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Niall Kennedy claims brilliant upset title win in U.S. headline fight

Niall Kennedy scored one of the Irish boxing results of the year tonight in Connecticut.

The Wexford heavyweight upset home fighter and champion Alexis Santos to claim the New England title at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino atop a DiBella Entertainment card.

Massachusetts State champion Kennedy came into the bout an underdog, but gave a brilliantly controlled performance and showed the more consistent work to claim a thoroughly deserved split-decision win after an extremely entertaining heavyweight clash

From the very first bell ‘Boom Boom Baz’ would target the body. The shorter Santos would start off looking to lunge in and land big shots.

The first real trade came in the second, with both seemingly feeling the weight of each other’s shots. It was Kennedy though who controlled the round, slipping well and continuing his impressive bodywork.

The third was another good Kennedy round as the American’s pace and approach started to slow.

The first of many shifts in the bout started in the fourth. A scrappier round, the Celtic Warriors man started well, but Santos finished strong with clubbing shots in the closing minute.

The Santos resurgence really came in the fifth. Warned early for a low blow, the reigning champion would up the aggression and landed a particularly good left hook.

The Gorey Garda looked to have weathered the storm in the sixth, with good straight punches down the pipe landing, before Santos enjoyed a very good final minute, landing eye-catching big shots.

The momentum swung then in the seventh as 33 year old Kennedy, perhaps receiving a second wind, went back to basics, outboxing Santos.

Invigorated, the Wexford man started to pump out shots in the eight, much the busier as he banked another crucial round on the cards.

A dramatic ninth saw Santos deducted a point following another low blow, and he was later warned for use of the head.

Going into the tenth and seemingly needing a knockout, Santos came out all guns blazing. The 28 year old finally caught up to Kennedy in a nerve-wracking final minute, landing huge shots, some of which were low, that knocked Kennedy off balance. The granite-chinned Yellow Belly however stood firm to see the final bell as the fight went to the cards.

A split decision was called, much to Kennedy’s surprise. 96-93 read the first card in the Irishman’s favour, before the reverse was called for Santos. The final card also read 96-93 to the new champion – Niall Kennedy.

Irish-Boxing.com scored the bout 95-94 for Kennedy.

The fantastic win sees Kennedy move to 9(5)-0 and pick up his second title of the year following his Massachusetts win in March.

A shell-shocked Santos slips to 18(15)-2(1).

Photo Credit: Laszlo Geczo Photography.

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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