When Teon Kennedy enters the squared-circle on Saturday night, he knows the fans won’t be there to see him. His junior featherweight title tilt with Guillermo Rigondeaux is part of the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley HBO PPV telecast from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
In fact, no one is giving Kennedy much of a chance against the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Cuba that many considered one of the greatest amateurs of all time.
Kennedy (17-1-2, 7 knockouts) is in a must-win situation in a fight where he is a sizeable underdog. He’s gone two straight bouts without a win (a draw with Christopher Martin and a loss to Alejandro Lopez), though he always thrills the fans who pay to see him. If the 25-year-old Philadelphian isn’t going to upset the odds, he’s going to have to find a way to make an exhilarating fight with an opponent who is not exactly Arturo Gatti in terms of excitement. It’s an uphill battle for sure.
“I don’t feel no pressure right now. … It’s Rigondeaux so I guess they pick me to be the underdog,” Kennedy told RingTV.com. “But I know my ability and my skills and I know my team believes in me – that’s all I care about.”
Rigondeaux (9-0, 7 knockouts), though 31, is far less experienced than Kennedy as a pro, having only recently defected from Cuba. It didn’t take him long to gobble up a title though, winning the WBA strap with a sixth-round knockout of Rico Ramos in January on ShoBox in just his ninth pro fight. In all, Rigondeaux has boxed just 42 rounds to Kennedy’s 136. The Russell Peltz-promoted fighter is going to have make it a rough match, something the decorated amateur isn’t used to.
“I need to make him uncomfortable and just be a little rugged in there. He’s never really been battle-tested,” said Kennedy, who has fought most of his bouts in Philly or nearby Atlantic City. “He’s a good fighter, he has quick hands, they say he has power, but I don’t know about the power until I get in the ring with him,”
Rigondeaux, THE RING’s No. 2-rated junior featherweight, has only been the 12 round distance once in his career, a split decision victory over Ricardo Cordoba in which both fighters tasted canvas. Conversely, Kennedy has gone 12 rounds three times and knows he has an advantage if he can get the scrap to the late rounds.
“I have no worries about my conditioning, I know I can go all 12 rounds if I have to,” said Kennedy, who started boxing at age six. “And can go 12 rounds strong.”
Kennedy is proud of his reputation as an action fighter. His 12-round war with Jorge Diaz in 2011 featured multiple knockdowns of his foe and the bout commanded highlights on HBO later that night. With Kennedy finally having a full fight on HBO, albeit on pay-per-view, he is motivated to give the fans a fight they’ll remember.
“It’s just the way I fight,” Kennedy proudly stated. “I don’t want to lose so I just bring it to you so the judges won’t put it in anyone else’s hands.
“Of course when you’re on TV you want to put on a better performance. With the fight being on HBO pay-per-view, it’s a dream come true – fighting in front of the world.”
Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank