BACK in December it appeared as though Josh Kelly had made something of a breakthrough. Boxing for 12 rounds as smoothly and as confidently as he has so far as a pro, he managed to cope with the pressure of fighting in Newcastle quite superbly en route to outscoring local north-east rival Troy Williamson. His reward for such dominance was the British super-welterweight title, previously held by Williamson, as well as the satisfaction of seeing many of the people who had previously fled his bandwagon, following a 2021 loss against David Avanesyan, awkwardly crawl their way back towards it, with the remnants of humble pie spread all around their mouth.
It is a shame, therefore, that given how brilliantly Kelly boxed that night in Newcastle, and how much momentum that win over Williamson produced, he is back again this Saturday (July 15) in a fight that possesses nothing of what made the last one so meaningful and compelling. Instead, Kelly, with his British title for now at home, will return to Newcastle to box unknown Argentine Gabriel Corzo, whose appearance in England this weekend will be his first outside his homeland. That, in itself, tends to be a red flag in situations such as this, as does the fact that Corzo, for all the prettiness of an 18-0 pro record, has recorded just three stoppages among those 18 wins.
Of course, that’s not to say Corzo can’t fight, or punch, nor is to say he won’t become one of those unknown South Americans who travels to Britain and causes the most unexpected of upsets. However, on paper, which is all we have to go on in terms of this fight, Corzo essentially represents the kind of opponent Kelly would have been fighting in between Avanesyan and Williamson – that is, back when he was rebuilding his confidence and reputation – and should, in an ideal world, not be the opponent against whom he attempts to build on the recent momentum he has impressively gathered.
Still, the fight is made now and that’s all there is to it. Given the unknown element, too, perhaps it could be said that Kelly’s biggest danger here is complacency, of which he has been a victim in the past. For this latest fight, unlike the Williamson one, comes with neither the same buildup nor expectation. It also in many ways lacks the same danger, which, according to boxing history, can lead to problems for the man expected to win.
That man, in this case, is most certainly Kelly. At 13-1-1 (7), he has, outside of this fight, been matched tough as a pro since day one and has received both lessons and experience as a result of this education. A draw against Ray Robinson, for instance, taught him plenty about travelling overseas and the need to get busy in close fights, while the aforementioned loss to Avanesyan was the catalyst for Kelly not only moving up in weight – going from welterweight to super-welterweight – but seeking out a psychologist to help him get his messy and complicated mind in order.
Now 29 years of age, he is someone who has had to mature fast, both as a boxer and as a man. He is also someone whose skills shine brightest when he is up against a threat, or when his back is against the wall, as was the case against Williamson seven months ago. That night many feared for him, and many picked against him, yet Kelly was fired up and imperious from round one, proving too quick and clever for his comparatively straightforward opponent. It was billed beforehand as a fight Kelly couldn’t possibly lose and never once, from the ringing of the first bell to the ringing of the last, did that look like a possibility.
The same could be said for his 16th pro fight this weekend; albeit said before a bell has been sounded. For Corzo, despite his unbeaten record and the unpredictable track record of Argentineans in Britain, should not have anything Kelly has not already seen and worked his way around before. Moreover, given Corzo’s apparent lack of power, this should really be a fight Kelly targets as one in which he can plant his feet, rattle through his extensive repertoire of punches, and make a statement by way of an early stoppage.
On the Newcastle undercard is a far more competitive fight between super-featherweights Qais Ashfaq and Liam Dillon, who will be contesting the vacant British title.
Ashfaq, 12-1 (5), has won five fights in a row since losing his only fight as a pro against Marc Leach in 2020, although three of those beaten opponents had losing records. Indeed, Ashfaq’s best win during that run was a fourth-round stoppage he secured against Ash Lane, the Bristolian who recently won an English title at bantamweight.
Dillon, meanwhile, is unbeaten as a pro at 12-0-1 (3) and lifted the English super-featherweight title with a 10-round majority decision win over Dennis Wahome in 2021. The single blotch on his copybook came in the fight before that title win, when Youssef Khoumari, also undefeated, held him to a 10-round split draw.
Outside of the night’s title action, there will be opportunities in Newcastle for flyweight prospect Chloe Watson, 5-0 (0), who fights Laura Belen Valdebenito, 5-4-1 (2), and heavyweight Steve “Drago” Robinson, 6-1 (4), who fights Franklin Ignatius, 5-0-1 (1).
Finally, Troy Williamson, 19-1-1 (14), the former British super-welterweight champion Josh Kelly dethroned last year, gets back on the horse against Ramiro Blanco, a journeyman from Nicaragua with a 19-23-3 (10) pro record.