SUNDERLAND fighter Josh Kelly is guaranteed a bronze medal in the Youth World Championships in Armenia – but gold is still in his sights.
The 18-year-old Houghton ABC boxer, competing in the 64kg category in Yerevan, has enjoyed an almost flawless progression through the week-long competition.
And he faces Cuba’s Kevin Hayler Brown Bazain later today, with a guaranteed silver medal, and potential gold, up for grabs for the winner.
Kelly, from High Barnes, has already come through three tough tests in his first international tournament outside Britain.
Kelly opened his campaign with a 12-9 points success against Shamurat Cherkezov of Turkmenistan, then overcame the Polish No.1 Kazimierz Legowski, who was disqualified after being outpointed 15-9 in the first two rounds.
The Wearsider clinched his bronze medal by outpointing Mexico’s Carlos Sanchez Valadez 13-8, narrowly winning each of the three rounds.
Dad Paul said: “It’s unbelievable. The Cuban is one of the favourites to win the tournament, but the pressure is all on him. That can only be good for Josh, who can relax and enjoy his boxing.
“He’s taken everything in his stride. He’s got a medal guaranteed, so anything else is a bonus now.
“England coach Martin Utley says he’s the first fighter to medal in his first competition at this level, so that’s a great achievement.
“Josh is really enjoying it. He’s had no bother with the weight and has kept his feet on the ground. He said he was tense going into his first fight, but he’s got right into the competition and is absolutely chuffed.”
If Kelly wins today, he will fight for the gold medal tomorrow.
H Ricky Burns knows he cannot underestimate the challenge posed by the little-known Jose Ocampo if he wants to earn a unification bout in 2013.
Burns’s trainer Billy Nelson has been trawling the globe for footage of the Filipino – a replacement for the injured Liam Walsh – ahead of the WBO lightweight defence at London’s ExCel on December 15.
Just two rounds have been found and studied, meaning Burns will have to adapt in the ring in the bout, which is to be screened live on BoxNation.
The 29-year-old Scot from Coatbridge said: “I know he’s a southpaw, but that’s about it. Billy’s been struggling to get any footage of him at all.
“I’ll treat this fight the same as any other one. I’ll go out in the first round, see what he’s bringing to the table and then adjust my tactics to what he’s doing.
“It doesn’t really bother me. I don’t like to watch my opponents anyway. The way I fight I’m good at adjusting to other people’s styles.”
Should he win for the 21st time in succession, Burns has been lined up for a unification fight with unbeaten American Adrien Broner, who secured the WBC lightweight title last month.
Burns, a convincing victor over Kevin Mitchell in his last bout in September, added: “I just try to put it to the back of my mind. I’ve never, ever looked beyond any opponent so I’m not going to start doing it now. If I don’t go out there and win next week, the big fights aren’t going to happen.
“I know there is talk about it; I need to go out there and produce the goods next week for it to happen.”
Burns had been due to meet Walsh until the Norfolk-based fighter hurt his back in a road accident, with Ocampo, rated 14th in the world by the WBO, drafted in.
“He’s looking very sharp, he’s very fit, focused,” Nelson said of Burns. “It was difficult a few weeks’ ago when we never had an opponent, but now he’s got an opponent he’s a lot more focused.”