Kennedy on key mission
'Boom Boom' aims to make noise on American odyssey
"I'm not the best heavyweight in the world but I don't really know how good I am yet," says Niall Kennedy.
The Wexford native flew to Boston on Thursday ahead of his fight tonight with Aaron Chavers (8-3-1, 3 KOs). "It's important to do well this weekend," he says. "If everything goes well, it will set up a massive 2018. That's the hope."
Last year was a milestone one for the Gorey-based Garda who won three high-profile fights in the States.
"They all were title fights," Niall reminds me. "The one in March against Jesse Barboza (11-3-1, 7 KOs) was for the Massachusetts State title. The one in September against Alexis Santos (18-1, 15 KOs) was for the New England State title and the one in December against Danny Calhoun (6-3, 3 KOs) was for for the IBA Americas title."
While there's no belt on the line tonight, Kennedy is taking nothing for granted. "I've trained really hard for this," he says. "Chavers is a very good opponent. He's not far off the level of Barboza. He's a massive man, about 6' 5" and 18 stone of solid muscle."
Unbeaten Kennedy (10-0, 6 KOs), who finished four shifts of night duty on Wednesday before flying out with Celtic Warrior Gym coach Paschal Collins on Thursday, wasn't concerned about jet lag ahead of tonight's clash. This will be his eighth fight in the States.
"Because they're five hours behind us, I stay up till ten o'clock, and then get a full night's sleep and be recovered by the following morning," he explains. "The jetlag affects you badly when you come home."
Another highlight of last year for Niall was being invited to spar with Anthony Joshua before the champion's Carlos Takam fight in Cardiff.
"You can only learn from someone of that ability," says Niall. "From how professional he is and the way he does everything. I didn't lose rounds massively and it gave me a lot of confidence that I'm not as far away from that level as I would have believed."
Having had his first pro fight less than three years ago after becoming disillusioned with the IABA, Kennedy adds: "I would never have thought I was good enough to share the ring with him even in a spar. But my opinion has changed."
Called 'Boom Boom' because of his punching power, Kennedy has shaped his own destiny. The Santos win, in particular, has opened a lot of doors.
"I took a risk with the Santos fight," he admits. "Steve Collins Snr said afterwards, 'I'm over the moon for you Niall but I wouldn't have taken that fight until I had 20 fights.' This fight is a potential banana skin but if it goes well, it could be time to look at another big risk."