Craig Kennedy starts comeback with tense and tactical decision win

Craig Kennedy starts comeback with tense and tactical decision win

Cardiff’s Craig Kennedy (17-1, 8KO) began his comeback with a hard-fought eight-round decision win against Lithuania’s Nikolajs Grisunins (7-1-1, 4KO), judged to be 80-72 on the scorecard of referee Reece Carter.

It was Kennedy’s first fight in 17 months, having taken an extended break to gel with new coach Gary Lockett in the aftermath of suffering his first professional defeat. That knockout loss came in a vacant British title bout against Matty Askin, who has since thrived as domestic ruler.

Craig Kennedy

The opening moments were tense as both jostled for position. It was a meeting of opposite stances and Kennedy was wary of falling in to Grisunins southpaw left. Neither were willing to commit in the opener and it appeared to be out of respect for the other’s power.

Both let their hands go in the second round and it was Kennedy who drew first blood. A wide left hook bloodied the visitor’s nose and it appeared broken. To Grisunins’ credit, he wasn’t visibly affected and he was soon keen to respond, finding success with his straight left.

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Kennedy had looked keen to hold when the duo were up close but it was roles reversed halfway through the third round when Kennedy staggered Grisunins. Once again, there was an immediate response but by the end of the round, it was the Welshman who looked happier as he enjoyed a spell on the front foot.

Kennedy enjoyed another good spell to start the fourth round and appeared to have warmed in to it. Grisunins was circling more, giving Kennedy position on the front foot and he took advantage, causing a bad cut over the Lithuanian’s right eye.

Even when heavily bloodied, Grisunins remained dangerous and his well-schooled stance took careful negotiating. Kennedy was more relaxed but it was the same tense and tactical fight at the halfway mark as it had been in the opening moments.

Craig Kennedy

By the end of the fifth round, referee Reece Carter was concerned about Grisunins’ blood loss and called the doctor to inspect it. The inspection was passed and Grisunins must have realised he needed to turn the tide as he seized the initiative on his return.

There was still reason to be alert but it was refreshing to see Kennedy’s confidence increase throughout the sixth round. By comparison, Grisunins looked to be draining under Kennedy’s growing aggression, realising that the tactical bout was slipping away.

It was Kennedy’s turn to leak claret in the seventh round, though there looked to be minimal damage on the corner of his left eyebrow and it flowed down his cheek. The pair shared even exchanges, the only difference being Kennedy’s jab, which was now absent from his opponent.

Craig Kennedy

Grisunins took advantage of Kennedy standing square on the ropes at the start of the eighth and last round, landing a flush straight left hand. Kennedy tried to quickly regain control, whipping a jab from his waist to deter Grisunins’ final attacks. The final minute was frantic and it felt like every shot mattered to the remnants of the crowd who stayed for the night’s final fight.

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