Updated: Oct 15, 2020
In the early hours of Sunday morning, UK time, Josh Kelly will walk to the ring for the 10th times as a professional, and this time he’ll be walking directly to the heart of Madison Square Garden.
Sunderland’s Kelly (9-0-0) will be defending his WBA International welterweight title against Philadelphia’s Ray Robinson (24-3-1) on the undercard of Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr, a global, sold-out event of a magnitude he has previously inexperienced. “This is a great fight and a huge step up for Josh on the biggest stage possible,” said promoter Eddie Hearn, truthfully.
Robinson has lost only three times as a professional, to Shawn Porter, Brad Solomon and Yordenis Ugas. He comes into this fight following a contentious draw (his impressive performance should arguably have resulted in victory) against the heavy-hitting, number one ranked WBO welterweight contender Egidijus Kavaliauskas (21-0-1) and has seen his southpaw talent halted mostly by inactivity, management issues and injuries, rather than at the hands of classier opponents. He is motivated and at thirty-three years old is fully aware that he can no longer afford to lose.
He is also an opponent that Kelly cannot afford to underestimate. Despite outclassing Przemyslaw Runowski over 10 rounds in April on the Allen Browne undercard, there were most questions raised of Kelly’s previous performance than answers. He showboated throughout, continually fought with his hands by his waist, looked to land single shots, without the concussive power of Naseem Hamed or Roy Jones Jr (who fought in comparable styles) and took many heavy shots against an opponent who is levels below Robinson.
It was as if he was hoping for a similarly dominant performance, showcasing his superior movement, punch selection and power for a TKO victory. the same type of performance that Adam Booth trained stablemate Ryan Burnett recorded against Jelbirt Gomera in May.
Fans are hoping that the real threat posed by Robinson will focus Kelly to putting on the eye-catching performance that his talent can certainly produce. It is then that talk can recommence towards arranging the hotly anticipated potential match up with former WBO champion David Avanesyan (24-3-1).
Either way, as Eddie Hearn has already said, “On June 1st, we will really find out what PBK is all about.”