Niall Kennedy has only nine professional fights to his name, however, the Wexford garda has already spent more time in the ring with reigning heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua than any of the champion’s previous 19 opponents.
Wladimir Klitschko took Joshua to the 11th round in their recent heavyweight war of attrition, but otherwise the Olympic gold medallist has never had to push past the seventh round throughout his professional career.
Kennedy is very much in the embryonic stages of his pro career and made a breakthrough of sorts last month in America when he defeated potential prospect Alexis Santos at the renowned Foxwood's Resort to claim the New England State Heavyweight title.
A few weeks’ later, Kennedy found himself flying off to England to spar the world champion as Joshua prepares for Saturday night’s pay per view event at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
And of course, those 12 rounds that Kennedy completed in the ongoing training camp cannot compare to the brutal reality of a competitive bout, however, the 9-0 unbeaten Irishman believes he learned a huge amount from the experience and expects it to stand to him as his career develops.
"It was a massive win beating Santos and everything that has come off the back of it has been insane," said Kennedy, speaking to RTE Sport.
Kennedy trains out of the Celtic Warriors Gym in Dublin under the tutelage of trainer Paschal Collins, who felt confident enough in his fighter to offer his services to Joshua’s management team in preparation for the current world title bout.
"Paschal sent over the video of the Santos fight to Eddie Hearn. And I think Eddie and [Joshua’s trainer] Rob McCracken looked at it and decided that I was suitable.
"Joshua was a complete gentleman," added Kennedy. "He is a phenomenal athlete and he is a huge man, a man mountain. And the one thing that got me by surprise was how good he was on his feet, he is very mobile."
Kennedy put his body in the way of boxing’s biggest star for 12 gruelling rounds, but while he was there to help Joshua prepare, the Gorey native believes that he has hugely benefited from the experience.
"What I took out of it over there was how hard he works, he is just non-stop.
"We sparred, and he done 12 rounds and after it was finished, he stayed in and did four more rounds shadow-boxing. I sparred 12 rounds over the two days with him.
"I have learned loads from it and it was nice for me. I probably didn’t think I was as close to that level as I am and it was nice to see that I am not a million miles away from it. And it gives you something to work towards.
"That is the peak of the mountain where he is. He is probably the best boxer and biggest name in the world at the moment."
A pleasure! Great work today champ https://t.co/txCUlmwcs3— Anthony Joshua (@anthonyfjoshua) October 13, 2017
And while the association with Joshua and Hearn will potentially open many doors for Kennedy in the future, the Wicklow-based garda, who is somehow managing to juggle his full-time job, a young family and an ongoing training camp, is not looking beyond his next fight as he feels he still has a lot to learn in the professional ranks.
"I’m full time on the regular unit, including night shifts, full-time garda, full-time boxer and part-time husband as my wife might say," laughed Kennedy.
"It’s getting harder, as the training picks up for the eight-round and the ten-round fights, so it’s more intense and I’m going to have to have a look at my time management a little bit better maybe.
"I’m getting all the training done, it’s just that I’m not getting the rest periods, because I’m going to work."
Kennedy has nine wins from nine outings in the paid ranks and is looking to keep building momentum and experience over the next six months as he looks to fight three more times before March.
"It is looking like either 8 December or 16 December back in Boston for my next fight. The last fight has got me to where I am but it has probably got me there a lot quicker that I wanted, as I still only have nine fights.
"And now I’m in ten-round fights all the time so the hope is to get three good fights up before March to get my record up to 12, and then we can make some sort of a serious assault down the road."
Kennedy is first to admit that he did not reach his potential as an amateur but believes that he is in a great place, mentally, to maximise his potential on his current venture.
The 6ft 4in heavyweight is also convinced that he has several more levels to push through before he finds out how far this journey will take him.
"I still haven’t done in the ring what we are doing in the gym, and that frustrates me, but I think when I’m winning, it’s probably a good thing. So if I felt I had reached my peak, I’d pack it in, there’d be no point in hanging around.
"I have a full time job and I’m financially secure so I’m not doing it for money, I’m doing it to see how far I can go and chase my dream more than anything.
"My pressure is just to succeed for myself and to make people proud. And one of the reasons I turned pro was to try to get kids in the door of Gorey Boxing Club, but it’s all going well and hopefully it continues that way.
"I have already far exceeded my expectations. I’m not saying I was a bad amateur, but I was a mediocre amateur. I probably didn’t box to my potential. I wasn’t mentally strong enough when I was younger.
"So if you’re going to give something like this a go, you have to have everything aligned, and I’m lucky with the support I have from my wife and my work colleagues, who helped me out a good bit.
"I’m in a better place mentally and physically at the minute than I ever was. It is hard, but it is probably harder on [my wife] Niamh, than it is on me, but it’s working at the minute."
Kennedy does, however, admit that he is having sleepless nights at the moment, but that has nothing to do with fear of facing any man in the heavyweight division, but rather learning about life following the birth of his first son MJ, who was born premature, but is now approaching three months and making himself heard in the family home.
"We had the little man, he was 12 weeks premature and we had him five weeks before the Santos fight. So I probably didn’t fully understand how big the fight was.
"The sleepless nights are not easy but it’s our first child and it’s an amazing feeling. He’s eleven weeks old and he’s starting to get his little personality, smiling at everything."
And while Kennedy is busy making his name across the Pond boxing for promoter Ken Casey of Irish-American Celtic-punk band Dropkick Murphys, the 33-year-old admitted that he would like to be part of an Irish show in the near future, potentially fighting on a Katie Taylor world title bill.
"I’m open to everything. I’m signed to Murphys boxing in America so all decisions will go through them and Paschal my manager. But Murphys have worked with Eddie Hearn before so there’d be no issue there.
"It would be lovely. And I think Katie will win her first world title this weekend and maybe they will be coming home with her next year."