By J. Goldsticker: Former amateur standout and current WBA Intercontinental Super Lightweight Champion Kenneth Sims, Jr., didn’t initially love boxing. His father, Kenneth Sims, Sr., took an eight-year-old Kenny to the gym to make sure he would know how to defend himself if needed. He remembers initially disliking the gym (and the sport), but young Kenny soon realized that when he won his fights, he got a trophy and that kept him in the gym through the early years.
Twenty years later, the opportunity that Sims has been begging for has finally come to fruition. He will take on Turkish Olympian Batyr Akhmedov in a WBA super lightweight title eliminator on May 13 on SHOWTIME.
Although Sims is currently on a six-fight winning streak, it hasn’t been a smooth road to this point. His successful amateur career included multiple national championships and an appearance in the 2012 Olympic Trials where he lost a one-point decision to eventual Olympian and future world champion Jose Ramirez.
Sims made the decision to remain amateur following the 2012 Olympic Trials and won the 2013 U.S. National Championships to earn a spot on the USA Boxing National Team. He was soon traveling the world with his teammates, visiting locations such as Ukraine, Ireland, Chile and Puerto Rico, culminating with an appearance in the 2013 World Championships in Kazakhstan.
Ultimately, Sims determined that the right path for him was in the paid ranks and he chose to turn professional in 2014. He made his pro debut in March of 2014 and reeled off 12 victories before running in to some challenges. He suffered his first loss in his 13th pro fight and went on to have a draw and a second defeat over the following year.
Following his second loss, Sims and his team did some serious reflection to determine what was causing his challenges. While he admits that no athlete wants to lose, he acknowledges that his losses were beneficial as he and his team learned a great deal and ultimately made the changes he needed to turn his career around.
One of the biggest elements was health related. Sims had previously been diagnosed with the sickle cell trait, but he didn’t realize how impactful it had been on his training and fights. After his 2018 loss, he and his team did research on the condition and made significant nutritional changes during training camp and his recovery to ensure that he would be able to train and perform at the highest levels.
He also made a key addition to his training team, bringing on 2016 Olympic coach and highly regarded professional trainer Kay Koroma. The two had known each other previously but Sims officially added him to his team a short trial session and he has made a tremendous impact on Sims’ career since that time.
It was important to Sims to treat his career as professionally as possible, and this coaching addition was the final piece to the puzzle. The two began training together in late 2018 and Sims has traveled to Koroma’s training bases in in Colorado Springs, Houston and Las Vegas ahead of his fights. He has rolled off six straight victories since making those changes.
Sims’ breakout performance came against the previously undefeated prospect Elvis Rodriguez. He had been offered the fight before, but only on super short notice. Now with ample time for a proper training camp, Team Sims accepted the bout. He and Koroma honed in on the perfect game plan to pull the upset. Sims recalls seeing the +1200 betting odds on the fight and understandably viewed it as disrespect. The bout took place on May 22, 2021, and Sims capitalized on the moment, outboxing Rodriguez on his way to a majority decision.
The upset win was huge for Sims in multiple ways. While many boxing insiders knew of Sims prior to that fight, the victory introduced Sims to many in the boxing world. It was also a big boost to Sims’ confidence and reaffirmed what he and his team believed he was capable of. They then set their sights on a world title opportunity.
Sims says that the Rodriguez fight put him in a zone he hasn’t felt before as a professional and he has remained there, adding three more victories since that time. He scored two 5th round TKO victories in 2022 and notes that while he is not known as a power puncher, sitting down on his punches is something that he has been working on with his training team. Stylistically, he views himself as a thinking boxer and says that his opponents rarely rush in on him anymore so his efforts on increasing his power are working.
With the biggest fight of his career quickly approaching, he and his team are currently in Las Vegas completing training camp for his upcoming fight May 13 on SHOWTIME.
Outside the ring, Sims and his fiancé́ Jailyn live in the Chicago area with their two-year- old daughter Nova and infant son Kenneth Sims, III, who was born in February. Sims has loved every second of being a father and says that it provides a whole new motivation to be successful so he can provide for his growing family.
BIRTHDATE: December 25, 1993
HOMETOWN: Chicago, Ill.
COACHES: Kay Koroma and Kenneth Sims, Sr.
WEIGHT CLASS: Super Lightweight