Josh Kelly v Jay Byrne

On Saturday 15th April, Josh Kelly will make his his professional career debut on the undercard of headliner, Ricky Burns’ (41-5-1,14KOs), World Super-Lightweight unification fight against Julius Indongo at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow on Saturday night (April 15).

23-year-old Kelly, from Sunderland, fought in the Rio Olympics last year, but was disappointed when he fell short of winning a medal. He lost to Daniyar Yeleussinov from Kazakhstan, who later went on to win the Gold. He decided, soon after the Olympics, that his future lay in the professional game.

He spoke with “Showcase Sports” last year, saying that he takes a lot of influence from prior Olympians in boxing, such as; Anthony Joshua (18-0,18KOs); Anthony Ogogo (11-1,7KOs) and Thomas Stalker (11-2-3,2KOs). His “massive inspiration” though, is from Tony Jeffries (9-0-1,6KOs), who is a Sunderland man himself. Also known as “Jaffa” or “The Mighty Mackem”, Jeffries fought in the 2008 Olympics and came close, but was defeated by Irish man Kenneth Egan. Jeffries went onto pursue his professional career in 2009 and was victorious in all but one of his ten bouts. He last fought in 2011, in an eight-round fight against Paul Morby (6-20-1,0KOs) and won the bout on points. Jaffa has since retired and now runs a gym in America.

Kelly who is now working with David Haye’s (28-3,26KOs) former trainer Adam Booth. Kelly told Sky Sports, “I’m learning every day with Adam and I’m buzzing to be making my debut on such a huge night”.

On Saturday, he is set to face Jay Byrne (4-1,1KO) for six, three minute rounds of a Welterweight contest. Byrne’s last fight was against Felix Cash (5-0,3KOs) on Matchroom’s “NXT GEN” fight night at York Hall, Bethnal Green, London. Byrne jumped up two weights to face the Middleweight from Wokingham.

Both Byrne and Cash were putting their undefeated records on the line, for a six round Middleweight contest. Byrne showed true heart and determination on the night, however, it wasn’t enough to beat Cash, who prevailed in a 60-54 victory.

Byrne’s loss to Cash was the first to taint his early professional career, after having secured his first four bouts and I am intrigued to see what he will bring to the ring when he is set against someone fresh faced and seven years his junior.

After having gained the weight to face Cash for six rounds and then drop it again, in the space of less than a month, to face Kelly for six rounds, can Byrne hold his own with the new prospect from Sunderland? He spoke about his fight with Kelly in an interview with “Robbie’s Fitness” and has high praise for the newcomer. He said that he is a “fantastic, talented amateur. His footwork is excellent; hand speed looks good, but he’s never been over three rounds”.

Byrne’s confidence in his ability and experience as a seasoned professional is clear, but with experience comes age. Kelly is clearly hungry for victory as this is his debut, but Byrne has the upper hand in knowledge of what the professional game can entail.

Kelly is said to be the favourite in this Welterweight contest and in my view, he has the advantage of youth, hunger and determination on his side. Byrne, however, being the more experienced of the two, may surprise us and hold his own in what is an equally important fight on both sides. Both fighters are looking to become recognised as commendable professional boxers.