No distractions for Philly fighter Teon Kennedy

Posted: August 12, 2011

ONE OF TEON Kennedy's principal assets as a professional boxer is a tunnel vision that enables him to block out distractions once the bell rings.

That laser-beam focus will be needed when Kennedy (17-0-1, 7 KOs), a North Philadelphia native, defends his fringe NABA super bantamweight championship against Alejandro Lopez (21-2, 7 KOs) tomorrow night at Bally's Atlantic City, a bout that Fox SportsNet will televise.

It isn't that Lopez, a resilient 24-year-old from Tijuana, Mexico, represents Kennedy's toughest test in the ring; Lopez probably does not rise to that standard, but doesn't figure to be a walk in the park, either.

But for Kennedy, 25, this return to the ring represents the second time in his 4 1/2-year career that he must deal with issues that could detract from his concentration on his opponent in the other corner.

Kennedy is facing multiple felony charges - attempted murder, aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit murder, carrying firearms in public, possession of an instrument of crime, simple assault and reckless endangerment of another person - in conjunction with a May 30 shooting of Dante Wideman, who identified the boxer as having shot him with a small-caliber pistol following an altercation in Philadelphia.

Reports have since surfaced that Wideman is now uncertain as to the identity of his assailant, and Kennedy's attorney is seeking a continuance. But, regardless of what transpires in the courtroom next week, the legal cloud over Kennedy's head might blur his thoughts on how to deal with Lopez inside the ropes.

Then again . . .

"I think Teon's pretty focused," said J Russell Peltz, who co-promotes Kennedy along with Top Rank. "I don't think he lets that other stuff bother him. Not to make it seem too cold, but I'm not sure how much even the Rodriguez fight affected him. He struggled in his first fight back after Rodriguez, but he always keeps his boxing goals in sight."

That is a reference to Kennedy's Nov. 20, 2009, slugfest with Chicago's Francisco "Paco" Rodriguez at the Blue Horizon. Kennedy won the vacant USBA 122-pound title on a 10th-round technical knockout, but Rodriguez, who was taken from the ring on a gurney after suffering a brain bleed, lapsed into a coma and died 2 days later.

Kennedy and one of his co-managers, Doc Nowicki, met with members of Rodriguez' family at the hospital, where Alex Rodriguez told them that his younger brother would have continued to fight, as hard and well as he could, had the outcome been reversed.

Buoyed by that absolution, Kennedy has continued to work his way up the 122-pound ratings and is now ranked No. 3 by the IBF and No. 14 by both the WBA and WBO.

"I would hope that if he wins this fight, we can get him something really major," Peltz said of Kennedy's immediate boxing future, pending adjudication of his legal situation.

HBO in Chester

If the atmosphere seems, well, a little more big-time for tonight's six-bout fight card at Harrah's Chester, the reason should be obvious.

It is the fourth boxing event staged there by co-promoters Joey Eye and David Feldman.

Although HBO Sports is not televising any of the fights live, a video crew will be in the 900-seat ballroom, experimenting with different camera angles and other innovations that might be used down the road for telecasts of "HBO Boxing After Dark," "HBO Championship Boxing" and "HBO Pay-Per-View."

The eight-round main event pairs lightweights Victor Vasquez (13-5-1, 7 KOs) and Angel Rios (9-5, 6 KOs), with light-heavyweights Tony Ferrante (11-2, 6 KOs) and William Prieto (5-5-1, 2 KOs) swapping punches in the co-feature.

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