Josh Kennedy

Assuming the grass to be greener over the neighbour’s fence is a dangerous thing.  Craving to achieve what someone else has can be flawed, a strategy laden with risk.  But for boxer Josh Kennedy his ambition isn’t to achieve what his peers have, it is to better them.
At 23 years old Kennedy realised his time in the amateurs had reached a natural conclusion.  Having boxed for England, won junior national titles and been ranked ninth in Great Britain as a featherweight, 2014 was when he made the decision to swap the unpaid ranks for the more prosperous professional sport.  18 months on, now aged 24, and the decision is proving a wise one.  “It was around the summer of 2014 that I decided to turn over, I always wanted to get a number one spot but I was very unlucky several times in the national championships” Kennedy tells me.  “I lost to the eventual winner in the ABAs in what was a very controversial win, but I don't want to dwell on the past! There were a couple of people that I boxed that went on to win titles and a couple of people I beat who have gone on to have successful pro careers like George Jupp and I ended up thinking 'I want to earn some money for this and take it to the next level'.”

His debut as a professional came in the Winter of 2014, on December 14th he made his bow at York Hall in London against Sergejs Logins, a Latvian who at the time had an impressive record of six wins and only a single defeat.  On paper it was perhaps not the easiest start to life as a professional boxer, but for Kennedy the challenge barely registered.  The Latvian opponent lasted a total of 33 seconds of the first round having twice been dropped and for Kennedy it showed that his new professional training regime was having the desired effect.  So what had the Folkestone fighter changed in the months bridging his amateur and professional career?

“I was always strong in the amateurs, but the thing is that as an amateur they tell you not to use weights. I have such a better understanding of boxing now as a pro, I've done so much research of how people fight and plant their feet a lot more as well as the strength and conditioning sessions. I just think if I had done that as an amateur my career could have been a lot more successful. I did stop a fair few of my contests through body shots and just work rate, now as a pro I've managed to keep my weight down to super bantamweight and I'm really tall for the weight at five foot eight.”
It’s been as exciting a start as any prospect in the professional fight game could hope for.  Four fight, four wins, four knock outs.  Having decided that super bantamweight is the division that he is most suited to, the height advantage that he is experiencing over nearly all opponents is coupled with the strengths that he has been working on in the gym.  “I pride myself on my boxing abilities; when I started boxing I was a bit of a scrapper but my coach Harry at Folkestone boxing club taught me how to box. So I can have a tear up now, I can box, I'm quick, I'm strong for the weight too and I'm really tall” says Kennedy.  That combination of height, natural power, technique and work rate have meant that no opponent has reached past the third round in his four fights so far.  His last outing on October 17th was against an unbeaten opponent, but for Kennedy there was a frustration in the adversary he faced as he explains to me:

“In my last fight the opponent had to step in at the last minute, I was meant to fight a really experienced Ghanaian and I had picked him out because I watched him and thought to myself 'I can beat him' and he had a decent record, was former Ghanaian champion and would have been a good step up for me. He pulled out a week before the fight claiming some leg injury, I ended up fighting some bloke from Bulgaria, Slaveya Stefanov. He had three and won three but his level of boxing was ridiculous! When he threw that first jab I thought 'for fucks sake, now I'm going to have to knock him out before people realise how bad he is!' He was jumping in with his head and he was either going to cut me or do some damage so I knew I had to get him out of there. I caught him with a body shot in the first round and he went down, then another in the second and that was it really. I was disappointed not to get a harder fight like Owusu who has a good record and I'd only had three at the time, but my time will come again, it'll be fine. My manager has said that some overseas fighters can be unreliable but I'll push for it again next year as he's a credible opponent and I think it would be a good step up for me. It still ends the same way though, he's five foot three and I'm five foot eight, he'll have trouble even getting near me.”
Before he can turn his focus back to a potential showdown with Owusu though, there is the small matter for Kennedy of being part of the comeback of former world heavyweight champion, David Haye.  Haye has picked Goodwin Promotions to provide the undercard of his return bout against Australian Mark de Mori at the O2 on January 16th.  It gives a huge opportunity for the Leighton Buzzard based promoters to showcase a number of their rising talents on a wider platform and for Kennedy, he is just thankful for the chance to bring his exciting style of fighting to a bigger audience.  “To box on the same bill as a former heavyweight champion is unbelievable. I was shocked really because when they asked Goodwin Promotions to do the undercard they said they wanted boxers who have had six fights or more and obviously I've only had the four, but with them all by knockout and not going past the third round they agreed to it. I was shocked, but it's definitely the right decision. I won't let anybody down, I'm an exciting fighter. It is a privilege. Out of the 90 fighters in the stable he's put my name forwards and that's a privilege, just as it is to be boxing in the same arena as a former world heavyweight champion after four fights.”
Indeed many fighters with longer and more storied careers would jump at the chance to be part of the supporting cast for such a high profile ring return as Haye’s.  He will face Luke Flash (0-2-0) who seems tailor made for Kennedy to be able to perform against and he certainly doesn’t foresee many issues when the two meet in the New Year.  “I don't know a lot about him, he hasn't done a lot really, he's quite short and stocky. I can imagine he's going to be coming forward a little bit but I pride myself on my boxing ability and if I wanted to I could do the four rounds without him touching me, but I'm there to entertain and look for the knockout and I'll blast him away with combinations and quick foot work. I'll be annoyed at myself if he catches me more than a few times!” says Kennedy confidently.
There will of course be bigger tests to come in the future.  As he tells me, he doesn’t see there being a ceiling on how much he can achieve, and the aspirations stretch well beyond January 16th.  “As an amateur I boxed at international level so there's no reason I can't do it as a pro. The style never suited me as much as an amateur, now I'm getting the chance to plant my feet and dig the shots in a bit so there's no reason why I can't box at that level as a professional. It's still my first year as a pro, some people don't pick up titles until they are eight or nine years in and I have a long career ahead of me.”
Josh Kennedy
However before he gazes too far to the future, the likeable Folkestone boxer is happy to bring the conversation back to the current.  We discuss title aspirations of a more local level, there is a burning desire from Kennedy to do things the traditional way and pick up the Southern Area belt.  As he tells me though there could be complications in doing so.  “I'd like the Southern Area title but to be honest with you there's nobody there for me to fight for it. It's vacant, as is the English. But in the Southern area there's only really me and another undefeated super bantamweight Matthew Chanda (a fellow Goodwin Promotions fighter) who's had five and won five. I don't know if Steve (Goodwin) would let us fight but if we do I beat him. I'd like to do it like I did in the amateurs, win the Southern Area, win the national, then the British and do it all in the right order, but Steve thinks he can bypass that and go straight for an English title eliminator. Still, I'd love a Southern Area belt.  I won it about 12 times as an amateur so would like to do it as a pro too.”  As he also analyses, the belt would provide him with an opportunity to assess his own potential for the future.  “If I struggle winning that belt then that's a way of saying I will never be a world champion. There's less professionals than there are amateurs, so I shouldn't have any problems winning at that level.”
The man charged with guiding Kennedy’s career as he mentions is Steve Goodwin, head of Goodwin Promotions.  The linkup came after Kennedy made the turn over to professional and completed his due diligence on the promoters available to him.  Having contacted those he deemed could be appropriate (Frank Warren, Eddie Hearn, Mick Hennessy, Mickey Helliet and Steve Goodwin) it came down to a matter of respect who he chose as Kennedy explains:
“After the ABAs I sat down and researched all the promoters in the country. I emailed them all and heard back from Steve, Frank and Mickey Helliet. I went and met Frank's match maker, Jason McCrory, he invited me to a show at York Hall when Mitchell Smith was fighting for the English title against Peter Cope. I was really disappointed, the bloke hardly even looked at me. I walked up to him and introduced myself and he told me we won't talk boxing today, watch the fighting and we will have a sit down office conversation another time. He barely looked me in the eye and it was so disrespectful. The day before that I'd actually had a meeting with Steve Goodwin and he travelled all the way down to Folkestone to meet me, that's respect for you there. Steve told me about his percentages, how his boxers work and things like that. To have that one day and then see this Jason guy the next day, I realised I had no time for that whatsoever. I've got a funny feeling Frank Warren will be disappointed in him when he finds out how my career is going, and he never actually contacted me afterwards either. I thought 'you know what, you can fuck off' and that was that. I can't wait to tell Frank that to his face either, I'm the kind of boxer other promoters will want to handle and it's only a few more fights until I get to that level where I have to deal with Frank or Eddie Hearn. I'll tell him he had his chance and sent Jason to meet me and he didn't look me in the eye!!”
Happy with his choice of promoter, Goodwin have been able to offer him a small insight into what the O2 will provide him on January 16th after they have revamped their York Hall setup to include the mod cons of a larger show; entrance videos, smoke machine, full ring walks with beautiful girls and the obligatory entrance music introductions.  Kennedy was part of the first show to utilise the new staging on October 17th, so what did he make of it?  “It was good. Don't get me wrong, York Hall is a legendary arena in British boxing but to have that new ring walk and so much more professional made it even more exciting. I can't wait to walk out to the ring entrance at the O2, it will be ten times as much. Some people really struggle under the pressure, me I thrive on it and can't wait!”
He tells me the hardest battle he has had so far as a professional is keeping the “stupid grin” off his face as he makes his way down to battle.  No doubt there will be more rigorous tests that he faces as he steps up through the super bantamweight division over the next 12 months.  Both domestically and internationally the headlines in the division will focus on the world title showdown between Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg in February 2016.  Before that though Kennedy will be furthering his own story at the O2, his first taste of big arena boxing supporting one of the biggest names in British boxing.  It is a sample for Kennedy, an opportunity to see how his face fits when illuminated alongside the name of a former world champion.  His ambition is to one day be the main attraction but for now he realises that there are domestic titles to conquer first.  January 16th gives him the platform to demonstrate his exciting style and knockout power; 2016 gives him the chance to prove how real it is.
Josh wished to thanks the sponsors who help support him through his professional boxing career:  “My main one is Civil Rail Solutions in Ashford. They're giving me the money to fight six times next year, it shows the confidence they have in me. I don't have to worry about ticket sales and that's great, it's Mark Mason who owns the company and he's been fantastic for my career.  There’s also Shepway Sports Trust who are a charitable trust, we work together getting kids active outside of schools. I was an ambassador while I was an amateur and they have created a role for me which I love.  Also thanks to Dynamics Nutrition who sort me out my gym membership and nutritional needs as well as Your Style Design Limited who sort out branded kit for me.”