'I want my son to look back on his dad as one of the best boxers in the world' 5 months ago

'I want my son to look back on his dad as one of the best boxers in the world'

Before Eric Donovan won his Irish featherweight title against Stephen McAfee last weekend, I asked him why he decided to go back into boxing after walking away from the sport.

Donovan was a talented amateur but left the sport he once loved through a mix of injury, personal issues and other options available to him, including study, but he had unfinished business.

"I didn't want to be one of those auld fellas looking back and going 'I could have done this, I could have done that. I should have done this, I should have done that. I want to do it."

And he did. He dominated Stephen McAfee at the National Stadium last month and now has his sights set on a European title.

Niall Kennedy's road into boxing was a little different. He didn't have a glittering amateur career. He only won one Irish title. He only started boxing professionally at 30 and yet at 34 he has compiled a 13-0-1 record with his sights set on going as far as possible as quickly as possible, with the Gorey native turning 35 next month.

When I rang Kennedy for the interview he had to delay our phone call for a few hours because he was taking some transition year students around with him in his day job with the Gardai.

Law enforcement pays his bills and the mortgage but boxing is his avenue to not only challenge himself, but to inspire others, including his young son.

"I had a baby boy there 19 months ago and it's been a bit of a struggle but I want him to look back in 15 years time and know that you don't give up," said Kennedy.

"That you keep fighting for your dreams. That's a massive thing and then the other side is that I want to show young fellas that are maybe struggling with mental issues that if you put the hard work in that you can get a good outcome out of it.

"In my main job, the job that pays the mortgage, I have a great opportunity to work with kids and hopefully be a stronger role model for them. I don't even know if I do have an impact on other people but I hope that with the kids in Gorey and the boxing club that I'm from that you would feel that if they were under pressure that they could come talk to me.

"That would have always been one of my goals but with boxing I want to fight in the top 15. I want to show that I'm in the top tier. I want to show that I'm at the level of Charles Martin and Ivan Dychko. These are the lads that I want to be fighting."

Kennedy defeated Michael Marrone via first round stoppage in Boston last month.

The Wexford native did not know his opponent until the weigh-in of the fight after a supposed bout with undefeated American Darmani Rock fell through and Kennedy feels like he's now at a stage where he's ready to kick on and really test himself among the heavyweight's top tier.

"You can't get complacent and you don't want to drop your level down so this time my coach Paschal Collins drilled it into me that we've a job to do. I'm 35 in May so I'm aware that I have to keep winning and keep performing.

"I'm not saying I'm at the top tier. Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Dillian Whyte are at the top level, then you have like Luiz Ortiz and a few others and my aim is to get to the top tier. Everyone should aim for the top and I believe I'm now ready to start taking on guys with good records. My aim for now is to get into the top 15 and that's still my aim."

Kennedy wants to fight again in the summer and ideally would like to fight three to four times a year but knows that his desire to stay active is largely tied to the promotional side of the sport but while he waits patiently for his next fight it's back to the drawing board in Corduff where he continues to learn from Collins.

"Against Marrone, Packie just wanted me to show aggression and killer instinct but it's still just little things for me. I still get in trouble everyday for doing things wrong but that's why we're practicing everyday in the gym; to get better.

"Even in sparring, most people try to go in and win spars but Paschal is meticulous. You'll do a spar and it can be frustrating because you might not win a spar but you're working and improving on one aspect of your game.

"Like distance is a massive thing for me and the position of your feet and to know how to be out of range but still be able to counter at the same time. It can be painstakingly annoying at times but it's still just repetition, repetition and more repetition."

The process stays the same, but hopefully for Kennedy and Collins, the stage gets bigger and the lights start to get brighter.

Kennedy spoke on behalf of Palace Casino, Conals Tree Services, bodibro, the Dinky Diner, Porters bar, Whizzy Internet, Boland's furniture Gorey, Gorey Boxing and Murphy's Boxing.