Interview | Niall Kennedy on his biggest fight to date

Devin Vargas, whose last fight was against Anthony Joshua conqueror and current unified heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz, is Niall Kennedy’s opponent on Saturday night in MGM Springfield in Massachusetts.

It it the biggest fight of the Gorey man’s career. Here, he talks to The Season Ticket about this upcoming fight, his preparations and how boxing ultimately saved his life.

Brian Strahan: When did you first think that the fight would  Devin Vargas might be in the works?

Niall Kennedy: I was preparing for the date and had asked for a high level opponent and Murphys boxing have delivered this man {who} has shared the ring with top quality fighters and I’m preparing for my toughest fight to date. 

BS: Does this feel like the biggest step up in quality of opponent ?

NK: Yes, it does. But it’s exactly what I’d asked for, hopefully if I perform to my best and look impressive I can get myself up near the top table of heavyweight boxing. 

BS: Have you or will you be studying the fights of Vargas and would you adapt your approach to that, or is it a case of sticking to a tested formula?

NK: There is very little footage of him in recent times, so I’ll go off his best bits and find a way to derail him at his best. Packie has been pushing me unreal hard, so I just have to trust in my preparation and my trainer as he trusts in me, and I firmly believe this will be the best condition I’ll ever enter a ring in.

BS: Do you feel there is an increase in your training intensity for this fight?

NK: Yes, I do.  But I wouldn’t say it is because of my opponent. It’s down to having a set target and goal, and August 17th is part of that plan, and in order to get myself to where I want to be, I have to train to levels I haven’t matched before. Between Packie, my strength trainer Ivan Lynch, and now I’ve great help from my good friend and wexford hurling superstar Conor Mcdonald, pushing me harder than ever. I’m excited.

BS: Do you think a fight in Ireland is a possibility over the next year if things go your way?

NK: I don’t think so. Unfortunately as much as I’d like to have a fight at home, I’m based out of Boston and my opportunities are in America. Plus I’ve probably a better name Stateside than at home now. I represent Gorey, Wexford and Ireland every time I fight. But my pro career has been based out of my home from home in Boston, and I’ll concentrate on performing August 17th first and foremost.

BS: What type of following do you have in Boston?  

NK: Murphys boxing have based me out of Boston, so I’m blessed and lucky to have built up a good base of support. I am blessed to have a family connection in the state, and am lucky to have made a lot of great friends in Boston area, so support has grown as I hope it will continue to do so .

BS: What’s the family connection in Boston?

NK: If your to go back far enough there is a connection to the Kennedys, but the most supportive family are my friends the Johnson’s, who have been amazing support.

BS: Do you stay with the Johnson’s when you’re over there?

NK: No, I’m not. I’ll hopefully meet them before and after the fight. This is work, and I have to treat it as same. It’s by far the most important fight to date, so my priorities lie on being prepared and focused on the job ahead of me.

BS: How are you managing the training around your job?

NK: Hard. I’m very lucky that I have the support of my colleagues and bosses in Wicklow Garda station, and a very understanding wife. But, it’s a massive juggling act, and very hard. There can be a lot of fatigue, but life is short, and I’m on a journey so I can rest and sleep when I retire from boxing.

BS: How many years do you have in you do you think ?

NK: I don’t know. I love it so much, and am my fittest ever, so who knows, time is only an issue if you waste it, and age is only a number 

BS: I know you’ve spoken about depression and mental health in the past. If you were to put aside your progress, how much do you get out of the physical rewards of being at peak fitness?

NK: I don’t know. It’s fairly hard to gauge, but its scientifically proven that exercise releases positive endorphins in the brain, so it’s definitely beneficial to me and anyone suffering. Unfortunately, for my younger years I suffered a lot in silence and self medicated through alcohol binges. But for every bad day we have, it’s about trying to see and always knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I believe we all have bad days and thankfully mental health is easier to talk about now. It’s OK not to be OK and it’s definitely OK to ask for help. It saved my life.