Craig Kennedy confident of toppling Blackpool’s towering Matty Askins

Craig Kennedy confident of toppling Blackpool’s towering Matty Askins

Cardiff’s Craig Kennedy (16-0, 8KO) is fully confident of toppling Blackpool’s towering Matty Askin (21-3-1, 13KO) for the vacant British cruiserweight title on Friday.

28-year-old Askin was initially set to visit Wales’ Motorpoint Arena in March. However, a hand injury postponed his trip and it felt like the Kennedy curse had struck again. So far in his four-year career, the Welshman has unfortunately seen a number of opponents bail due to injury and often at very late notice.

The list includes Hari Miles, Wayne Brooks, Tony Conquest, Benki Mwakalebela and Stephen Simmons. Thankfully, Askin has recovered and completed his training camp under the watch of ex-welterweight world title challenger Michael Jennings with no further worries to make the quickly rearranged date.

“It was literally history repeating itself. I was absolutely devastated. I truly believe Matty Askin, along with myself, is the best cruiserweight in Great Britain,” said Kennedy. “What better than to fight the number one in Britain in my hometown of Cardiff for the British Lonsdale belt? I don’t want no easy route for the British title.

He continued: “I’ve turned up for every fight in condition. Unfortunately, I don’t know what it is, but fighters don’t seem to make it when they sign up to fight me. It’s not just myself [who is disappointed]. There’s a big team around me; my beautiful wife, my trainers. They all put a lot of time and effort in to me.

“When it gets pulled away from you at the last moment, it does drain you, physically and mentally. More to the point, I’ve got a new child, financially you put a lot of money in to these camps and when they get pulled away from you, y’know it can be detrimental to family life.”

Cyclone Promotions, who are staging the show, don’t only bring the spotlight of their front man, International Boxing Hall of Fame entrant Barry McGuigan – they also boast a deal with Channel 5. The terrestrial broadcaster offers huge exposure to a very large audience, giving Kennedy a chance to make a significant impact.

At 28-years-old in 2013, Kennedy turned professional with one career goal in mind, to win the British title. It was relatively late compared to many of his peers, especially Askin who has punched for pay since 2008. Kennedy, trained by former WBO world champion Steve Robinson, is now only 36 minutes away from owning the Lord Lonsdale belt and he hasn’t stopped visualising the dream.

He said: “I’ve played it out in my mind a thousand and one times… and I haven’t lost once. I’m looking forward to it. Friday has been a long time coming. I’m in the best physical and mental place. I’m 32 now and I have my son to look after, so I’m hungry.”

It’s been a year since ‘The Kid’ last entered the ring in his home city, overcoming two knockdowns to narrowly see off Belgian giant Joe Tambwe Djeko courtesy of an eventful Split Decision. Aside from a routinely wide six-round win against Artur Kulikauskis in November, it’s been a quiet year for Kennedy.

A lot has changed outside of the ring in that time, though. Kennedy has become a father for the first time and if the now 32-year-old needs any extra motivation, his newborn son, Ryver, and long-term partner, Jo, have provided it.

He said: “It’s hard because my boy needs my full attention but I’ve got a beautiful wife who takes a lot off me, she’s my right hand and does everything for me. Now, I’ve got all of them to look after, it’s my duty and I feel like I owe it to them to get that Lonsdale belt.

“It was hard [to manage training/family balance]. Thankfully my management got me a training opportunity in Poland, so we took that with both hands. I felt like I was turning up for training, doing my diet but literally just getting it done, never pushing the boundaries. We went away for 12 days and mentally, it’s put me in a whole different place.”

That recent mini-break to Poland is not the first time Kennedy has ventured to Eastern Europe but there was no sight seeing on the schedule. Instead, he locked horns with a pair of former world champions, Krzysztof Glowacki and Krzysztof Wlodarczyk under the watch of manager Chris Sanigar.

The Polish pair have a combined record of 79 wins in 84 fights, more than 50 of them coming inside the full distance. Kennedy, whose experience is small in comparison, benefitted from tens of rounds of sparring with the duo, which could prove invaluable against Askin, who is undoubtedly the toughest opponent of his ledger.

Kennedy said: “It was amazing to mix it with world level fighters. I ain’t in the game to mess around or just take part, I want to be at the top. To see where I was good, physically I’m always good but more so mentally, it helped.

“I was doing 10 rounds on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We were doing 10KM runs and they looked after me. They are good people. I’m always learning. Even if I go to a little gym in the valleys, I’m always picking up little tips. To go out and see Poland, how top-level fighters operate gives me more for my artillery.”

Two years ago, the well-travelled Kennedy even sparred Askin, who was stopped against the aforementioned Glowacki in 11 rounds in 2012. At the time of the Kennedy spar, the Englishman was preparing for his first British title challenge, which he lost on points against the extremely hard-hitting Ovill McKenzie.

The pair have different accounts of what happened. Askin, who is on an impressive five-fight winning streak with some very respectable names on his record, is adamant that it was a one-sided affair. On the other hand, Kennedy refuses to be drawn in to a tit-for-tat argument and after everything he’s been though, has taken an understandably simplistic approach.

In conclusion, the bookies underdog said: “Sparring is sparring. I’m not one of those to run around, telling tales but listen, if that gives him an inner confidence, to tell people he had the better of it and I couldn’t finish rounds, then so be it. All I need to do is make sure he turns up on Friday… that’s all I ask.”

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