Garda Niall Kennedy will aim to claim his most high-profile collar when he headlines a Lou DiBella-promoted ‘Broadway Boxing card’ in the US tonight.
Undefeated Wexford heavyweight Kennedy (8-0) will top a Lou DiBella fight card, taking on American prospect Alexis Santos (18-1) for the New England title at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.
Backed by Ken Casey of Irish-American Celtic-punk band Dropkick Murphys, 33-year-old Kennedy, a full-time Garda in Wicklow, believes the bout will be a key stepping stone in his boxing career.
"It’s a massive opportunity, it’s putting me in the shop window really," said Kennedy, who follows in the footsteps of champions such as Vitali Klitschko, Gennady Golovkin and Paulie Malignaggi in headlining a ‘Broadway Boxing’ card, which regularly feature highly-rated prospects and contenders.
"It’s a headline fight against a very good opponent and it’s a lifetime’s work coming to fruition," continued the Gorey man. "Santos is in the top 50 in the world (No 36 with the WBC) and he has massive potential. He’s very well regarded in American boxing and he’s seen as a real prospect. DiBella has signed him and when I take his scalp it’ll be a massive name on my record.
"Unless you’re an Olympian or you have a promoter chasing you down, you have to go a longer way about making your name. Each fight I’ve taken has been a step up and this is another big one," added Kennedy, who has balanced a demanding schedule between training and his day job with An Garda Síochána.
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The 33-year-old trains under Pashcal Collins at his Celtic Warriors Gym in Corduff, Dublin, commuting from Wicklow and Wexford for his work-outs before he travelled to the US earlier this week.
"It was demanding to be honest," said Kennedy on his preparation. "You’re training twice a day and trying to work 10-hour shifts in between in it as well.
"It took a lot of patience from Paschal, it took a lot of patience from work and a lot of patience from the boss woman at home," laughed the 33-year-old, referring to his wife, Niamh.
"Some days I’d be finished work at five and I’d tip up to Dublin or else I was working at five so I’d go to Dublin in the morning and be back down in Wicklow in the evening.
"Paschal was very good… We worked around it, but I found it very, very hard this time with training and work, so when this goes well, I’ll say the next one I’m going to have to look at," added Kennedy, who believes he can get the better of Santos, despite the 28-year-old’s relatively high world ranking.
The former Wexford underage hurler teed up the bout by claiming the Massachusetts State heavyweight title last March with a knockout win over mutual opponent Jesse Barboza, who previously went the distance against Santos.
"I don’t think they wanted the fight," said Kennedy. "We chased the fight and made ourselves mandatory for the New England title.
"I’ll have to be at the top of my game, but I think I’ve improved massively since turning pro.
"The way I’m looking at it is that I’m not naturally gifted, I have to work hard. If this is my level and I don’t go past it, then I’ve found my level but I just want to empty everything I have out of myself."
Having turned pro just two-and-half years ago, Kennedy believes victory tonight will open doors for even bigger fights in the US under the promotion of Dropkick Murphy’s frontman Casey.
"It’s my sixth fight for Murphy’s Boxing. I’m not signed to a contract but for some reason they took a shine to me, thank God," he said. "If opportunities present themselves, we’ll keep taking them and keeping stepping up. I’m not going to say I think I’m going to be a world champion. I don’t know, I think I’m improving so I want to see how good I can be."
Murphy’s Celtic Warriors gym-mate Ray Moylette is also due to feature on tonight’s bill, with Mayo’s former European amateur champion seeking his sixth pro win against Illinois-based novice Donte Bryant.