Emmett Idaho’s Kenny Keene turned professional on August 11, 1990, winning a 4 round decision against Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Ray Pacheco in a bout held at Boise, Idaho’s Hawks Memorial Stadium.
Kenny was stepped up in level of competition, and built his record with some impressive wins against top notch boxers including wins against: Jerome Hill, Keith “Sir Jab-a-lot” McMurray, former IBF Cruiserweight Champion – Ricky Parkey, former WBC World Champion – J.B. Williamson, and former IBF Cruiserweight Title challenger – James Pritchard.
He went undefeated for over 3 years before taking his 25-0, 17 by knockout record into a challenge for the WBF Cruiserweight Championship against Arkansas’ Bobby Crabtree. It was a great night for Keene as he won a World Title belt in his first attempt in front of a raucous crowd at the O’Conner Fieldhouse in Caldwell, Idaho. This would turn out to be the first of 3 meetings with Crabtree – all 3 with title belts on the line.
He took a non-title 10 round main event with world ranked Johnny Mclain and scored a nice decision victory before making 2 more successful title defenses, defeating Vince Boulware (27-7-1), and then winning a wild one over 12 rounds against Indiana’s Terry Ray (25-1).
One more non-title victory would bring Keene and his perfect 30-0 record into a rematch with the man he won the title from – Bobby Crabtree, but this time the fight was in Crabtree’s home stadium of the Ft. Smith Civic Center in Arkansas. It was a wild night, with the judges’ scores going all over the place. One judge had it 116-115 in favor of the Challenger Crabtree. One judge scored it by a landslide of 119-111 for the Champion Kenny Keene. And the third and deciding judge had it a landslide the other way with a score of 120-108! Keene tasted his first defeat, and it was very sour.
After stopping very highly regarded Herman Delgado (10-2-1) in round 6, The world ranked former Champion was named as a contestant for the vacant IBC Cruiserweight championship in a rematch with fellow contender Terry Ray who was now 28-2 with one of those 2 losses coming in his WBF Title challenge against Keene, but this time it would be Ray who would come in as the home town favorite. It was a great scrap while it lasted, but with Keene ahead on all 3 judges’ scorecards an unintentional head butt caused the fight to be stopped, and the scorecards gave Kenny Keene his 2nd World Title Belt.
Keene next scored 3 big non-title wins in a row, downing Matt Charleston (22-5), Olympic Gold Medalist – Andrew Maynard (24-7), and Robert Folley (26-6-1) before making his first IBC Title defense. It would be the rubber match against the only man to have defeated him – Bobby Crabtree who now had a record of 52-29-1, 49 by knockout. The fight would again be in Crabtree’s home town of Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Keene hadn’t forgotten about those wild score cards in his
previous visit to Arkansas, and made sure it didn’t go the distance. He stopped Crabtree in round 9 to keep that IBC Cruiserweight title belt around his waist, and proving that it would take more than what many felt was “home cooking” to defeat him on this night. Keene would make 2 more successful Title defenses before taking on Robert Daniels.
March 1, 1997 was the night that Kenny Keene defended his IBC Title on the undercard of Sugar Ray Leonard vs Hector Camacho. Robert Daniels came in with a record of 34-3-1 for this fight, and what a fight it was! It went the 12 round distance and finished with a Split Decision on scores of 115-113 for Keene, 116-113 for Daniels, and the deciding ballot reading 115-113 for the winner and new IBC Champion- Robert Daniels.
3 fight later the well respected world class battler earned his self another title challenge, this time it was for the IBA Cruiserweight Title, but he dropped another razor close Split Decision against Champion Saul Montana (29-6). 2 fights later, Keene would win the vacant version of that title with an impressive 11th round tko win over popular brawler Rocky Gannon (29-7). Keene now had 3 different World Title belts in his collection and remained highly respected, world ranked, and a Champion.
Kenny continued his campaign, the Idaho hero made 3 more successful title defenses of that IBA Title along the way as he packed both the Bank of America Center, and Qwest Arena in Boise, Idaho.
Keene made his final ring appearance on July 29, 2006, nearly 16 years since making his professional debut. He went out in world class fashion as he faced former USBA, NABF, and IBF World Cruiserweight Champion – “King” Arthur Williams in a nationally televised bout at Qwest Arena in Boise, ID. Williams stopped Keene in round 10 on that night, but Kenny Keene had the full support of his appreciative Boise fans even in defeat.
Kenny Keene ended his incredible pro boxing career with a final record of 51 wins, 4 defeats, and 28 knockouts. Not bad for a man who is reputed to have started out by going 1-9 as an amateur! He was a crowd-pleaser, fearless, a World Champion by 3 different sanctioning bodies and most of all, highly respected by all who worked with him, or faced him in the ring.
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