Sunderland fighter Josh Kelly: I won’t take Tom Whitfield for granted tonight

Josh Kelly (left) and Tom Whitfield square up for the traditional head to head picture at the weigh in at JD Sports. Picture: Stuart Armstrong
Josh Kelly (left) and Tom Whitfield square up for the traditional head to head picture at the weigh in at JD Sports. Picture: Stuart Armstrong
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Josh Kelly aims to put on “a good show” on his return to the North East – but he won’t be underestimating Tom Whitfield.

Kelly will start tonight’s Sunderland v South Shields match in Newcastle as the red-hot favourite.

But the 23-year-old, one of promoter Eddie Hearn’s new stars in his Matchroom stable, will take no liberties in the headline contest at the JD NXTGEN show at Walker Activity Dome

“I’m feeling in a good place,” said the former Team GB star, who is based in Surrey with top trainer Adam Booth.

“It’s great to be back home and having a fight on my doorstep. Everything feels sweet.

“But I won’t be taking Tom for granted – I would not take any fighter for granted.

“I’m looking forward to putting on a good show and looking forward to doing eight rounds. My coach trains me to do 12 rounds because championship fights are 12 rounds.

“He wants me at championship level as quickly as possible and moving into an eight rounder now against Tom shows the direction I’m moving in.

“Yes, I was used to doing three rounds in the amateurs, when you had to be straight out of the blocks.

“But longer fights suit me and my style.

“I can punch a bit, but I’m a boxer who thinks his way through a fight rather than take someone out with a single punch .

“I will use my speed, my movement, angles, to dissect my opponent. If I catch him, and the opportunity is there to take him out, then obviously the fighter’s instinct kicks in.

“But I’m happy to do the eight rounds tonight. I love to entertain and eight rounds is more time in the ring to do that, but it would move me closer to where I want to be and that’s at championship level.”

It will be Kelly’s first appearance in the region since 2013, when he beat Chris Mbwakongo in the ABA final at Houghton.

And he has North East opposition in Whitfield, who boasts the height and reach advantage.

“Tom is no mug,” said the Olympian, who weighed in at 10st 8lb, a pound heavier than his opponent.

“I know his style – he throws a lot of straight shots.”

“It’s going to be a great night.

“I just want to go from strength to strength and keep learning and growing, and I know that this time next year we could be back up in the North East in some big fights.

“There are lots of talented fighters up here and it’s great to bring Sky Sports and the JD NXTGEN up here to showcase that.”

Kelly is joined on a packed bill by fellow Rio Olympian Anthony Fowler, who faces Nikoloz Gvajava in his second pro outing.

London 2012 Olympian Natasha Jonas makes her pro debut against Poland’s Monika Atonik, while North East fighters are out in force, Warren Baister, Jordan King, Stuart Hall and Bradley Saunders to name just four.

Action is expected to get underway from 5.15pm and tickets are on sale at the venue.