Gavan Casey reports from TD Garden, Boston
GOREY HEAVYWEIGHT NIALL Kennedy was forced to fight but did so to considerable effect as he won a unanimous decision (60-53, 60-53, 58-55) over the previously unbeaten Brendan Barrett at Boston’s TD Garden.
Walked to the ring by Celtic Warrior gym-mate Spike O’Sullivan, and embraced by the great Massachusetts-Irish warrior Micky Ward before he stepped through the ropes, Kennedy’s introduction evoked plenty of noise from the decent-sized crowd sprinkled across ‘The Gahden’ at quarter-past five local time.
‘Brutal’ Barrett started the more aggressive of the pair, forcing the Wicklow Town-based garda to absorb some heavy-duty work to the body, but Kennedy found his range and grew into the opener.
A well-times counter left caught Barrett’s attention, and a couple of tidy flurries before the bell seemed to have granted the Wexford native control only for a powerful overhand right from the American to land square on the bigger man’s chin, drawing oohs and ahs from the few hundred Kennedy well-wishers dotted across the arena.
It was plain that the well-conditioned Kennedy was intent on remaining patient early doors — Barrett’s MMA background and relative lack of boxing experience would surely see him tire in the latter stages of this six-rounder.
Kennedy couldn’t have anticipated the judo throw which groundee him in the second, however; Barrett hooked his leg around Kennedy’s in the clinch and torpedoed him to the canvas. Inexplicably, he wasn’t so much as docked a point, and his extended olive branch was dismissed by the peeved Irishman who, rather than touch gloves, beckoned Barrett on for a tear-up.
Kennedy enjoyed the better of the third — a picture-perfect jab-straight-right combination the rubber stamp, though Barrett shook his head and pulled a face as if to indicate there wasn’t much sting behind it.
An entertaining fourth saw both men briefly go hell-for-leather, and while Barrett may have enjoyed the better of that particular exchange, Kennedy regained the ascendancy with sound boxing soon afterwards.
A sharp left hook momentarily rocked Barrett in his boots, and some neat work with his right hand — a textbook uppercut the standout shot — was enough for Kennedy to take the round.
A mouse had opened beneath Barrett’s left eye going into round five, but that would soon be the least of his worries. A stunning overhand right by Kennedy sent him to funky town, and he was eventually forced to the ground after almost falling through the ropes.
Barrett held on for dear life after the eight count, wrestling his way inside and stunting Kennedy’s attempts to seal a finish.
He survived a stanza in which he probably should have been stopped, frankly, and to his credit he came out firing in the sixth and final round following a minute’s respite.
Indeed, with seconds remaining it was Kennedy who found himself in some bother, swallowing a coupke of silly shots that drew gasps from the Irish faithful in Boston.
A combination of ring smarts and excellent head movement got him out of dodge, however, and he picked up his 12th professional win via the judges’ cards.