SUNDERLAND boxer Josh Kelly overcame his biggest challenge so far to reach the final of the Senior ABAs in his debut season the competition.
And the 19-year-old’s reward for his excellent work is the chance to fight for the title on home soil, with Wearside hosting the finals for the first time in the competition’s history.
But Kelly got there the hard way, having to overcome three-time ABA champion Martin Stead of the Combined Services in the semi-finals.
Kelly has had to beat some tough opponents to get further in the competition than he ever dared dream when he first started out in the qualifying rounds.
But semi-finalist Stead was undoubtedly the most formidable opponent the Houghton ABC boxer has faced so far.
The 28-year-old Army boxer had fought more than 140 bouts compared to Josh’s 68 and first started boxing in the competition when Josh was still at Barnes Primary School.
Stead used all the experience he had acquired in accumulating those three titles to try outfoxing Kelly in their clash at Everton Park in Liverpool.
Kelly edged the first round, but Stead came back well in the second with a couple of good jabs and that meant it was all to box for in the final round.
The Sunderland teenager though kept his nerve and boxed well in the final three minutes to earn a majority decision.
He will now compete in the ABA finals which will be held at the Rainton Meadows Arena in Houghton on Sunday, April 20 and his dad, Paul, a coach at Houghton ABC says his son cannot wait.
“It’s going to be a big moment for him,” said Paul.
“Sunderland have only had a handful of senior ABA champions in the history of the event and Josh will be the only one who has the chance of winning it on his own doorstep.
“He’s done really, really well to get this far because we always knew it was going to be really difficult to reach a final, especially in his first year in the ABA’s.
“But he has boxed very well and he has deserved his place in the final.”
Anyone who wants tickets for the finals, which are expected to be a sell-out, should ring 0114 223 5636 or 0114 223 5639.