Josh Kelly’s gold dream over, but dad hails Sunderland fighter’s European Games bronze

Josh Kelly

Josh Kelly

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Paul Kelly declared himself “happy and sad” after seeing son Josh win a bronze medal at the European Games.

Gifted Sunderland boxer Josh seemed a little unlucky to lose his U69 kilo semi-final to Azerbaijan’s Parviz Baghirov in Baku yesterday.

Kelly looked to have on the first round and gave it his all in the last, but the home favourite, and number two seed, won by a unanimous verdict.

Dad and coach Paul told the Echo: “I’m happy and sad at the same time.

“Josh went out there with the aim of getting on the podium and he’s done that, he’s got a bronze medal.

“He did it in style as well with great wins against Belarus and Ireland.

“To win bronze is a brilliant achievement and massive experience.

“But I’m sad that it could have been totally different if the judging had been fair and I’m not sure it was.

“I thought Josh clearly won the first, but when the Azerbaijan lad got it, it set the tone for the rest of the fight.

“When Baghirov got the first, it meant Josh had to change his tactics.

“Once Josh is on the front foot, he’s out of his comfort zone – he likes to be on the back foot, using his speed to pick off his opponent.

“If Josh had won the first round, which it looked like he had, then the Azerbaijan boxer would have had to chase him and Josh would have picked him off.

“You could see when the camera panned over the blue corner, the coaches were reading the riot act to Baghirov, but he still got the round from the judges even though he was outboxed.

“I did think Josh shaded the third, but he didn’t get that either.”

The boxer, who represents Houghton ABC, gave it his all against his fellow 21-year-old.

Kelly was given a warm welcome into the Crystal Hall, despite being up against the home hero.

And the double ABA champ gave Baghirov a warm welcome of his own with a superb first round display.

He started the session with two good rights to the head of Baghirov, following that up with an accurate right to the body and then another to the head.

Kelly also made his rival miss and the only shot of note which came the southpaw fighter was a straight right, but the Team GB talent came back with a right-left of his own.

Amazingly, after such a clean and impressive first round from the red corner, all three judges went blue.

Lifted by such a stroke of good fortune, Baghirov started the second with some good lefts and then “got on his bike” to make Kelly chase him and the Azerbaijan star took the middle session.

Knowing he had to attack in the last to try to force a stoppage, Kelly came forward and scored with both hands, with Baghirov landing with some fast hands on the back foot.

Only the Cuban judge awarded the last round to the Wearsider, but his fellow judges gave it to Baghirov, who won on a unanimous verdict.