Michael Hennessy Jr was last out in a career-best six round clinic over Hungarian soldier Richard Baba in his last start, but the fast rising middleweight tyro refuses to allow complacency to compromise his climb towards the 160lb summit.
The brain-box – who bagged 10 A grade GCSEs – is clearly super smart on both sides of the ropes and, far from allowing the Covid lockdown to inconvenience his development, the unbeaten 20 year old has utilised the time to make critical changes which he insists will see him re-surface as a far more polished prospect when he returns to duty on father Mick Hennessy’s Channel Five show this Saturday night.
‘In lockdown, I did some college work in my down time (business and property course) but boxing is my job, my priority, and I’ve been working extremely hard on mastering the fundamentals; footwork, strength and conditioning, plus defence. The less you get hit, the longer your career lasts,’ disclosed the classy Sevenoaks youngster who reached national junior and youth finals in both England and the ancestral home of Ireland.
‘In the past I’ve underused my feet but I’ve recently made mine lighter and more durable. I don’t ever want to get ‘stuck in the mud’ inside a ring. If I do get trapped on the ropes, I’ve worked hard lately on blocking. I get my 15 year old sister Francesca to wing away at me and I only allow myself to evade. She’s pretty feisty!
‘During ‘Lockdown’, I’ve really sorted my nutrition out. I’m less than one kilos over my fighting weight yet feel my strength has improved significantly. I’ve developed out of recognition behind closed doors since The York Hall in November.’
That certainly bodes well, given that the lean and lithe 6ft 1in Hennessy delivered the second six round shut-out of his fledgling career in his London debut.
‘It was my homecoming and I loved it. I sold well over one hundred tickets, easily my most yet,’ states Michael Jr.
‘Though I’d hoped to force my first stoppage against good opposition – Baba was gassing badly in the fifth – he toughed it out. Still, I was very pleased with my performance because my prep wasn’t great. Three weeks out I got gastric flu but I stuck to my boxing, got hit as little as possible and won as ‘cleanly’ as I could.
‘Dad (his manager-trainer) was particularly happy that, for once, I’d stuck to instructions. In previous fights, sometimes I’ve been lazy with my feet and gone gung-ho.’
It was the third time that the amateur centurion had triumphantly navigated the six-round trip and with maestro Mick also promoting his passage, Mike minor is guaranteed regular berths on live terrestrial TV whilst he earns and learns.
‘There’s plenty of good amateurs who look unbelievable over four rounds but struggle to adapt to six and eight, whereas my relaxed style is tailor-made for longer fights,’ continues Hennessy Jr who has been testing himself at his Sevenoaks Boxing HQ in spars against talented local Kent fighters.
‘Due to the TV scheduling, my next four fights will all be scheduled six rounders but hopefully I’ll get a progressively better level of opponent for each. I hope to encounter as many different shapes and styles so that I’m fully prepared for when I reach title level.
‘By the end of next June, I’d like to have 11, 12 fights on my CV, including a few eight rounders and possibly even a 10 rounder and I want to be doing those rounds comfortably.’
And the lad they dub ‘Miguel Hernandez’ – due to his initials and propensity for Mexican style liver shots – promises to deliver a polished yet potent performance in an eerily silent empty room, with C5 cameras reeling in Redditch.
‘It’ll be weird, difficult to imagine; but we’re in great hands with Channel 5 who will be looking to produce a great show,” concedes Hennessy Jr, who will take on Burford’s Tom Brennan – who called out Hennessy Jr. during the lockdown for a 50-50 fight – over six rounds in his fifth pro-outing.
‘Brennan wanted this fight for a long time so I expect him to be fully prepared so I will not underestimate him. It’s crucial that I stay focussed. I’ve got to impress’.
‘While I’m happy with how I’ve started my career, there’s a hell of a lot of room for improvement. I’m not 21 until the end of this year. I can feel myself developing physically though I know I’m still some way off my full ‘man strength’.
‘I guarantee improved footwork, I’ll be much slicker, more focussed. Hopefully It’ll be like in Rocky III, when Apollo Creed turns Balboa the brawler into a master boxer (laughs).
‘I’m hoping for an exceptional performance; one that shows considerable improvement in all areas and hopefully have people talking highly about me the next day (laughs)’.
Shakan Pitters v Chad Sugden is exclusively live on free-to-air Channel 5 this Saturday at 10pm