Kennedy climbs off the canvas to beat giant Djeko

Kennedy climbs off the canvas to beat giant Djeko

Cardiff’s Craig Kennedy (15-0, 8KO) clawed his way back from the edge of defeat to beat the dangerous Joe Tambwe Djeko (9-2-1, 4KO) in a dramatic cruiserweight clash.

The 30-year-old climbed off the canvas twice to take a razor thin Split Decision verdict. Two judges favoured Kennedy with 95-93 tallies, while the remaining official sided with Djeko via the same margin.

Victory saw Kennedy crowned as the IBF International champion and he gained a world ranking on the Cyclone Promotions show. There have been instant calls for a rematch from both fans at the Ice Arena Wales and at home watching on terrestrial broadcaster Channel 5.

After a rough first minute, when ‘Big Joe’ proved exactly that, Kennedy settled down behind a jab whipped form his waist. There was cause for slight concern when Kennedy was cut over his right eye, though referee Howard Foster later said that it was from an accidental head clash.

There was more cause for concern in the second when Kennedy was dropped for the first time in his three-year career. While moving along the ropes with his lead hand down, Djeko jumped in with a rocket right hand and Kennedy found himself counting in unison with the referee.

To Kennedy’s credit, he composed himself and recovered well. Appearing composed and clear-headed, he stayed disciplined to the point where if it wasn’t for the knockdown, he might have won the session.

Djeko began the fourth by taunting Kennedy’s fans and if that wasn’t a mark of his confidence, the showboating that ensued definitely was. Both had reason to be happy but it was the Belgian who remained more dangerous. That element of danger kept Kennedy on his toes but it was his turn to do damage in the fourth, stiffening Djeko’s legs and stopping him in his tracks with a right cross.

Sensing Kennedy had regained a foothold in the fight, Djeko came out fast to start the sixth and it paid off. Kennedy was tumbled to the floor and protested he had been thrown with some sort of clothesline. Nonetheless, it was ruled a knockdown with an eight count given and more crucially, another 10-8 round scored on the cards.

Needing a second wind, Kennedy enjoyed a strong finish to the eighth round but it was difficult to make a dent in his six foot six inch tall opponent, who looked more like a heavyweight. Ringsiders, including European Championships gold medallist Joe Cordina, began to encourage ‘The Kid’ to up the work rate and he did, chipping away with straight shots.

The approach forced Djeko in to making mistakes and when he lent to one side for too long, Kennedy nailed him with a left hook in the standout moment of the ninth round. The 10th round was a tense affair, both realising it hung in the balance and neither seeming confident when the bell rang to end it.

The fight was made, publicised and sanctioned as a 12 round contest. However, it was introduced and announced by Master of Ceremonies Craig Stephens as a 10 rounder after a late change.

The fight took place on the aftercard, following Lee Haskins’ successful world title defence against Ivan Morales. Kennedy had sold over 700 tickets to his growing following in Cardiff and for that reason; he was kept until last to ensure the crowd looked strong on television. In a close fight, that loud and large home support may have made the difference in a razor thin fight.

The word at ringside was that Djeko had been in a late-night confrontation with his own handlers at their hotel, even throwing a punch at one member of his team.