Tuesday 16 July 2019

Niall 'Basil' Kennedy sets his sights on becoming IBA World Champion

Niall ‘Basil’ Kennedy outside Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, last October
Niall ‘Basil’ Kennedy outside Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, last October

Sara Gahan

2019 is shaping up to be a momentous year for Gorey's heavyweight champion Niall 'Basil' Kennedy. Not only has he set himself the target of breaking into the top 20 of the world rankings, the Gorey fighter is also eyeing a shot at the IBA world title.

Little did Niall know when he stepped into the ring for the first time at the tender age of seven in Gorey Boxing Club that he would become one of the finest boxers ever to come out of Ireland.

Niall, from Willow Park in Gorey, made his professional debut in 2015 and currently holds the IBA American title, the Massachusetts title and the New England State title.

He somehow manages to balance being a leading heavyweight boxer with his day job as a member of An Garda Siochana.

With a current boxing record of 12 wins, 1 draw and 0 KO, Niall explained to this newspaper that it wasn't easy getting to where he is today. 'Last year was the first year I became a proper professional boxer,' said Niall. 'I am finally starting to go in the direction I need to go in and this year will definitely tell that for me.'

He said come February or March of this year, he hopes to be in the top 20, alongside all the top names in the boxing industry. This would be a dream come true for the 34-year-old.

Last October, Niall won at TD Garden in Boston on the same card as Katie Taylor, his tenth fight in America. He beat former MMA fighter Brendan Barrett via decision in a six-round contest.

'I have only ever had three fights in Ireland,' he added.

It was clear to all fans that Niall was the true winner, even though Brendan brought him down with a judo style move! Niall had to quickly celebrate his win and had to return to home a few days later and put on the blue uniform - back to reality with a bang.

'I am currently stationed in Wicklow Garda Station and have been there for eight years,' said Niall. 'Before I served in Balbriggan for four years and Blessington for two.'

At times, Niall finds it quite difficult to juggle work, boxing and his personal life which includes little 16-month-old MJ and his supportive wife Niamh.

'The level of heavyweight boxing has risen in the last few years,' said Niall. 'It's getting tough. At the moment I am 64th in the world of heavyweight boxing out of 1,300 but my aim is to break into the top 20, that is when you get to fight the big names in boxing.'

He said leading up to a fight, personal life can be a bit tough at times. He works shifts in the station, which includes nights, and would have to go to a ten-week training camp and only see his family maybe half an hour every day. 'It is hard, but it is all for them,' said Niall. 'They are my inspiration and support to keep going at it.'

Niall grew up in Willow Park with his family, but when he was seven he joined another family - Gorey Boxing Club. He trained there until he was 15 years old and took a break until he was 21.

'I came back after that and have not looked back since,' added Niall. 'I have always had a love for boxing since I was a young kid.'

One thing he finds boxing good for is his mental health, which he finds really important to keep in check. Niall added that any exercise is great for your wellbeing and state of mind. 'My advice to any young people out there would be that there is no secret to success,' said Niall. 'You have to work hard, but also have to enjoy it. No point if you do not love it.'

This year is shaping up for Niall, who will take on a big fight early in 2019.

'I have to win it, it would be a dream come true,' said Niall. 'The top is where you start to fight the big names.' For his New Year resolution, Niall said he will give up alcohol so as to concentrate on boxing. 'Well I am going to try,' he added.

Gorey Guardian