Danny Kennedy (9-2-1, 1 KO) has spent many days throughout his 38 years being nurtured by the canvas and ropes during an extensive amateur and professional boxing career.
The usual clichés of blood, sweat and tears are not out of place when describing the current WBF Asia Pacific Welterweight champion. Everything that the Brit turned Western Australian has, he has earned through hard work.
The year 2020 was no different. While a number of professional fighters were locked down under the restrictions of COVID-19, he stayed busy.
Although his record states that he only fought once, a December slugfest with ‘Banging’ Ben Kite, this is a misleading statistic.
“I stayed active all the way through. I was meant to fight in March against Tysinn Best for the Australian title and it got pulled due to COVID. Then it was meant to get rearranged for September,” Kennedy told The Inner Sanctum.
“Even though I only boxed once in December, I trained for three fights. I stayed fit all the way through. All the way through COVID I was in the gym training hard. I was sparring.
“I was George Kambosos’ sparring partner for the (Lee) Selby fight. We were sparring for six months through COVID, so I stayed fresh all the way through.
“I don’t like having a day off, even if I haven’t got a fight or nothing. I always train hard.”
As he now reaches the twilight of his career, the grind continues towards his toughest test. That is, an eight round non-title Welterweight showdown with the returning former IBO World Lightweight champion and IBF World Lightweight title challenger, Lenny Zappavigna (37-4, 27 KOs) in Wollongong on April 21.
It will be the advantage of staying active that Kennedy will look to capitalise on, bringing the fight to Zappavigna who is lacing up his gloves for the first time in three years.
“It’s such a long time. No matter what fighter you are, when you come back, there’s timing,” Kennedy theorised.
“He cuts as well, so his skin won’t be used to getting hit.
“Lenny went to war loads of times didn’t he? His body was used to it then, but having three years off is a long time.
“You can hit the pads and the bags all you want, but having that ring activity and your sparring, it’s completely different.”
Despite such an extensive lay-off, it would be silly to think that the knockout power possessed by Zappavigna does not pose an immense threat, or that he is not an elite level fighter in the sport.
His opponent has a point to prove and will do so in the fashion that he knows best. Move forward with every intention of landing the knockout blow.
Kennedy would not have it any other way though. Embracing such a challenge is an inbuilt part of his being.
“I’m actually really excited about this fight, just because of where Lenny’s been. He’s a World level operator,” he said.
“He’s fought at the highest levels there is. I got beat in my last fight, but that’s where I believe I’m at.
“I’ve yet to prove that and this is my big chance to prove it.”
Even though taking a high level fight at this stage of his career appears to be a questionable move on the surface, such a stance does not account for one major factor.
Kennedy has not just fought other fighters. He has battled circumstances too.
Born and raised on the Island of Jersey, he was surrounded by the harsh waters of the English Channel and a sparse population. Isolation was a part of everyday life.
“I think we’ve got about 90, 000 on the Island,” he said.
“I’m from a real small town, it was just like a big council estate.”
As they have always done, people find a way to keep moving forward to achieve their goals, regardless of the obstacles put in their way. It is one of the marvels of the human race, let alone a committed combat athlete.
It was here that Kennedy found a figurative home in one of the few boxing rings that the nation boasts, fighting all comers both home and away. Geography was not going to stop the island and their keen fighters.
“There isn’t any professional boxing there. There’s only one or two amateur boxing clubs on the Island,” he said.
“We used to get teams over from England. We used to fight Manchester select, Liverpool select, London select. Then we used to have dinner shows at a posh hotel.
“It would be quite expensive to watch, but you had an International team come over or we used to box at our leisure centre and we used to have big club shows. Or we used to go over there.
“It was great being an amateur in the Islands, getting away on all the English shows.
“We actually boxed – it was Jersey vs New Jersey – in America. We’d go over to them, box them, then they’d come over to us.”
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The magnitude of fighting in front of millions on television and in person on April 21 then, is not lost on Kennedy. He is aware of how far he has come, what lies ahead of him and the platform in which he has been allowed to display his talents.
Fighting on a No Limit Boxing card, the same organisation that promotes up and coming star Tim Tszyu, is an opportunity most would be envious of.
Coupling this with the heated clash between former WBA World Heavyweight champion Lucas Browne and ex-NRL star Paul Gallen headlining the bill, Kennedy believes the eyes of boxing fans are bound to witness his clash with Zappavigna.
“To be on Main Event TV is unbelievable for someone like me coming from a tiny little island,” Kennedy said.
“Paul Gallen draws the crowds. I was watching Tim Tszyu’s last fight against Bowyn Morgan and everyone tunes in to watch Paul Gallen.
“Whether you like rugby or you don’t, they all tune in for him.”
Kennedy is under no false pretexts as he enters his thirteenth professional bout. He knows that his career is closer to the end than it is the start, even conceding that a loss will mean the journey will reach its end.
“If I lose to Lenny, I’m hanging the gloves up. That’s me, I’m done,” he said.
The admission is not one of a lack of commitment, however. Far from it.
Instead, he is determined to put on a great performance, preparing just as diligently as he has for any other fight and will enter with a winning mentality.
“I’ve watched my fight against Jack (Brubaker) and my fight against Ben Kite and I’ve seen these little mistakes in it,” Kennedy explained.
“It’s just those little one percenters that I’ve been training in the gym to correct. That’s the difference between the top fighters and where I’m at, to work on those one percenters to get them right.
“I’m actually really confident. To be honest, I wouldn’t have took [sic] the fight if I wasn’t confident.
“If I didn’t believe I could beat Lenny Zappavigna, I wouldn’t be boxing, I wouldn’t be in it.”
In fact, he wants to send a message to those who see him as an underdog or go as far as to call this a tune up fight for Zappavigna: Danny Kennedy is prepared, conditioned and ready to shock the World.
“I think styles make fights. Lenny’s style is the style I’ve always done well with. I box so well with people coming forward,” he surmised.
“I know where he’s been, I know how he boxes. I’ve watched so much of Lenny over the last couple of months, I probably know Lenny more than he knows himself.
“I plan on putting on a boxing masterclass where you just see quality boxing.”
“I’ve got something to prove and I ain’t got nothing to lose. I’ve literally got nothing to lose and everything to prove. I’m the underdog here so I’m here to prove everyone wrong.
“Everyone who knows Lenny and sees my name are all going to think ‘oh Danny, Danny’s gonna get knocked out’, but believe me, I’m not just turning up.”
Gallen vs Browne goes down on April 21, live on Main Event and Kayo. Order here: https://mainevent.kayosports.com.au/
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