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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie