Josh Kelly will be fighting for a place among the world elite in London in December.
That was the bold promise from promoter Eddie Hearn after the Sunderland sensation recorded his fourth straight professional win.
They want the big fights straight away and we’ve already been making the offers for December 17 for the big names in 147lb divisionEDDIE HEARN
Kelly hammered Mexican champ José Luis Zúñiga into a second-round defeat in Belfast on Saturday night and will now box a world top 30 fighter at the 02 Arena on December 17.
The 23-year-old told the Echo last week that a “big fight” was coming and he was not wrong as Hearn declared.
“Now we’re off the leash,” said the Matchroom chief.
“[Coach] Adam Booth said that was the last one [warm-up].
“So on the Tony Bellew-David Haye undercard, I said to him ‘I’ll try to find someone on the top 50 in the world’.
“But Adam said ‘top 30’. He wants titles ASAP.
“This is the belief Adam Booth has in Josh Kelly
“They want the big fights straight away and we’ve already been making the offers for December 17 for the big names in 147lb division.”
Hearn, being interviewed on Sky Sports Main Event, then turned to face the camera directly for his parting shot.
“If you are watching and you are sitting in the top 30 please get in touch, there’s a lovely payday for Christmas,” he said.
“This boy is going all the way.”
Kelly delivered a five-minute masterclass at the SSE Arena to provide further evidence that his boss is not talking hot air.
For the fourth successive contest, the 2016 Olympian was matched with an opponent with a winning record.
Zúñiga was a step up in calibre though – the 28-year-old is Mexico’s reigning light-middleweight champ and arrived in Northern Ireland undefeated since July 2014.
Kelly took him apart and while the stoppage, at one minute, 41 seconds of the second round was somewhat premature, he looked in a different league.
Sending someone so new to the pro game into world territory so soon is unprecedented.
But Booth says the fact he is that quick, that gifted, that clinical, that he needs top-level exposure.
Asked by Sky Sports presenter, Andy Scott, where he expects Kelly to go, Booth was unequivocal.
“World champion,” he declared.”We only talk about world championships.
“He has this unique ability – a level I haven’t seen before.
“I think the biggest problem for us is that he’s under-stimulated.
“We need to make sure we keep him stressed, you saw [against Zuniga] once he knew he could get rid of him and read and see everything, he can lower his level sometimes.
“We need that stress in front of him so he can keep making the big steps.
“I do expect him to make fast strides towards a world championship.”
Kelly was in charge from the off on the undercard of stablemate Ryan Burnett‘s iBF/ WBA bantamweight triumph over Zhanat Zhakiyanov.
He landed some short, sharp lefts plus a left-right combination with Zúñiga getting some respite when he lost his gumshield, his corner taking an eternity to replace it.
A peach of a right upper cut wobbled his opponent, who was also stung by a long left just before the bell.
After dominating the first three minutes, the skilful Ryhope mover was just as accurate in the second round, his sharp left fist finding the target again and again.
He forced Zúñiga onto the ropes, delivering three shots to the Mexican’s head.
One did not connect but the other two got through, prompting referee John Morey to step in.
Zúñiga did not go down and protested to the Irish official though, in truth, the end looked inevitable at the hands of a man hitting him at will.