Olympic Games selection would be a dream come true for Sunderland boxer Josh Kelly

Sunderland boxer Josh Kelly.
Sunderland boxer Josh Kelly.

Josh Kelly says it will be a “dream come true” if he gets to represent his city and country at the Olympic Games.

The Sunderland boxer arrived in Baku today ahead of next week’s final World Olympic qualifier.

Kelly will wear the Great Britain vest in the Azerbaijan capital in what will be his final attempt to book a place in Rio in August.

The 22-year-old, ranked number seven in the world, will be one of the favourites in the welterweight section, as will Wearside neighbour Pat McCormack at light-welter.

Team GB already has 10 boxers qualified for the Games (eight men and two women) and success for Kelly and McCormack will give Britain representation at all 10 male divisions in Brazil.

“It will be unreal if I get to the Olympics, a dream come true,” said Kelly, who boxes for Houghton ABC.

“It is the pinnacle for any boxer and hopefully over the next week in Baku I can get my place.”

Kelly is getting back to the peak condition and form he was in last year when he impressed at the World Championships and European Games.

Josh came home from the European Games, ironically, in Baku with a bronze medal, and seemed a little unlucky to lose his U69 kilo semi-final to Azerbaijan’s Parviz Baghirov.

The gifted boxer carried that form into the World Championships in Doha in October, reaching the last eight where he was eliminated by the number two seed Mohammed Rabii.

Kelly has only just returned to top-line competition after a winter and early spring blighted by injury.

He returned strongly in the semi-final of the World Series of Boxing at the York Hall in London’s Eastend, where the Lionhearts beat Kazakhstan 7-3.

Kelly was beaten by Aslanbek Shymbergenov, but he emerged with credit from his bout.

“It was a good way to come back,” he said.

“That lad had just beaten the Olympic champion, from Cuba, and to get him in my first bout in six/seven months was tough.

“I got caught with a couple of shots in the first round I wouldn’t normally get caught with, but I soon got into it.

“I only lost by a split decision and given it was over five rounds rather than the three I am used to, I thought it went well.

“It knocked the ring-rust off me and now I feel ready for this.

“I feel sharp and I’m looking forward to getting in there.”

There are five places on offer in each weight section in Baku, with Kelly and McCormack both knowing a visit to the semi-finals will make absolutely certain of a place at Rio.

Boxing is due to start on Thursday in the tournament.