Mark Kennedy, the jovial giant from Celtic Warriors Gym in Dublin and a fixture in the corner for fighters such as Spike O’Sullivan and Stephen Ormond.
The wise-cracking waterboy will, however, perform a different fighting role in Boston tomorrow night when he will be the one stepping through the ropes, taking punches, and maybe landing a few of his own.
Truth be told, his bout with local Eric Manning, won’t be his first. Indeed, white collar boxing is what first brought the Blanchardstown big man to Paschal Collins’s Celtic Warriors Gym in Corduff.
“I’ve done a few [white collars], years ago, about 10 years ago,” Kennedy told Irish-Boxing.com before he flew out to America.
“I got into boxing through Roddy Collins, years ago, when he had his gym for white collars. I got in there with him, training, and that’s how I met Paschal.”
“So I brought him on, showed him the coaching side of things, I’ve been helping him every day since… he needs a lot of help” he adds with a smirk as Collins can be heard roaring laughing in the background.
A regular at big shows in Ireland, America, and the UK over the years, Kennedy has been living most boxing fans’ dreams, rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in the sport.
A fan first and foremost, he describes how “it’s been brilliant. It’s more of a hobby for me.”
“Whatever part of the world you go to, everyone treats you great. That’s one of the great things about boxing. I know boxing can be horrible for the boxers sometimes but anytime we’ve been away, in America especially, we’ve been treated great.”
“We’re all the same really.”
“I just love going away with the lads and helping them with what they need.”
While we’re sure there is a technique and art to it, maybe, the actual waterboy duties are not what have made Kennedy a constant sidekick to Collins over the past decade.
Yes, the fighters need their H2O, but ask any of the boxers that have passed through Celtic Warriors over the years and they will tell you that ‘Big Mark’ is a crucial part of the dressing room, keeping things calm, relaxed, and familiar.
😂😂😂😂😂😂 unsung hero of Celtic Warrior gym the tension killer 👌🏼🙌🏼 pic.twitter.com/eVKO6PZwM4
— Coolhand Luke (@luke_keeler) October 24, 2017
“That’s what it is,” agrees Kennedy.
“It’s about keeping them calm before big fights. Once they’re happy and content, the nerves are pushed to the side.”
“We’re just having a laugh, basically, before the fight, taking their mind off it. Then they can go out and do the business. There’s nothing worse than the nervous energy, where you’ll be bollocked after a couple of rounds, whereas they go in happy and that’s my job done.”
“…I don’t get paid for it, by the way, Revenue. I don’t get paid!”
Those who frequent smaller shows at the National Stadium may also be led to believe that Kennedy has an even more active role in the corner, with the Dubliner often bellowing instructions.
Don’t be mistaken though, Paschal Collins is well and truly the boss, with Kennedy explaining how “there’s only one voice in the corner – but with all the shouting he [Collins] does, half the time he loses his voice and then I roar what he tells me to roar!”
Of course, this weekend is not all just for a laugh, and Kennedy is fighting to raise funds for 6-year-old Vincent Lyons who was last year diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), for which there is currently no cure and no treatment available in Europe.
Recently a new drug (Exondys 51 – Eteplirsen) has been developed in America and can be shipped to Ireland for Vincent. This would lessen the muscle weakness but the problem is that the medication costs €441,000. Time, too, is of the essence, and it will have its maximum effect if it can be administered while Vincent is still walking.
Kennedy is happy to play his part in a campaign which has engulfed the local community.
“I know the parents,” he explained.
“I went to school with them. They’re from the local area and I saw they were raising funds for the child. He’s the same age as my own child too which hit me.”
“Mark Porter, a great friend I met through Paschal, he had cancer a few years ago and he set up this ‘Battle of the Bay’ to help other people. He kept asking me to do it, to raise money for someone at home, and the first person I thought of was the young lad Vincent having to raise 440 grand for these tablets to prolong his life which, unfortunately, the government won’t pay for.”
“There’s been loads of great things, the school had a ball, there’s other people climbing Carrauntoohil, there’s great community spirit in Blanchardstown and Dubin 15, we’re all behind him. I’m only doing a small bit here but all the small bits add up and we’ll get the money that this kid needs and deserves.”
So far Kennedy has raised a little over €2,000 online, with more money due in soon from old-fashioned sponsorship cards.
With that in mind, Kennedy claims his fight with Manning is “not about winning,”
“It’s like a school sports day, we’ll all get a medal at the end of it. It’s the taking part that counts,” he added unconvincingly.
The super super heavyweight was speaking to Irish boxing following his last spar, where he did ’rounds’ with both light heavyweight pro Christian Scuvie [1(0)-0] and coach Daniel O’Sullivan.
— Joe O’Neill (@J0E_90) April 6, 2018
While he gets his fair share of stick, Kennedy has been doing work for the big night. Indeed he is keen to fight shirtless (“I hope we don’t have to wear vests, I’ll look like Onslow!”).
“I’m doing a bit of training, I was promised coffee and donuts if I came up to the gym every day.”
“It’s going grand. I love coming up here training anyway and if me taking a few slaps will raise a few bob for a child, great! I’d gladly do it all day long.”
Right before Kennedy leaves the gym for the last time before he boxes – being hugged by gym-mate Spike O’Sullivan who looks set to have his own big fight coming up – Kennedy is asked whether there’ll be a live stream on Saturday night.
“Don’t worry! I’d say everyone will have their phones out hoping I get knocked out!”