Sunderland boxing legend Billy Hardy on Josh Kelly’s world champion chances

Josh Kelly in training for tomorrow's fight. Picture by Lawrence Lustig/Matchroom.
Josh Kelly in training for tomorrow's fight. Picture by Lawrence Lustig/Matchroom.
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Wearside boxing legend Billy Hardy is confident Sunderland’s Josh “Pretty Boy” Kelly will be a world champion.

Former British bantamweight champion and British, Commonwealth and European featherweight champion Hardy keeps a close eye on several potential successors to his crown of Sunderland’s finest, and believes 2016 Olympics veteran Kelly is one who could go the distance.

“Josh Kelly is one of my favourites,” said Hardy.

“I’ve spoken to Josh many a time. He’s the type of fighter that sparkles and glitters but does the job for you.”

Kelly only turned professional in February, having signed a promotional contract with Matchroom Boxing following his Rio Olympics adventure.

Kelly – who was only defeated by eventual gold medalist Daniyar Yelleussinov in the last 16 – faces José Luis Zúñiga in Belfast tomorrow, and Hardy has seen enough to tip 23-year-old for the very top.

“The British title? He will go the whole hog, and I hope he does fight for it, but I think he’s beyond that,” Hardy added.

“I think they’ll project him further than the British title.

“But for now, for me, if you’re champion of your own country and you get that Lonsdale Belt, it’s better than any other belt that’s out there at the moment.”

Speaking of Lonsdale Belts, Hardy sees Tommy Ward, who is set to defend his British super-bantamweight title for the first time on November 11 in Newcastle, wearing one soon.

“I personally think he’ll win the Lonsdale Belt outright and I really hope he does,” said Hardy.

And any doubts West Rainton’s Ward may have had about the value of establishing domestic dominance should have been allayed in a conversation he had with Hardy just last week.

“I think the way boxing is now is that fighters push for world title fights straight away, but that can be a problem,” said Hardy.

“Yes, we did have a spurt of a lot of world champions but that seems to have gone now.

“I think it’s back to basics for a lot of boxers, but I do also think Tommy can go all the way.”

Also fighting at the Metro Radio Arena on November 11 is Glenn Foot, who faces 12-0 Middlesbrough man Josh Leather for the IBF European light-welterweight title in what could be a make or break bout.

Despite Foot being cast as the underdog by bookmakers, Hardy is confident the 29-year-old has what it takes to secure the belt and take his record to 22-2.

“I think Glenn will grasp this title,” declared Hardy.

“If he gets a contract with Frank Warren after that, then I think it would be ideal for him, and I think he could probably push him straight in towards either an eliminator for the world title or a world title fight.

“I think Glenn will win on points definitely; he’s definitely a winner of this title.”