Sunderland Olympic boxer Josh Kelly puts punches before parties

Pat McCormack (left) and Josh Kelly during the Olympics team announcement at the English Institute of Sport. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
Pat McCormack (left) and Josh Kelly during the Olympics team announcement at the English Institute of Sport. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire
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Josh Kelly is dreaming of a rags to riches tale of Olympic glory.

Or should that be fat to riches?

I was living a normal lad’s life, going out with my mates, eating what I wanted, drinking what I wanted

JOSH KELLY

The Sunderland boxer is on his way to Rio for the greatest show on earth, but he admits he came perilously close to drinking and eating it all away.

Kelly appeared to have the world at his feet last year when he made the breakthrough onto the international stage, winning bronze at the European Games, plus reaching the last eight at the World Championships.

The Houghton ABC star had it all – talent, good looks and great prospects.

But a mid-season injury was followed by a drop in motivation and an escalation in weight, going from his fighting limit of 69 kilos up to 81!

“In January, February it all fell apart,” he admitted.

“I was injured and went up a weight and then started going up a lot of weights.

“I more or less packed it in – I was 81 kilos, I’d put two stone on, I was a right fatty.with a double chin.

“I was too heavy for the first Olympic qualifier and luckily I got the chance to go to the next one.”

Fortune did indeed smile on Kelly – North East and British rival Cyrus Pattinson missed out on a place at Rio at the European Olympic Qualifier.

And Team GB bosses gave Kelly another chance and he did not let them – or himself – down in Baku last month.

The gifted welterweight boxed superbly to reach the semi-finals of the World Olympic Qualifier to clinch a bronze medal and the U69 kilo spot in Brazil.

The cliche ‘drinking in the last-chance saloon’ seemed perfect, with Kelly revealing that a heart-to-heart with dad, Paul, during those dark winter days had put him on the straight and narrow.

“I was living a normal lad’s life, going out with my mates, eating what I wanted, drinking what I wanted, late nights and other things,” he said.

“When I was out I was just trying to be one of the lads and if anyone asked how the boxing was going I just tried to blag it and say ‘yeah it’s going all right’, but I was talking rubbish.

“I talked with my dad one day and he just said ‘you’ll sit there when you are older and you’ll regret not giving it a go’.

“I didn’t want any regrets, I gave it a go and I did it and I’m buzzing.

“I’ll give the coaches here their due, they gave me a chance, so it showed they believe in me. I can’t thank them enough for being there for me.

“They put weight charts up and told me ‘miss a weight target and you won’t be going to the Olympic qualifier’.

“I got my head down and went for it and I’m buzzing I did it.”

Kelly was speaking at a media day at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, where Team GB’s biggest boxing squad since Los Angeles in 1984 was officially unveiled.

The slick Port of Call-sponsored boxer was among the 12 men and women who will wear British colours – Wearside neighbour Pat McCormack and Hartlepool’s Savannah Marshall were there too.

McCormack, from Washington, is one of the most gifted boxers on the planet at light-welter, while Marshall has just returned home from the World Championships with a bronze medal.

Both look good bets for medals in Rio, as does Josh.

“As long as I keep my head screwed on I’ve got a really good chance,” said Kelly.

“I need to stay focused, I’ve not put any weight on, I’m fit and lean, mayber only one kilo above weight.

“I’m not taking my foot off the gas until I get one of those medals.” We’ll drink to that.