by Jordy Neild
Fan’s will excitedly descend on London’s 02 Arena this Saturday evening as two of the finest lightweights clash for the WBC, WBO & WBA World Lightweight Titles.
The main event has stolen all the attention during fight week, however, the undercard features a very interesting lightweight clash between former world title challenger, James Tennyson (24-3 20KO) and Atif Shafiq (21-2 5KO) for the WBA International Lightweight Title. Although the two men have had a similar number of fights, they are at very different stages of their respective careers.
Irishman Tennyson, 26, held the European title at super-featherweight before he challenged Tevin Farmer for the IBF World Title, ten months ago. This weekend is a chance for Tennyson to return to the arena that gave him, arguably, his finest win as a professional when he stopped Martin J Ward in five rounds in the spring of 2018. Since coming up short in his world title fight against Tevin Farmer, Tennyson has registered to quick fire stoppage victories, but he will know this clash with Shafiq is a step up from that and will be a good marker for his future as a lightweight.
Shafiq, 25, has been a professional for seven years and it would be fair to suggest, he hasn’t quite reached the levels that his ability warrants. Despite being touted as a very good prospect, the Yorkshireman has fought predominately, on small hall shows with little television coverage. His standout win came early in 2018 when he stopped Lee Appleyard in five rounds but he has not been able to capitalise on that momentum and has registered just two lowkey points victories since.
Based solely on records, it would suggest that the power in the fight lies with Tennyson with 20 of his 24 victories coming inside the distance, compared to Shafiq who has five stoppages in 21 victories.
Interestingly, Tennyson has made the step up to lightweight after campaigning the majority of his career at super-featherweight. The step up is something the Belfast man claims is overdue and should he carry his power up to 135lbs, he could be a dangerous addition to an already thriving division. Shafiq is a career lightweight and will be looking to give his opponent a rude awakening to his new division on Saturday evening.
Tennyson and Shafiq share a common opponent in the shape of Pavels Senkovs who sprung an upset against Tennyson in 2013 before losing to Shafiq in 2019. Despite the defeats, both fighters are still young enough to take the stop towards the world scene at Lightweight and the winner here will give themselves a solid platform to build on heading into the new season.