Josh Kelly has already experienced the good and bad of boxing in his pro career.
He’s 10-1-1 and was touted for big things after turning professional in 2017.
But Kelly was criticized after a New York draw with Ray Robinson and has now been written off by many following a loss to David Avanesyan back in February.
He will be back by the end of the year but recently Josh announced a new start, changing from Matchroom to Wasserman Boxing.
“I can’t wait to be back in December,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting getting those big nights back and being on Sky [Sports] is a bonus.”
Yet he knows many have condemned him to the pile of amateur talents who won’t cut it as a pro. While he might have steered clear of social media to limit his exposure to the detractors in the aftermath of the Avanesyan fight, he knows what was being said.
“A hundred per cent,” Kelly explained, aware of the naysayers writing him off already. “That means nothing to me. Think about it… Every great fighters had an off night or a night where he hasn’t performed… Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns… They’ve all been beat, so to me it’s all about what I take from the experience because it doesn’t matter what anyone says. It’s what happens next. Everyone said David Haye was finished after Carl Thompson. Johnny Nelson was beaten in his first how many fights and he became cruiserweight world champion. People talk but I just ignore that. Ignore the praise you get; ignore the doubts you get and keep moving forwards and keep doing what’s best for yourself. At the end of the day, it’s a business. You’ve got to provide for your family. That’s what we’re all here for.”
But it was issues away from the ring that didn’t help him ahead of the Avanesyan fight.
Now, Avanesyan meets Liam Taylor on Saturday night at Wembley Arena while Kelly is back in the gym with his coach Adam Booth, gearing up for a fresh start.
“It’s good,” Kelly said of camp. “Being with Adam and the lads, you can’t beat it. I’m enjoying it again and that’s the main thing. I went through a patch when I just wasn’t enjoying it at all but I am now. I’m back where I need to be.”
Troubles away from the ring are no longer a problem, but he won’t yet talk about what was going on.
“It’s nothing to do with boxing, it’s more my personal life,” he explained.
But there was no way he was going to pull out. He had already withdrawn against Avanesyan before and then another date was delayed when the grip of the pandemic began to tighten. Still, Kelly doesn’t regret going through with it, either. He views it as part of the learning curve.
“It was, obviously there were a lot of things that played a part in there but being in there and giving what I gave for those six rounds was good enough for me considering what was happening outside the ring,” Kelly added. “It was good. I took a lot of experience from it. I took a big lesson from it, so it’s more about learning for me. I’ve stepped up really quite fast. I don’t see many other people going near him [Avanesyan] at the minute. The cut [on the left side of his head] definitely played a part, that must have been in the back of my head but there were things outside that effected a lot of the fight. On the night, he did his job, I did my job and he came out on top so that’s all you can say and that’s all I really want to say on that because there’s no time for excuses in this game. I stepped in that ring, I just had no gas underneath the pedal in the sixth round and that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
And while others have toiled in different ways in the pandemic, Kelly has been involved with a thriving, award-winning takeaway business [Burgers, Wings and Ribs] in South London that has opened a second location. But all eyes will be on what he does in the ring when he comes back, not what business moves he makes.
“I’m happy to come back at whatever,” Kelly said, when asked what level he will return at. “It’s going to be a fringe-European or European level fight. I’ve never really had an easy fight in my career with the steps I’ve taken so I’ll not be surprised if it’s a good fight I come straight back in.”
And he won’t rule out another fight with Avanesyan down the road, even though Kelly is now moving up to 154lbs.
“Down the line I’d love to run it back,” Kelly stated. “It’s just a matter of time and if I can make 147 again… I’ll be competing at 154 but if I can get back down I’ll do it or if he comes up.”