Sunderland boxers Josh Kelly and Pat McCormack are in Baku to seal Olympic selection

Josh Kelly is back where he made his first big international statement and is aiming to make a bigger one.

Wednesday, 15th June 2016, 10:00 am
Olympic hopeful boxer Josh Kelly.

The gifted Sunderland boxer is in Baku for the World Olympic Qualification event which gets under way tomorrow.

Kelly and his Great Britain team-mate and fellow Wearsider, Pat McCormack, are two of the 469 boxers in the Azerbaijan capital from 105 nations chasing 39 places for Rio.

The two local stars must finish in the top five in their respective weight divisions to clinch their seats on the plane to Brazil.

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Both men should achieve their goals – McCormack is one of the world’s in-form light-welters, while Kelly is equally rated in the category above.

For Kelly, his return to Baku brings happy memories of the European Games at the Crystal Hall exactly 12 months ago.

The Houghton ABC boxer won a bronze medal at the inaugural tournament having lost an U69 kilo semi-final thriller to Azerbaijan’s Parviz Baghirov.

Given the home favourite is already through to the Olympics – along with a number of other leading figures – the way to Rio should be a little less cluttered for Kelly.

The 22-year-old is taking nothing for granted, but is ambitious, knowing full well if he repeats his European Games run he will go to the Olympics.

“It will be unbelievable to make Rio,” said the welterweight.

“If I get to the semi-finals I know that will get me through, but I have to be going for gold really.

“I have to be giving it 100%, that’s got to be my mentality.

“Some good kids have already got their Olympic places, but there are still a lot of tricky ones left who haven’t.

“The likes of France, Germany, Belarus, Sweden and Spain haven’t had a boxer qualify at my weight and there are quire a few more besides.

“If I get a good draw then I should be all right.”

Brazil’s highly-experienced Pedro Lima is expected to be in the U69 division and could be a tricky foe for Kelly – he will be a motivated figure with the Olympics in his homeland.

McCormack too will be motivated to prove himself.

Pundits expected the 20-year-old, from Washington, to be among the first British boxers to seal their passage to Rio.

But the Birtley ABC fighter could be one of the last to make it.

Team GB already has 10 boxers qualified for the Games (eight men and two women, including Hartlepool’s Savannah Marshall).

Success for Kelly and McCormack in Baku will give Britain representation in 12 of the 13 divisions at the Games, with the women’s U60 kilo section the only one with no GB boxer.