Saturday 22 September 2018

'I'm doing Bord Fáilte’s job for Gorey!' - Niall Kennedy doing it for his home town as he aims for boxing's pinnacle

Niall
Niall "Boom Boom Baz" Kennedy during one of his two sparring sessions with the top-ranked heavyweight boxer in the world, Anthony Joshua

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

Wexford boxer Niall "Boom Boom" Kennedy said that he is "doing Bord Fáilte’s job for Gorey" as he pursues the world number one heavyweight spot in honor of his home town.

Kennedy began his journey in Gorey Boxing Club at the age of seven, but didn’t fully concentrate his efforts on it until he was 26. He is known in his home town of Gorey as Basil, the name he took for his confirmation and his father’s name. While his town are extremely proud of him, Kennedy doesn’t think he is bigger than where he came from.

On Saturday, Kennedy, who works as a garda, suffered a majority draw result in what looked like a comfortable victory against Joel Caudle. Despite the blip on his otherwise perfect record, he said that what he does in boxing, he does for Gorey.

"I’m probably the proudest Gorey man of all-time," he beamed.

"It’s massive to me. I’m from Willow Park and we wouldn’t have had a great name when I was growing up. It’s a council housing estate. I have Willow Park on the back of my shorts, I have Gorey Boxing Club on the back of my shorts. I’m very, very proud of Gorey. I’m very proud of Willow Park. I’m very proud of the boxing club.

"If I hadn’t the support of Gorey people, I wouldn’t be doing this. I haven’t had a simple journey. As an amateur I only won one Irish title so it would be nice if a young lad in five or six years in Gorey thought, ‘I’ll pack it in’ and if he said 'no, feck it, I’ll stick at it. Sure look, Basil got a bit of success out of it'. You never know, if you inspire one person it’s worth it.

"I got married in 2015 and my wife is very supportive. I think you have to be massively comfortable in your home life to dedicate your time to something like this, so I’m lucky that Niamh is so supportive of it."

Boom Boom Baz as he is known in the boxing world, went into Saturday’s fight with Caudle with a perfect professional record of 11 victories from as many bouts. Caudle, the second replacement opponent in the fight for Kennedy, boasted a record of seven wins and one loss and looked the inferior boxer coming into the fight.

During the bout in New Hampshire, Kennedy showed his superiority and appeared to have won with reasonable comfort but a very rare majority draw was announced. The Gorey fighter and spectators of the fight were left shocked.

One judge ruled that Kennedy was a clear winner, while the other two couldn't split the fighters, and while the Gorey man can take reassurance from the fact that in his eyes, one judge scored the fight fairly, it provides little comfort as he sees his record move to 11-0-1.

The 34-year-old thought that his arm would be raised aloft and is frustrated with the seemingly unjust draw tarnishing his record. The humble garda admitted that he wasn’t feeling 100 percent for the fight and he didn’t give the performance that he is capable of.

"It was strange, I’ve never seen it before. I’ve heard of majority draw but for one judge to give it to you and the other two to give a draw, it was strange. I thought I did enough to win it to be honest with you," he said.

"It definitely wasn’t a vintage performance, I wasn’t feeling myself but I have no excuses, I’m as fit as I have ever been but I had to dig deep. He’s a very awkward opponent. It didn’t go to plan but I thought I did enough to win the fight.

"I’m on Uniflu now, I knew something was wrong in the fight and my legs sort of jaded from the second round but I thought I won the fight five rounds (to three). I’m very critical of myself and I probably gave him three rounds but other people are saying to me that I probably won the fight six rounds to two.

"It’s annoying, it will drive me forward though because I thought I won the fight, I thought I nicked it and if you look at the fight, he’s jumping around celebrating a draw, I was devastated. It was like I lost."

Despite the setback, which will affect his ranking, Kennedy will continue with his immediate plan to secure a spot in the top 20 heavyweights in the world by the end of the year. After the fight, his spirits were raised and his plans were given immediate impetus by Hall of Fame boxing referee, Steve Smoger, who agreed that Boom Boom Baz had done enough to win.

"My goal for this year was to be in the top 20 in the world. The other night has affected that. That’s what annoys me a little bit. My plan now is to get back and get two wins," he said determinedly.

"Even though we didn’t get the result, the IBA (International Boxing Association) Chief, famous referee Steve Smoger, came into the changing room after. He said, ‘Niall, as our American Champion, I looked at it, you’re supposed to have to rip a fight from a champion, he didn't, you won that fight by minimum two rounds if not three'.

"He was positive after it. He helped me, because I won’t lie, I was down in myself from it. He picked me up a little bit.

"He’s a Hall of Fame referee and he just said that they, as an organisation, would really love if I’d fight for their world title. It's a minor world title, it’s not one of the four big names, but it would help push me up in rankings."

Registering in the the top 20 is the next step in Kennedy’s goal to be the best boxer in the world. Having sparred with Anthony Joshua, his belief has increased. When asked if he thinks he can someday be the number one he instantaneously and emphatically answered.

"Yes!," he exclaimed.

"I didn’t previously. I didn’t when I started. I would have been happy to just make the most of what I could do with it, but I do now. I went away sparring with top lads and I’ve seen my ability at the highest level. I think I rise to the occasion when I’m faced with the highest level.

"I went very well (against Joshua). It surprised me a little bit because I always thought, 'I have him as the top of the mountain'. I believed I was at the bottom of the mountain. I wouldn’t have said I'm as far away from the top of the mountain when I saw that, that day.

"I do think I can be the best yeah, but I have a massive, massive, massive climb ahead of me now. I still have that target for the top 20 in the world by the end of the year and then hopefully next year, get the opportunity for big fights."

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