George Groves is backing London Irish rebel, Dan Dan Keenan, to reach the top of the professional ranks after handing him a slot on his undercard at Wembley Arena on Friday November 18th.
Groves, 28, takes on Eduard Gutknecht as he pushes towards his fourth world title shot and is happy to accommodate Keenan who came through the same amateur club, Dale Youth, in Ladbroke Grove.
The Shane McGuigan-trained super middleweight described how “Dan Dan is a terrific talent. He’s a hard working individual, with talent and ambition to match. He’s immensely popular in London already and I believe his popularity will continue to grow as his profile does in time to come. He’s a future champion for sure.”
Keenan, 19, is grateful to Groves for giving him the opportunity to fight in front of a large crowd and some big exposure on terrestrial television.
He explained how “George asked for me and Deano Richardson who trains alongside me at State of Mind Fitness Gym in Ravenscourt Park. Barry O’Connell, my trainer, has worked with George in the past and along with my manager, Steve Goodwin, they let me know George was keen to have me box on the card. I can’t wait because Wembley Arena is a great venue and is close to where I live in Ladbroke Grove.
“I didn’t expect to be fighting at venues like I have so early in my career. This will be my fourth fight and after fighting at York Hall twice and the O2 Arena this is another great place to get the opportunity to gain more experience.”
London-born Keenan has boxing in his blood with his grandfather on his mother’s side, former Galway professional, Fred Inniss.
His father’s side of the family hail from Cork and Keenan is pleased that his family in Ireland will be able to watch him fight for the first time on television.
Keenan said: “I’m very excited. Training has gone well, I’ve shifted a lot of tickets, by the time fight night comes around I should have sold around 600. I’ve been told that my fight will be shown on Channel 5 so all my family in Ireland will be able to watch this one.
“My Dad and his parents are from Cork, they live in England now but there’s still a lot of family in Ireland.
“My Dad and his Dad did some boxing, not to the level that I’m at and my mum’s Dad who is from Galway, he was a professional boxer – his name was, Fred Inniss. I’ve got a picture of home of him with a title, I don’t know what title it is, but I’ve been told he had quite a few fights.”
Keenan, who fights at welterweight, is enjoying learning his trade as a professional but is looking to make steady progress before challenging for titles.
He added that “I hear people say that the style and selling tickets make turning over from amateur to professional difficult, but I think I’ve adapted well. I’m just enjoying it right now.
“There’s loads of sparring in the gym. Barry has taken on quite of few fighters this year and we are all around the same weight so that really helps.
“It’s great to train alongside people like John O’Donnell who is a former Commonwealth champion and has tons of experience to pass on. I do some fitness work with George as well and having come through Dale Youth like them it shows you what needs to be done to progress in this game and shows me how far off I am from where they’ve got to.”
Groves and O’Donnell along with current IBF super middleweight champion, James DeGale, were all taught the art of boxing by Mick Delaney, whose own parents moved to London from Cork and Kilkenny.
Keenan still pops down to the gym and very much still feels part of the family.
He said: “I just think Dale Youth as a club really looks after you. My coach, Gary McGuinness, he helps to keep guys involved in the sport and even some of my pals who don’t box anymore, they still get texts from Gary telling them to get back down the gym.”
“I had my first fight when I was 13 but I was down the gym from the age of 8. I stopped for a while and then was back again a few years later.”
“I stopped because I was playing football for QPR, West Ham and Wycombe Wanderers at different times growing up.”
“I couldn’t box and play football at the same time. I always knew that eventually I’d have to pick one sport or the other and I went for boxing.”
Dreams of playing at Wembley Stadium are now over but boxing at the Arena next door is sure to bring the best out of Keenan.
He said: “I thought I was going to be way more nervous at the O2 than I was, I was just so excited to get out there and do my thing.
“I only made my debut in March and this is my fourth fight this year. I’ll look to do something similar next year and then after that when I’m 21 I’ll hopefully be looking at the Southern Area title and possibly an Irish title. Who knows. I’d like to box in Ireland, that would be good.”