It would be wrong to say that Josh Kelly is overlooking this weekend’s opponent Lucas Bastida, but he knows what is lying beyond and he can’t wait to get there.

Once a hit prospect in the Matchroom camp being showcased on both sides of the Atlantic, Kelly has only boxed twice since 2019 – a painful loss to David Avanesyan for the European welterweight title and then an easy win last month to blow off some cobwebs.

But he says he feels more comfortable since moving up to super-welterweight and is keen for the chance to mix first at British title level. Troy Williamson is currently British champion in the division, which has seen a series of barnstorming fights in recent times involving Williamson, Ted Cheeseman, Sam Eggington and Mason Cartwright. Not that the prospect of such a fight seems to worry Kelly.

“100 percent I want those fights,” Kelly said. “There are purse bids going in for the British title fight and I am right up for it.

“I won’t overlook this guy, but I get this out of the way and that can be next. I’d love to pick that up and then move on to world honors.

“I will fight them the way I want to fight. These guys can only bring war if you let them. If they are looking at dragging me into a fight like that, in the meantime they are getting punched hard and fast. It is going to take more out of them than it is out of me.”

Kelly is happy to be back in the ring in Newcastle on Saturday night and wants to get some momentum back into his career.

“The busier I am, the better I will be,” he said. “When I was active, I won a lot as an amateur. I have only really had lots of activity early in my career and I was really starting to fly.

“But then everything came – I had a hand injury, then there was Covid and I have to get that momentum back. I’m fresh, I’m still young, I’m 28 but I’m a late maturer. I’m coming into my prime now. It is time to step on the gas. The next 4-5 years count.”

Having been broken down by the aggressive Avanesyan, Kelly believes opponents will start to see that as a blueprint of how to beat him.

“This kid’s game, he is coming to try and do a job, so I am going to really put my foot down,” Kelly said. “He says he is going to bring war, so I have been waiting for the guy who does what he says he is going to do.

“They are all looking at my loss and taking things from that, but it wasn’t me on the night, I was suffering with some mad stuff. If he does that he is going to walk into some heavy, heavy shots and be dealt with in great fashion if he decides to come forward and put it on me.

“That’s the style I have been fighting against since I was a kid. That night would have gone a lot differently if I was the right person stepping in the ring that night. But things were going on outside the ring. It’s nothing against David Avanesyan, he went in and did what he had to do. But I take confidence from people looking at that fight and thinking that is the way to beat me, it’s the total opposite and it makes it quite an easy night for me.

“I’ve learnt how to deal with that style. When they box, it makes things trickier. They probably think if they try and box they will get beaten.

“I hope this guy comes forward for ten rounds, I hope he brings the pressure. I have been drilling that in the gym non-stop. It is obvious that is what people are going to do against me.”

The switch up in weight is suiting Kelly too, who admits that making welterweight was proving a bit much. During last week’s heatwave, having spent much of his training camp in Spain.

“I am punching hard, I’m punching fast, I feel healthy at this weight,” he said. “I boxed at 64kg when I was 17 and won a bronze medal at the world youth championships and welterweight [at professional] id 66kg. So, to do that weight, ten years on was difficult.

“I was out in Marbella for two weeks. We were in the gym over there and it was boiling. I was doing 12 rounds sparring in that heat.

“I had Sunday and Monday off when I came back and then I was in the gym on Tuesday [when it got above 40C for the first time in UK history], so I wasn’t too worried, but wow that was hot. It is a muggy heat here too. In Spain it was fresher.”

Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 – covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.

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