Josh Kelly’s dream of boxing at the Olympic Games is alive and well after GB Boxing bosses selected him for the APB/WSB qualifying event in Bulgaria, writes Roy Kelly.
The Sunderland boxer will have been watching the European qualifier in Turkey this week with some interest and a lot of anxiety.
Britain had selected local and national rival, Cyrus Pattinson, for the competition in Samsun instead of Kelly.
But the Birtley boxer’s progress was halted at the quarter-final stage by Vladimir Margaryan, the Armenian taking a unanimous decision in the the welterweight contest.
Had Pattinson repeated his impressive victories over Muhammad Abdilrasoon, from Finland, and Germany’s Arajik Marutjan, the number three seed, he would have had one foot on the plane to Rio.
Three places are on offer in each weight category and go to the two finalists and the winner of a box-off between the losing semi-finalists.
And once a fighter qualifies, no other boxer from that nation can go through at that weight.
Pattinson’s exit at the last eight stage means Kelly lives to fight another day.
He’ll wear the Britrsh vest in the tournament in Sofia, from May 13-22, when, again, three Olympic spots are on the line.
Kelly had been unlucky to lose his place as GB’s premier welterweight.
An injury and absence from the gym at the English Institute for Sport opened the door for Pattinson.
Paul Walmsley, one of the GB coaches in Sheffield, said: “It’s strange how the Olympics sometimes throws up someone new, like Amir Khan and Anthony Joshua.
“Josh had been doing well but injury struck and that let Cyrus in.
“Cyrus has a lot of potential and has matured quickly, he’s a really tough boxer and has just been to Mexico in the WSB.
“Josh has recovered, he’s back in full training and he’ll get back on form, there are three qualifiers for the men (two after Turkey).
“He’s a quality lad who’ll always be in the frame.”
Kelly proved his world-class ability by winning a bronze medal at the European Games in Azerbaijan last summer.
The 21-year old lost out to home favourite Parviz Baghirov but established himself as GB’s number one and earned himself a place in the world top 10 .
Kelly will be joined in the Bulgarian capital by neighbour Pat McCormack.
The 20-year-old, from Washington, also went out of the European Olympic qualifier in Turkey on a split decision against Armenia’s Hovhannes Bachkov.
Several observers thought McCormack, one of the top operators at light-welterweight, had deserved the verdict and he too will be determined to clinch one of the three Rio places.
Neither Wearsider will want it to come down to the Final World qualifier in Azerbaijan in June, though five spots are available there in each division.