By Matt V. Thompson
Heavyweight prospects Alexis Santos and Niall Kennedy will square off tonight in a crossroads matchup at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Ledyard, CT. Santos vs. Kennedy is the main event of a special “Broadway Boxing” card promoted by DiBella Entertainment and Murphys Boxing. Santos, the New England Heavyweight champ, brings an impressive record of 18-1, 15 KOs into the ring, his sole loss due to a torn ACL in his June 2014 bout with Daniel Martz, which he avenged two years later.
Niall Kennedy (8-0, 5 KOs), hailing from Gorey, County Wexford, Ireland has made Boston his home away from home, fighting half of his bouts here under the Murphys Boxing banner.
The contest is an interesting contrast in styles and physical types. Kennedy is a tall, lean heavyweight with an aggressive boxing style. On the other side of the ring, Santos has a stocky, muscular physique who has a hit and move style.
Both fighters want to move to the next level of becoming contenders so tonight is a must-win contest.
In a competition with such contrasting styles, the key to victory may be a question of who can more effectively remain in their comfort zone and apply their strategy.
Fightnews.com® had the opportunity to speak with the amiable Kennedy this week.
Welcome back to Boston. You are a police officer back home in Ireland. That is an interesting contrast from boxing.
I am a serving police officer attached to Wicklow Garda Station with 12 years service to An Garda Siochana. I have been stationed in Dublin and Wicklow. I’m very grateful to my colleagues and bosses for allowing me follow my dream and plan on making them very proud.
I understand you had an extensive amateur background?
I had a lengthy amateur career of approximately 150 fights with 130 wins, winning several Irish Titles. I was fortunate to have been part of the Irish Olympic team. I was twice the World Police and Fire Games World Champion (2007 and 2013).
An impressive set of credentials. I understand you were married last year, and just became a father?
My beautiful wife Niamh has just given birth to my little prince Michael James Kennedy named after my two grandfathers (rest in peace) and Arch Angel Michael protector of Gods Army.
My family has been an integral part of my life helping me through dark days and always picking me up if I need it. My mother father and sister and brother plus my nephews and nieces are my world and I will die trying to make them proud and secure my own family and our names future. I come from the greatest town in Ireland, Gorey in County Wexford and more importantly Willow Park, an estate that has educated me in life and prepared me for battle everyday of my life.
Have you seen tapes of your opponent?
I have seen a few bits of Alexis. Not a whole lot, that’s my coach’s role. I’ve watched about 8 minutes of him in total. He is an excellent fighter and I thank him for the opportunity. He is a true fighting man explosive and fast. He knows he has taken a huge fight here and I hope he has prepared well.
There are two common opponents between you and Santos. You stopped Arthur Saribekian in 1 round, he took 3 rounds. You stopped Jesse Barboza in the 8th, he won a decision in 8. Do such similar results show it to be a very even match on paper?
This is an extremely even match up and our results do show that. He is an unbeaten fighter in my mind and although previous results are so similar, they have nothing to do with this fight. Nothing in the past can change my future.
What tools to you think will be effective?
(Trainer) Pascal Collins has prepared a number of games plans and tools which will benefit me. I don’t know- maybe my cheeky smile will throw him off game, ha! (I have to keep that as a surprise).
When Santos lost Daniel Martz, it was to a much bigger guy who basically shoved him around the ring, causing him to injure his knee. In the rematch, he was able to create more distance and use his speed to break the guy down. How will you use your height and reach?
Height and reach are an advantage and as I said I believe Alexis should be an unbeaten fighter but unfortunately nobody can deny size is an advantage and there are few heavyweights with my hand speed and agility. No disrespect ever to an opponent, I don’t do that, but Alexis has to worry about me not the other way around.
For a shorter heavyweight, Santos tends to move and be patient, how will you stop that movement so you can land?
It’s all about distance, angles, and positioning.
Tell us about your association with Murphys Boxing.
Murphys boxing and Ken Casey have been unbelievable to me and more than just a promotional company. We have a friendship. No contracts and no illusions. I’m a man of honor as is Ken and we don’t need solicitors, his word is as good as his bond as is mine. Murphys are a great team I be forever indebted to Adam, Mike, and Sean as well as Mark Porter and Mark Vaz, the best matchmaker and cuts-man in boxing. People I would all welcome into my home and trust with my life (a rare thing in boxing).
Is there anything else you’d like to add for your fans?
I’ve had a great life to date. I’ve a beautiful wife and now an amazing miracle in my son MJ, but I’ve battled all my life and I believe these hardships have prepared me for where I am today. I’ve followed a dream, chasing and working everyday for this and I’ve reached this point this is my world title. I never look past any fight or opponent. I firmly believe we should all reach for the moon in pursuit of our dreams with the worst case scenario being we fall amongst the stars. Alexis is the moon and I’m not ready for the stars just yet! To Alexis, I hope camp has went well my friend, because this will be a war!