New England Heavyweight Champion Niall Kennedy looks back on “surreal” Santos scalp


The door was left cracked open for Niall Kennedy on Friday night and the Wexford heavyweight crashed through, taking the hinges and all.

Kennedy claimed one of the Irish boxing results of the year – and probably the biggest win for Celtic Warriors since Stephen Ormond defeated Derry Mathews – when he upset New England champion Alexis Santos at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino.

‘Boom Boom Baz’ took a split decision win in the ten-round headline title fight of the ‘Broadway Boxing’ card, a result which could be a break-out victory for Kennedy.

Two small, fit heavyweights, it was an entertaining battle. Kennedy [9(5)-0] built an early lead before Santos was let in during the middle rounds. Kennedy then reasserted control before a big final round for Santos [18(15)-2(1)].

The Gorey Garda deservedly took the win on the scorecards, and is already now back home and back working.

Reflecting on a mental weekend, Kennedy told Irish-Boxing.com that “I didn’t think it was close to be honest. I knew I gave away a couple of stupid rounds and I knew he took the last round, but I think the 96-93 scorecard was fair. It was a 60-40 sort of fight to him, so any close rounds we knew he was going to get.”

“He had good power, no unmerciful power, but good power. He was faster than I thought though. I had been warned about that, but it still surprised me.”

“We decided in the seventh to go forward to him, because he wasn’t hurting me. We were walking him down and it was working, it was breaking his heart. Then in the last round, it was a decision I made myself to go on the back foot and it was just silly.”

“The last round, I know it looks really bad, but I wasn’t buzzed, it’s a bad habit from the amateurs, I throw my head in the air when I get hit.”

Kennedy dipped in around the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds, but he described how it was a physical tiredness that allowed Santos back into the contest

“I got mental fatigue,” he admitted “I don’t know how to describe it. I knew I wasn’t tired, I knew I wasn’t hurt, but I knew iI had a lot of rounds still to go and I think I started overthinking it”

“Genuinely, I’m going to have to work on the doubt. I’d only done one eight rounder and I think I need to do a couple more so I can know ‘Niall, you can cruise eight rounds.”

“It’s a massive fight and a massive win, but I don’t want to be a clown and start thinking that I’m better than I am, I definitely need to get the mental thing sorted out.”

“I will take confidence out of that fight though – I showed the world I have a good chin, even though I didn’t plan on showing that! There’s loads of bad stuff that I can work on”

“If I can relax and not panic, I’ll be very hard to beat.”

While Kennedy would be the first to admit he has confidence issues, the stage itself actually proved no problem to the 33 year old – thanks to a little help from the Wolfe Tones and the Dubliners.

Detailing the nerve-wracking hours before the fight, Kennedy described how “we went for dinner about two hours before the show started, and I was struggling. I couldn’t even eat.”

“I went back to the hotel and I lay down for an hour and put on a heap of rebel songs and chilled myself out a bit. By the time I got to the arena, and with Ray’s fight there was a great buzz and I sort of fed off that. TJ Doheny was in the dressing room with me and we were hyper going into the fight almost!”

He certainly rose to the occasion, and what an occasion it was for Kennedy who said that “it was an even bigger deal over there than it was in my head.”

“It was amazing, even before the fight, I had my own dressing room, was picking gloves, everything, it was deadly and it would make you want a lot of it.”

“The whole set-up was really good, it was all over the casino about the fight, big posters everywhere.”

“It was surreal really to be honest with you.”

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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