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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 6 April, 2020

Kennedy seals big scrap with US Olympian whose last foe was heavyweight world champion Ruiz

Niall Kennedy has been calling for a step-up fight, and he has gotten his wish.

Wexford heavyweight Niall Kennedy.
Wexford heavyweight Niall Kennedy.
Image: Emily Harney/INPHO

WEXFORD HEAVYWEIGHT NIALL Kennedy [13-0-1, 8KOs] has sealed a career-biggest fight against 2004 US Olympian Devin Vargas [20-5, 8KOs], who was last seen in the ring against current unified heavyweight world champion — and Anthony Joshua conqueror — Andy Ruiz.

The 35-year-old ‘Boom Boom’, who hails from Gorey and is a garda in Wicklow Town, will co-headline an outdoor Murphys Boxing event at the MGM Springfield in Massachusetts on 17 August.

Kennedy-Vargas, and the main-event light-heavyweight clash between local hero Charles Foster and Denis Grachev, will be broadcast live on UFC Fight Pass (Kennedy’s management group, Murphy’s Boxing, recently signed a multi-year deal with the UFC’s subscription-based streaming service).

The step-up fight that Kennedy has long called for may yet have on the line a rankings belt of some description, wherein victory would see the affable Model County man propelled into the world’s top 20 with at least one sanctioning body.

Niall Kennedy (right) and Brendan Barrett Niall Kennedy lands a right hand on Brendan Barrett at Boston's TD Garden. Source: Emily Harney/INPHO

“I’m excited to be fighting at MGM Springfield,” said the man known affectionately as ‘Basil’. “It’s my first time in that area, and what an event to be on, getting to share the bill with the talented Charles Foster.

We are hoping it will be for a world ranking and my opponent, I believe, is a former Olympian who has mixed with the top table and who I am sure will bring the best out of me. Training is going exceptionally well. I’m going to put every ounce of blood and sweat into making my little boy, MJ, and my wife proud. I am honoured and blessed to have Ken (Casey, of Murphys Boxing) and Packie (Collins, trainer) guiding my career and at 35, this is the year where I want to get myself into the top 20 and into massive fights. And for that to happen I need to perform on 17 August.

Kennedy, who has built a significant following on America’s East Coast, last fought in March at Boston’s House of Blues where he annihilated the 21-10(15KOs) Michael Marrone inside a round.

Niall Kennedy Kennedy salutes the Boston crowd. Source: Emily Harney/INPHO

Vargas provides his sternest test to date on paper by way of sheer experience and pedigree: the 37-year-old Ohio native hasn’t been seen in a ring since he was himself taken out inside a round by now-heavyweight world champion Andy Ruiz in March of last year, but three of his other four defeats have arrived against fighters of a serious calibre; the former Olympian has previously gone nine rounds with tough Pole Andrzej Wawrzyk, also tasting defeat against two-time world-title challenger Dominic Breazeale and perennial gatekeeper Kevin Johnson.

Vargas won three national championships as an amateur, bowing out in the second round at the Athens Olympics to eventual silver medalist Viktar Zuyev of Belarus.

Garda Kennedy: ‘With the baby in hospital, I got there and suddenly I’m thinking, ‘Jesus, I’m on billboards”

I thought there was a choke coming!’: Kennedy laughs off opponent’s judo antics on famous weekend for Gorey

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