“People laughed when I turned pro” – Niall Kennedy in dreamland ahead of big US headline fight

Niall Kennedy [8(5)-0] is something of a gentle giant, but there’s something a bit different about the big Gorey heavyweight ahead of his next fight.

‘Boom Boom Baz’ will take on Lou DiBella-promoted fighter Alexis Santos [18(15)-1(1)] in the headline fight at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut on Friday September 15th, and Kennedy is approaching the bout with huge confidence.

Kennedy went quietly about his business on the fringes at the start of his career before taking a big opportunity in Boston on St Patrick’s Weekend just gone. Here the Wexford man knocked out Jesse Barboza to claim the USA Massachusetts State title in a fight that underlined his quality.

Now he takes on Santos for the USA New England title on the big stage.

For a man not keen on trash-talking or being in the spotlight, such a stage could be seen as a daunting prospect. However, for Kennedy he sees it as the perfect moment, the culmination of a lifetime’s work.

“Pressure is for tires!” he jokingly explained to Irish-Boxing.com.

“Listen, I’m in dreamland. Headlining a big show in a casino in America is amazing, but I’ve the best team in the world around me, I’ll be focused and ready, no pressure.”

“Sure people laughed when I turned pro, that I’m not even the best boxer in Willow Park – but after this people will recognise my name.”

“That’s not pressure, that’s a dream.”

Indeed while it could be seen as a gateway fight, Kennedy considers it to be his world title.

“It’s a huge opportunity for me,” he states. “Everything that has went before this has led to September 15th – this leads to bigger fights, but this is my world title right now and I’ll treat it as such.”

In Santos Kennedy takes on his toughest test to date. A big, quick puncher with promotional backing, the 27 year old is steadily rising through the ranks. His sole defeat, coloured by a balance inhibiting leg injury, has been avenged via knockout.

Kennedy however is confident, perhaps more so than ever following his breakout win over Barboza. The 33 year old outlined how “I admire santos a lot, in my mind he is an unbeaten fighter, but I genuinely believe in my own ability and I feel top level opponents bring the best from me, Packie and I have been putting a plan in place and it will work.”

While Santos will most likely be seen as the favourite, their results against common opponents stack up favourably for Kennedy. The American outpointed Barboza over eight, while Kennedy scored a knockout, then before against Arthur Saribekian Kennedy claimed a first round stoppage while Santos needed three rounds.

Kennedy however is just focused on himself and notes how “nothing in the past can change the future. I’ve taken confidence from my preparation and what has gone before me leads to this”

His own win against Barboza answered plenty of questions about Kennedy’s credentials, and the Garda feels he can build on this breakthrough.

“People don’t know that I fought Namauu and the Romanian lad [Gheorge Danut] with a broken right hand. The last fight was my first full camp, against Barboza.”

“I know for a fact [v Santos] it will be the best Niall Kennedy ever. I owe that to Packie and Ken [Casey, promoter] and my family – but more importantly myself.

“If there are any irish near Connecticut please turn up because we will have something to shout about!”

gym trition

frayne carpentry

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