The Celtic Warriors Gym boss certainly isn’t about instant gratification and has a long-term game plan for a fighter he thinks could be sharing the ring with the likes of world champions Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder in two years time.
The boxing Garda next appears alongside Katie Taylor and James Tennyson on the big Matchroom DAZN-Sky Sports show on October 20th and while, unlike the two aforementioned Irish pugilists, he isn’t in World title action, it certainly presents a massive breakthrough opportunity to the Wexford native.
With the heavyweight scene picking up momentum, opportunities for big men have increased no end in recent years. The champions need noteworthy opponents and the fringe level punchers need to built into acceptable world title challengers.
34-year-old Kennedy [11(7)-0-1] may not be in line for a world title shot at present but there are those surmising that a win under the nose of Eddie Hearn might prompt the Matchroom boss to give the marketable prospect a higher profile fight and against the likes of a Dave Allen or even Big Baby Miller.
Indeed, considering Kennedy was offered a fight with recent world title challenger Artur Szpilka earlier this year by Hearn, only for the Pole to pull out, suggests that the English fight boss has the Irishman in mind
However, Collins sees things different. October 20th is just another step along the ladder for the continually improving Murphys heavy.
The coach who also works with Gary O’Sullivan, Stephen Ormond, Craig O’Brien and Allan Phelan, is adamant cash won’t lure Team Boom Boom into taking risks they don’t need too.
So confident is the trainer in the Gorey BC graduate that he knocked back €50,000 to fight the fast track keen Joe Joyce live on TV. Collins is determined his charge will only take such fights when the team are sure he will emerge victorious.
“Listen we offered 50 grand to fight Joe Joyce on Paddy’s Day, we had that offer already, but we refused the fight,” Collins told Irish-Boxing.com before explaining further.
“Our aim is to get Niall as far as we can get him. We think he can have an impact in the heavyweight division and at the end of the day he will make money.”
“Right now are we going to take risks for money? No! Of course we want him to make money, but were are not in it for a quick buck. Now Niall could beat Joyce, but a fight like that you want to take on your terms.”
It’s not that the former pro and brother of Steve Collins has no faith in Kennedy. Quite the opposite. In fact, he is predicting a world title fight for his charge within 24 months, but does admit there is still room and time for growth.
“I see so much potenital in Niall, he is with me just over two years and look how far he has come. He has learnt a lot, he is a very inteligent guy and a quick learner. Do we want to cash in now? No way.”
“I can see two or three years down line in terms of his career. Niall can get in the top 10 in the world and then he can get the real big names and in be in a position to challenge them. Honestly, in two years time I can see him fighting your Joshuas and your Wilders or whoever have the belts at the time.”
“Will I predict Niall will be fighting the Derek Chisoras and the Dylan Whyte-level guys next year? No, I predict he will fight them when he is ready. In two fights time he shows enough to suggest he is there then the answer is yes. We don’t want them fights as pay days we want them as the next step along the ladder.”
“It’s a work in progress we are getting Niall in a position that when he takes them fights we will be confident he will win and we will get there over the next 12 months,” Collins continued before reiterating his faith in the popular big man.
“I want Niall to fight for a World title, some people say that’s mad, but I believe he can fight for a world title and the way he is improving now who knows, he could win one. I have so much belief in Niall. He has a skill set, he is busy, and strong. It’s just getting that through to him now and I think it is starting to sink in with him.”
So if the plan isn’t to look good against Bredan Barrett on the undercard of Billy Joe Saunders and Demetrius Andrade at the TD Garden and secure a shot at one of the fighters being built as future Joshua fodder what is it?
Collins wants Kennedy to work his way into world top 10, something he can do while continually improving.
“The plan for this year is this, he holds the IBA Americas title so our plan is to follow that journey at the moment and win the IBA world title. Okay, it’s not one the main belts, a WBA or WBC and so on, but it would get him ranked in the top 10 in America.”
“[IBA President and top referee] Steve Smoger told us already he wants Niall to fight for the belt, he won’t give it to him obviously, but he likes Niall and wants to give him the chance to be the champion. It’s vacant at the moment and our plan for now is to get it. Get that and we are pushing for the top 10 then we plan for next year.”
When Kennedy first turned over he was deemed the third best heavy in Ireland. Regular National Elite title winner Con Sheehan’s amateur background had him at #1 while, by virtue of the fact he beat Kennedy in the amateurs, Sean ‘Big Sexy’ Turner was deemed #2.
However, Kennedy has surpassed the inactive Sheehan and Dub Turner with a brilliant 12 months and, despite a draw last time out, is progressing toward bigger things at a steady pace. Collins is impressed with the improvements made and is genuinely confident that, if John F Kennedy’s distant relation continues progressing at this rate, he will be world level soon.
“When Niall first came to the gym I didn’t know him that well. I didn’t know anything his amateur career really or anything about him. He was raw and very basic, he did a lot wrong in terms of the pro game, but the turn around has been huge. Every time we worked on something specific you could see after a few weeks he had improved.”
I knew by that, that when he was leaving here he was going around working on what we had set out in the gym. He practiced on his own and perfected certain movements and techniques.”
“Even when he went out to spar Anthony Joshua, I suggested trying what I felt would be best if he ever got that fight. He did a lot of angle work, getting close, getting out to the side, because Joshua is a big man and he would be hard to move him and it worked a treat.”
“Niall is intelligent enough to apply different game plans, you saw that in the [Alexis] Santos fight where he was a massive underdog. He is a hard worker and he is brave. I honestly believe he can get to world level when he gets there just depends on the rate he continues to learn.”