Francesca Hennessy wants to become the youngest undisputed world champion

By Daniele D’Alessio

FRANCESCA Hennessy hasn’t had five professional fights yet, but the 19-year-old has already set her sights on becoming the youngest undisputed world champion ever. 

Confident, charming, and extremely talented, Hennessy represents a new generation of boxers who are inspired by current champions to build their own legacy.

“I would love to become the youngest undisputed world champion because the youngest at the moment is 23,” Hennessy told Boxing News

“I’ve still got three more years to do that and I really believe I can achieve that. I believe I can if I take the right fights at the right time. I’m still young. That’s my ultimate goal and that’s what I’m aiming for.”

Labelled the female version of Vasyl Lomachenko by Gareth A Davies, Hennessy’s introduction to boxing was inevitable. The daughter of legendary promoter Mick Hennessy and the sister of Michael Hennessy Jr, there was no escaping the sweet science that flowed through Francesca’s household when she was just a child.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 31: Francesca Hennessy has her gloves adjusted by Brother, Michael Hennessy Jr, during a Media Workout ahead of the Bantamweight fight between Francesca Hennessy and Laura Belen Valdebenito at Camden Boxing Club on January 31, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

Hennessy continued: “My brother would be training in the hallway and I’d be sitting in the hall for hours just watching him. This was before I was even boxing. I just enjoyed watching him and practicing those things myself.

“So to start off, my biggest inspiration was actually my brother because he also wanted me to box. He’d be in the hallway holding pads for me and showing me things. Then we’d spar and he would be on his knees and I’d be giving it to him in the hall.”

She was also inspired by Savannah Marshall, one of the first female boxers in the UK who received major recognition and showed what she could achieve. The popularity of women’s boxing has continued to increase in recent years and Hennessy wants to follow in Marshall’s footsteps by becoming a role model for the next generation.

“I think I first met Savannah when I was about twelve years old,” Hennessy said. She took me around sparring and showed me all these things. As a young girl who wanted to be a boxer, it kind of opened my eyes up.

“Like wow, I really can do this. I saw the way my dad and Peter Fury were looking after Savannah as well and how much women’s boxing has come on. 

“Not even just as a boxer but as a person I looked up to Savannah because she was so sweet and nice outside the ring. But once she gets in there, she’s a killer and knocking people out. 

“I just love that contrast. I love how you can be so nice outside the ring but when you get in there you’ve got bad intentions. I’ve always looked up to Savannah in that sense.”

But like all athletes who have dreams of becoming elite, making sacrifices is the norm. Especially in boxing, where training camps are strictly regimented and weekends spent partying in nightclubs don’t (or shouldn’t) exist. Yet when you’re still a teenager, those temptations are difficult to resist.

“When I first started, it was hard. But now it’s just my life. I’m so grateful to be doing what I love every day because a lot of people can’t do that. I’m not fussed when I see everyone going out and partying while I’m indoors.

“It was hard at the start when you see all your friends going out and you can’t go with them. But now it’s just a lifestyle for me. It’s not my type of vibe anymore.”

Furthermore, boxing requires a different level of stoicism. A mindset not affected by losses in your personal life. Instead, the ability to focus on the task at hand while blocking out all distractions. Before the fourth fight of her pro career, Hennessy had to practice this virtue first-hand like an aeroplane going through turbulence after takeoff. 

“My nan passed away a few weeks before my fight. My nan was like my best friend. I was always around my nan’s, especially in camp when you can’t go out with your friends and can’t socialise.

“My nan’s is the place I’d go and have a cup of tea. We’d have a laugh and it was always the place where I’d be. So it was a really hard time. 

“But I just believe when things like that happen you can either sit and not push on with it. Or you can get up, push on, make them proud, and make their name live on in memory.

“I believed by dedicating my fight to her, I could make her proud. I knew she would be looking down on me that day. Even though it was hard, I’m happy I went through with the fight.”

Hennessy emerged victorious against Dorota Norek on June 15 via points on the undercard of the Chris Billam-Smith vs Richard Riakporhe rematch. The referee scored the bout 77-75 in Hennessy’s favour and it was the toughest fight of her young career so far. No prospect is expected to lose in their first few fights, yet many do. Norek was an unexpected acid test and Hennessy passed.

“I was happy with my performance because a few things went wrong in the build-up. I had a lot going on in my personal life. Dorota is a very tough woman. She came to win. 

“My last few opponents have been on the back foot and they didn’t really want to engage. So it was nice to have someone who was actually coming to win and to have a fight.

“It was also good to be in that atmosphere of not having it all my own way and having to dig deep a little bit.

“I was really happy with the fight and I’m really happy with how much I’ve learned from it, which is the most important thing.”

Now 4-0 with one knockout, Hennessy wants to return to the ring as soon as possible. A crack at an undisputed championship might have to wait for now, although ‘The Billion Dollar Baby’ isn’t ruling out fighting for other goldwear before the end of the year.

“I just want to keep active,” she said. “I’m still only young, so I just want to keep it up and keep the ball rolling. Even since my last fight, a couple of weeks after I’m training and I can feel how much I’ve learned from it and what I’ve picked up.

“I’ve looked back at my fight and I’m like ‘I can do this in my next fight, I can do that.’ It kind of made me even more excited for my next fight after having that fight. There’s still so much that I haven’t shown.

“There’s so much more of Fran Hennessy that people haven’t seen. So in my next fight I do want to show a lot more of my style.

“I would like to get a couple more fights in and I’d like a title towards the end of the year. I’m not sure what type of title but some sort of title towards the end of 2024.”

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