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Sparring AJ – Niall Kennedy describes his time with the heavyweight champ

Niall Kennedy [9(5)-0] was headhunted by boxing’s number one star – and made a big impression.

The Wexford heavyweight was called upon by WBA and IBF champion Anthony Joshua [19(19)-0] for sparring and, after a strong first showing, made repeat trips over to the Englishman’s camp in Sheffield.

The sparring was part of AJ’s preparations for tomorrow’s title defence against Cameroonian Carlos Takam at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, live on Sky Sports Box Office.

The newly-crowned New England champion had just started back training following his massive title win in Connecticut, and quickly found himself sparring with the top fighter in the division.

Explaining how the link-up came about, Kennedy told Irish-Boxing.com that “Paschal [Collins, coach] got contacted by Eddie and was asked if i was available and had he any footage of me. He told them look at the Santos fight and Rob McCracken looked at it and said they wanted me over so i was flew over and back.”

While Kennedy is a modest man, sparring certainly seemed to go well and he described how “it was a massive opportunity to test myself and I tried my best to work him as hard as possible.”

“I wanted to make a positive impression so I’d be asked back. I won’t lie. he is such a massive man I was intimidated a bit but this is what i box for, to keep pushing and testing myself.”

While they were doing some very important work, Kennedy also got the time to know the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and revealed how “Anthony is a proper gent, I had a great laugh with him and his mates and Rob McCracken.”

“The big man is really down to earth and very funny, but the minute training and sparring starts he switches on one hundred percent. and is meticulous in his work.”

Kennedy was brought in as relatively general sparring, with Kubrat Pulev being the initial opponent for AJ at the time of their first session, while Takam had been drafted in subsequently.

With the change in opponent, ‘Boom Boom Baz is expecting an exciting fight and predicted how “I think it will go to the mid rounds but it will finish in an explosive KO for Anthony – but it sort of depends on Takam.”

“If he boxes his normal way and gets caught it could be over early doors to but it will be exciting because Takam is a gunslinger.”

“I just want to say that our own Katie Taylor has the opportunity to steal the show and I’ll be praying she fulfills her destiny.”

“I’m excited to see her win her first pro title. This country isn’t half proud enough of that lady i admire her so much, in and out of the ring and she is putting us on the map.”

In terms of his own career, following a mental start to camp, it’s back to the grindstone for Kennedy at Celtic Warriors Gym.

Following two big wins to take the Massachussetts and New England titles, the 33 year old’s career has in a way gotten ahead of itself after just nine fights. In that sense Kennedy is looking to build and will likely appear on a Murphys Boxing show on Saturday December 16th.

He outlined how “I hope to have the date confirmed in the next few days but it looks like Boston in early December.”

“I’ll hopefully get my record to 12-0 by March then get into some big fights again.”


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