It is perhaps more than a little understandable that, after a 4 fight losing streak where you get stopped each time that the British Boxing Board of Control steps in and suspends, for a period of time, a boxer’s licence.
With the death of another young man at the fists of the sweet science, it is again a spotlight the sport could do without. It is however a well-meaning spotlight.
It doesn’t make it any easier to take though.
Scottish boxer, Craig Kelly has just emerged from the British Boxing Board of Control hearing where he was granted back his licence to box. It had been a tough few months but a time during which he refound his love for the sport. I got the chance recently to get hold of Kelly to ask him if he was glad to be back?
“Buzzing, aye. I just cannot wait. I cannot tell you how excited I am to get back in the ring and start to bash people up.”
Kelly is an uncompromising fighter. The front foot is often not far enough as he takes his Mexican stance style to opponents, oftentimes he tries to get right through them. It is a style that makes fans excited. The old cliché of never been in a boring fight was invented for Kelly.
I saw him first winning in the ring against Ally Black in Bellahouston. It was a war. I then saw him lose against Stefan Sanderson in the Marriott and that was another full on war for 6, full on, rounds until Kelly, slumped against the ropes could continue no longer.
He knew that he had adopted the wrong tactics and wanted the rematch with Sanderson to put things right. The time away from the competitive ring has helped his strategic thinking, “Been working on my boxing a lot more, trying to improve. Don’t get me wrong, am still me, just improved as a boxer, moving my feet, thinking about my head – all that.”
He then had a Scottish title fight against a rising star, Sam Ball. Whilst Sanderson was one he got wrong, Ball was one he felt he shoulda, coulda done better with. Whilst acknowledging that Ball is one for the future, having shared a ring with him Kelly offered Ball some sage advice, “he can dig and someone serious who gets him will take him out as his chin is always available.” Whilst Kelly did not get past round 3 in that fight his life was slightly more than stressful around those and the other losses.
That has changed.
He told me, “there is no more building that bridge in Edinburgh. The work is now just round the corner from the house, the gym round from that. The misses is good, the wee man is fine and I am ready to get back into battle.”
The bridge was the new Forth crossing that saw Kelly get up from his West Coast house and travel at stupid o’clock to earn a wage. After that he was far from ready for the right level of training that would see him wholly ready to take on sleep, never mind anything else.
The wee man is his young son who was born prematurely and no father in the world can get up and put himself through the rigours of the ring without that taking its toll in his head.
But Kelly did.
A trip to Belfast and Sky came next and in he went against Paddy Gallagher – a fighter he rates. That body shot that put him down “was sore.” It was worthwhile the effort as he, “earned a good few quid” but it was loss number 3, stoppage number 3.
September last year saw him back on home soil and it was another loss, to Martin Harkin, that ended up with him in front of the Board and facing the sanction of time away from the game.
It’s time that has seen him highly frustrated. “It’s been torture. I spent time thinking about things and aye, ah did, think about stopping it but I cannae.”
He is now looking or an opponent and this year?
“Time for some titles. I would like to get a belt around my waist and show the wee man. It would be good to maybe get back my old Scottish title.”
There are a few old scores – like the Stefan Sanderson fight – that would be good to settle too. He is raring to go and with a record, right now, of more losses than wins, you would be forgiven for thinking that his time should be ending. What people do not see is the hours of preparation, the denial of treats, the discipline of training and the joy of getting in a ring comes from that effort.
Fighters know that their walk from the dressing room has come because of the early morning run, the extra hour they stayed behind after training, the discipline of knowing that as you work another day lifting heavy things to make money for someone else, your next task will be to earn your money for your loved ones through further toil – and it does not make you sweat. Those thoughts and that effort leave you wanting more, “I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to this. I think I am driving people nuts I am so up for it. Roll on the next one.” Indeed.