Craig Kennedy clinches close win in eliminator with Courtney Fry

Craig Kennedy clinches close win in eliminator with Courtney Fry

By Dewi Powell: Cardiff’s Craig ‘The Kid’ Kennedy (12-0, 6KO) scored the most important win of his two-year career with a Unanimous Decision victory over Courtney Fry (19-7, 6KO) in a British cruiserweight title eliminator at the Newport Centre.

All three judges favoured Kennedy who collected the victory courtesy of 95-93, 96-94 and 95-94 cards from Reece Carter, Howard Foster and John Keane.

Just like the weigh-in, the opening exchanges were tense. Both were throwing little more than jabs; Fry pressed while herking and jerking, causing a tentative Kennedy to circle the ring and attempt to set up counters. Respectful of each other’s abilities, neither threw more than single shots and appeared to be testing the other’s responses.

In the second stanza, Fry chipped away at Kennedy with a prodding jab but it was the Welshman with the first significant solid punch – a right hand that put the visitor on his heels for the first time. A left hook counter followed, it was what Kennedy needed to finish the round strong and get an early foothold in the fight.

Fry, ten years his opponent’s senior, continued with the same tactics in the third round. The adopted Scouser would feint and throw or fall in and smother if he missed, nullifying Kennedy’s reply. Kennedy appeared to grow wise to it as the round progressed, catching Fry on the approach and momentarily stunning with another short left hook. At the end of the round, Kennedy landed an uppercut on the inside, milliseconds before a clinch and his growing confidence was a sign of things soon to come.

When the judge’s scorecards were tallied at the end of the fight, it was the events of the fourth round that proved to be the deciding factor. Kennedy has become renown for his left hook but it was a right cross that made the difference. That punch made its breakthrough early in the fourth, sinking Fry to his knees. Although the ex-Olympian bounced straight back up, he was still hurt and it was evident when he returned to the canvas courtesy of another right hand moments later. Wary of Fry’s experience, Kennedy didn’t rush his work and appeared keen to allow Fry to overreach, before stepping in to range with his own work. The 30-year-old’s problem was that Fry clinched and recovered well, coming back in the same round to score with straights from both hands.

By the halfway mark, Kennedy was meeting Fry in centre ring more and more, following the instructions of former WBO world featherweight champion Steve Robinson in the home corner. Kennedy’s increased activity saw Fry walk on to more counters before landing his own backhand. That success was stifled when Kennedy again unsteadied Fry in the seventh.

The nip and tuck pattern continued in to the eighth round, a point where Kennedy had never been past. Just as Kennedy appeared to be seizing his moments with two and three punch combinations, Fry used all of his experience to come back and take advantage of Kennedy’s lowering guard. Fry, owner of a Commonwealth Games gold medal, would enjoy longer periods of success in the closing rounds but Kennedy would score with the more effective punches, presenting the judges with an unenviable task.

Referee Marcus McDonnell started a round of applause at the start of the final round, which the 1,000 in attendance joined in with. The 10th round was undoubtedly Fry’s most successful, scoring with heavy right hands on three separate occasions. After play-acting that he was hurt, Kennedy recognised that he needed his own final flurry and the pair matched each other in the seconds before the last bell of the night.

There was a host of Liverpool’s past and present champions in attendance, having travelled over 200 miles to support Fry. The crowd included former British super-middleweight champion Tony Dodson, European flyweight champion Kevin Satchell and British super-bantamweight champion James ‘Jazza’ Dickens.

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