By Rick Scharmberg
When USBA super bantamweight champion Teon “The Technician” Kennedy made his pro debut on January 11, 2007, the knowledgeable fight crowd at the former New Alhambra in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania were quick to compare him with the great hall-of-fame bantamweight champion, “Joltin'” Jeff Chandler. While such praise is premature, one can easily envision the unbeaten Kennedy (14-0-1, 6 KOs) as a future world champion. “Hopefully, I am one-and-a-half years away from a big title shot,” stated Teon, who hopes to move one step closer on Saturday night, when he faces Jose Angel Beranza (32-17-2, 25 KOs), of Mexico City at Bally’s in Atlantic City.
Teon began boxing at the age of six, when his father, Ernest, a former professional middleweight, took him to Champs Gym, where he eventually became an amateur standout. Training under Al Fennell, Teon won two Pennsylvania Golden Gloves championships.
Moving on to the national level, and fighting as a 112-pound flyweight, Kennedy won the 2004 National Golden Gloves flyweight championship. This was no small feat, as many great fighters won that same title before becoming Olympic and world champions. Greg Richardson, Leo Randolph, Jesse Benavides, Johnny Tapia, Carl Daniels, Tim Austin, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. all won the 112-pound amateur championship before becoming world champions as professionals.
A native of Guadalajara, Mexico, before moving to Chicago, Illinois, Francisco Rodriguez was the 2001 National Golden Gloves flyweight champion. He compiled a professional record of 14-2, and was matched with Teon on November 20, 2009 at the legendary Blue Horizon in Philadelphia for the vacant USBA super bantamweight title.
Teon and Francisco met as amateurs in the 2003 Eastern Trials, in a bout Francisco won by decision. “That was the first time I saw him, and he was great fighter even back then,” said Teon.
Their rematch as professionals was a grueling give-and-take battle, as was expected. Kennedy stopped Rodriguez in the tenth round of the scheduled twelve-round bout. As Kennedy was leaving the ring, Rodriguez collapsed in his corner, and was rushed to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he died from his injuries two days later.
With his bout with Beranza – his first since the Rodriguez tragedy – only a week away, Teon understandably wouldn’t talk much about that fight, other than to say that he has no apprehension about getting into the ring again.
Part of Kennedy’s managerial triumvirate that includes Joe Hand and cut man Jim Williams, Doc Nowicki, explained, “It was on his mind in the beginning. But he went to the hospital to see Francisco, and he met with his family. They accepted him and gave him their blessing. They are a fighting family and they knew what was involved in the sport. That meeting helped Teon.”
Francisco’s death was not in vain. He was an organ donor, and it was reported that he was able to save at least one life because of that.
Kennedy, 23, had his first six round bout in just his fifth pro fight, and was in his first eight round bout one fight later. He took an eight round unanimous decision over Castulo Gonzalez on March 7, 2008, and then stopped previously unbeaten Thomas Snow in just two rounds in his very next fight.
Last September, at Bally’s Atlantic City, Kennedy’s fighting heart was on full display. He was cut and floored against rugged Ghanaian Lante Addy, but fought back to salvage a majority draw. Many ringsiders thought Teon did enough to win, and the lone dissenting judge had Teon winning 98-92.
Kennedy will be facing a 51-fight veteran in Jose Angel Beranza, who is 32-17-2, with 25 knockouts. He recently went the 12-round distance with current WBO super bantamweight champion Wilfredo Vasquez Jr., and owns a victory over former world champion Ivan Hernandez in 2006.
Kennedy, who is ranked #13 in the IBF, expects another tough bout. “I believe he comes forward a lot, so I plan to counter punch, box, and do whatever it takes to win,” he said.
Kennedy presently trains at Joe Hand’s Gym, and is trained by Wade and Randy Hinnant.
Outside of the ring, Teon works as an apprentice electrician. “I also like shooting hoops and chilling with my family and friends when I am not in the gym,” he said.
“I would like to thank all of my fans who supported me throughout my career, and I hope to see all of them on Saturday at Bally’s Atlantic City. It’s going to be a good one,” he concluded.