Kelly deserves world title shot

July 21, 2001 – By Paul Upham: IBF No.1 light heavyweight Glenn Kelly, 27-0-1 (16), maintains his recent busy schedule on August 3 when he faces Jamie Wallace over 10 rounds at the Bankstown Bellevue Function Centre in Sydney on a Fenech Fight Night promotion. Kelly recorded an impressive third round knockout win over Fiji’s cruiserweight champion Sakeasi Dakua, 17-3-2 (10), on June 29 and this may be his last fight prior to his long awaited shot at the light-heavyweight world title.

“I did what I was supposed to do. I was a little messy in some parts,” said Kelly, who is always highly critical of his performances.

“I have to be better to be able to match it with Roy Jones. When I look at him and I look at myself, my performances compared to some of his performances, mine have got to be better.”

WBC, WBA, IBF and IBO light-heavyweight world champion Jones Jr defends his belts against Julio Gonzalez on July 28 on Top Rank’s TVKO pay-per-view card at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Kelly is in line to fight the winner after Jones Jr obtained an exemption from the IBF to extend his mandatory defence against the Australian known as “Kunga”.

The IBF light-heavyweight champion must defend against Kelly by October 28 or be stripped of their title. Kelly is confident that Roy Jones Jr will be successful next weekend against Gonzalez.

“Gonzalez won’t win. I‘m pretty sure. He’s slow and that suits Roy Jones. He’s not quick on his feet,” he said.

Kelly was installed as the mandatory opponent for Jones Jr after his February 24 knockout win over Billy Lewis on the Roy Jones Jr.-Derrick Harmon undercard in Tampa, USA. Jones Jr’s last mandatory defence of the IBF title was on September 9 last year against Eric Harding.

After making his debut in March 1995 at the age of 24, Kelly has made steady progress to the position of IBF No.1 contender. In fact, Kelly only concentrated on a boxing career at the age of 22.

Growing up in the La Perouse area in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, he was encouraged by his father to take up boxing at an early age. Kelly had one amateur fight at the age of 10, but in his own words, “I didn’t like it”.

Older brother Kevin “Bones” Kelly, who unsuccessfully challenged David Reid for his WBA junior middleweight title in July 1999, encouraged Glenn to take up the sport.

“Kevin was playing football and boxing. He had a few professional fights and he was a lot fitter than anyone else. We were always into training whether it was just running around the block or training down at the football oval. I decided I wanted to get fitter too and ‘Bones’ suggested that I have a couple of fights,” said Kelly, who finished his amateur career with a record of three wins and one loss.

“Imagine if I had of stuck to it when I was 10 years old. I could have been world champion by now.”

After winning his first professional fight by fourth round knockout, Kelly drew his second bout over four rounds with Ricky Jackson in a fight that Kelly feels was a draw after he easily won the first two rounds only to lose the next two rounds.

“I had a back injury and didn’t have the stamina for the four rounds as I hadn’t been training properly,” said Kelly.

Since that draw, Kelly has beaten the best Australia and the Pacific has to offer, winning the Australian light heavyweight title in October 1997 against Garth Cussion and winning the IBF Pan Pacific title against Sam Leuii in August 1998. His record also includes a January 1999 eighth round knockout win over former junior middleweight world champion John Mugabi.

Kelly left trainer George Reno in March 2000 and joined Team Fenech and feels that he is training and fighting better now than at any stage in his career under the guidance of three-time world champion Jeff Fenech.

“When I hit them I know I can hurt them now,” said Kelly.

“I’m fighting with more confidence and power. Jeff (Fenech) has me throwing me punches now than I ever have before. When I get my opponent in trouble now, I really look to finish him off.”

Kelly has not reached anywhere near his peak yet and has a genuine desire to become world champion and hopes to follow in the footsteps of one of Australia’s favourite boxing heroes, Jeff “Hitman” Harding, who was a two-time WBC light heavyweight champion of the world.

“I want to follow in Jeff Harding’s footsteps. I have a lot of respect for that man and for what he achieved,” said Kelly.

Looking around at the other contenders in the light heavyweight division, Kelly was not impressed with the return of former Jones Jr opponent Eric Harding this month on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.

“I watched the first five or six rounds and I wasn’t impressed. I think he put on his best performance when he fought Roy Jones. He got up for that fight,” said Kelly, who also sees crowd favourite Julian Letterlough as a crude slugger.

“He’s a swinger and if he catches you, he goes for the kill straight away and if he catches you he knocks you out,” said Kelly.

“I can beat Roy Jones, but I have to stay on him. But it’s hard to stay on him because he’s landing shots on you and he’s so fast. He takes control in the first four rounds and, if he knows he’s got control, then he starts playing with them.”

There has already been talk about Roy Jones Jr dropping back down to super-middleweight to face Felix Trinidad early next year if both continue to win.

“Roy can’t be beaten by Trinidad surely?” said Kelly.

“Anyway, he’s got to get by Gonzalez and Kelly first. There’s no guarantee of that.”

Kelly will watch Jones Jr and Gonzalez in the ring next weekend and then concentrate on his bout on August 3. The decision will then be Roy Jones Jr’s as to whether he faces Kelly at the end of the year or gives up his light-heavyweight titles to pursue a world title at super-middleweight and a super-clash with Felix “Tito” Trinidad.

“I don’t feel it’s real yet. I just don’t,” said Kelly, who needs to hear his name at an official press conference announcement before he allows himself to believe that he will be fighting for the world title.

For fans in the USA asking who Glenn “Kunga” Kelly is and why he should be fighting for the IBF light heavyweight title, the Australian answers clearly.

“Because I’ve worked my way up. I beat Billy Lewis who was rated in the Top 10 twice in his own backyard. I gave him the second opportunity to try and beat me and he couldn’t. I’m rated No.1 by the IBF, No.3 by the WBA, No.2 by the WBO and No.7 by the WBC and I deserve a shot at the world title,” said Kelly, who believes in the importance of regional title belts to help boxers outside the USA receive recognition.

“If we didn’t have regional branch off titles like the IBF Pan Pacific title, we wouldn’t be world rated. It would be all Americans. We have to have these little titles to get rated otherwise we would have to live in America and fight.”

(Picture: Jeff Fenech, former two-time WBC light-heavyweight champion Jeff Harding and Glenn Kelly).

Paul Upham
Contributing Editor
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