Boxing World Olympic Qualifier: Josh Kelly and Pat McCormack set for last 16 fights

Josh Kelly (left) in charge against Amin Ghasemi Pour in Baku
Josh Kelly (left) in charge against Amin Ghasemi Pour in Baku

Wearside remains on course to have two boxers at the Olympic Games.

Josh Kelly and Pat McCormack are looking to follow in the ringsteps of Sunderland’s Tony Jeffries who clinched a bronze medal in Beijing in 2008.

He’s got his weight right and his injuries are behind him so he is looking to get down to business

PAUL KELLY

Both boxers have reached the last 16 in the World Olympic Qualifier in Baku, where just two more victories will guarantee them a place in Rio in August.

Kelly fights Kaupo Arro for a place in the welterweight quarter-finals this evening, with McCormack having the same aim at light-welter tomorrow night when he meets Lasha Guruli, from Georgia.

And Kelly’s coach – and dad – Paul told the Echo that his son is “confident” of success in the Crystal Hall this evening.

The second seed set up his U69 kilo match with the Estonian thanks to a unanimous points triumph over Amin Ghasemi Pour in the round of 32 on Saturday night.

Kelly dominated from the outset, all three judges giving him each of the three rounds for a 30-27 scoreline.

“Josh is feeling very confident,” said Houghton ABC coach Paul.

“He’s got his weight right and his injuries are behind him so he is looking to get down to business.

“I’ve watched the lad he’s facing and he’s a strong fighter, who has come down from 75 kilos.

“He looks a little dangerous with his head so Josh is going to have to be careful, but he’s feeling sharp.”

Saturday’s display proved the perfect start for the 22-year-old against is a vastly-experienced competitor who represented Iran at the London Olympics.

Kelly only returned to the ring at the end of last month at the World Series of Boxing semi-finals, against Kazakhstan at the York Hall.

“Josh said he felt on fire,” added Paul.

“Once he showed his opponent he was faster he felt the lad backed off.

“Josh was out for 12 weeks with a hand injury and a shin stress fracture but he’s come back so well.

“He’s been sparring with Frankie Gavin before going out to the Olympic Qualifier and he thinks that’s made him so sharp.”

McCormack joined his Wearside neighbour in the final 16 last night.

The 20-year-old won all three rounds against Thulasi Tharumalingam, from Qatar, to justify his position as one of the favourites .

McCormack is ranked as one of the best U64 kilo talents on the planet, having had a superb run in the World Series of Boxing, helping GB Lionhearts reach the final.

But he fluffed his lines in the European Olympic Qualifier in April, suffering a shock quarter-final exit to Hovhannes Bachkov, from Armenia.

That has put the pressure on going into this tournament in Baku where the Washington talent needs two wins to make the Olympic Games.