Niall Kennedy took his professional career record to 10-0 on Saturday night at Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, Massachusetts.
Plainville; a modest-sized town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, still produces its share of success stories. Golfer Jim Renner, has played on the Web.com and PGA tours, Lofa Tatupu, a former Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker, is also from the town.
It produces and illuminates athletes of substance. It’s even got its own cultural leading light; Diary Of A Wimpy Kid novelist, Jeff Kinney, resides there.
The protagonist of his Wimpy Kid series, Greg Heffley, shares few characteristics with Gorey fighter Kennedy. However, he has a capacity to capture peoples imagination.
Just as Kennedy has been doing on a broad scale, for the best part of a year.
This time last year, little was known of Kennedy outside of boxing circles. Trained by Paschal Collins (brother of former WBO middleweight and super middleweight title holder, Steve Collins) in the Celtic Warriors Boxing Gym in Blanchardstown, Kennedy was close to hanging up the cushioned gloves.
Kennedy was ready to throw himself back into hurling and football if Collins didn’t reciprocate the interest Kennedy had in working with him.
But the interest was requited and the two not only gelled, but Kennedy’s career has blossomed since.
In March, Kennedy took on Jesse Barboza in Boston, securing the USA Massachusetts State heavyweight belt.
Kennedy has worked relentlessly on his strength and conditioning and in Collins, he had a coach with tactical nous. This all fused to enable Kennedy to orchestrate the fifth knock-out of his career.
Then in September, he had formidable opposition in Alexis Santos.
Heading into the fight, Santos was 18-1. Fifteen of his eighteen victories were by knock-out.
If Santos was the favourite, Kennedy had other things on his mind. His first child, MJ, had been born 12 weeks prematurely.
But at the insistence of his partner Niamh, Kennedy flew out to Connecticut.
When Santos was in the ascendancy, Kennedy dragged himself back into the fight, spurred on by the thought of his son winning his own battle at home.
Kennedy returned home with the New England heavyweight title.
MJ came home from the hospital shortly afterwards, and Kennedy, a Garda in Wicklow, has been loving life since.
Regardless of an increase in training intensity, balancing work, boxing and being a father, Kennedy said before his fight on Saturday that he was confident.
That’s run of the mill for boxers. But with Kennedy in the build-up to the meeting with Danny Calhoun, there was a calmness in his approach.
That relaxed confidence paid dividends.
Kennedy spoke to Pundit Arena in the aftermath of the second round knock-out victory that not only saw him defend his New England belt, but add to his collection with the IBA Americas belt which Calhoun held.
“It worked out easier than the last two fights with an early knock-out, so I took very few if any heavy shots.”
On whether he was surprised with the fight being over so quickly, Kennedy said
“I was a bit (surprised) but it was great to finish it early and with a punch I’ve been working on in training. Left hook to the body.”
Kennedy continued, saying with regards to the trajectory of the fight:
“I started very patiently, picked him off and switched down to his body a lot as he was in poor condition, I felt. In the second (round) I upped the pace and targeted his left side of the body with right hands, getting him to lean to the right so I could let a big left hook to the body go.”
The tactic paid its dividends.
An approach that was honed in training, was implemented with success.
So, what’s next for Kennedy? While nothing has been confirmed, Kennedy believes 2018 will be a massive year.
So many people have wished me good luck and congratulated me and i genuinely appreciate every msg text or tweet ur kindness is deadly personally iv had an amazing 2017 and am excited for 2018 @murphysboxing @KenDKM @packycollins massive thanks to my wife and d main man #MJ pic.twitter.com/31arT21OgU
— Niall Kennedy Boxer (@niallbaskennedy) December 17, 2017
— Adam Masnyk (@AMasnyk) December 19, 2017
When asked if he could see himself as part of a big night in Dublin with the like of Katie Taylor and Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan, Kennedy says:
“That would be amazing but it would be extremely hard to get on that show, I’d imagine, and I hope to be out in March, so who knows what the future holds.
“But I know Katie will put on a phenomenal show. Ireland’s greatest ever athlete in my opinion, and still getting better.”
Kennedy making such a card is not as unlikely as he thinks. 2018 may be bigger then even he has envisaged himself.
Brian Strahan, Pundit Arena