The St Brigid’s Edenderry talent defeated Renee Roche on Friday night in her debut at adult level but the 18-year-old admits that she isn’t in a position to make a charge for Tokyo.
Noting her age as well as her size, Kelly knows that she has plenty of work to do – and intends to do just that over the coming years.
The triple European underage bronze medallist is a committed character having returned from a career-threatening elbow injury and will have no problem slogging it out away from the spotlight.
Kelly will still enter the Elite Senior Championships in February and will be aiming to win but is aware that learning is the order of the day for a fighter who is in it for the long haul.
The Kildare boxer told Irish-Boxing.com that “the Elites will be a big step up. Even in the World Championships just gone, you can see that the girls that are winning are much older.”
“You definitely need three or four years to build into it and some people take a break to do that but I’m going to give it a go.
“Aoife O’Rourke is my biggest competition coming up and she’s a lot taller than me – I used to be tall but everyone has passed me out. I’m small and stocky compared to the rest of them who are big, tall girls. It’s hard enough but it’s doable.”
Kelly wasn’t always small and stocky and laughs at how “I was used to being the tall person but now it’s the complete opposite so it’s all about learning, learning, practicing in the gym, working on new tickets, working on being the smaller girl and working on the inside.”
In terms of her unanimous decision win over Roche, Kelly described how “I’m quite happy with it.”
“When I got back from the Youth Olympics I took two weeks off so this competition came around very quickly for me. I would have preferred more of a break and to come back fitter, so I wasn’t at the fitness level that I would have liked to have been at but I’m happy with my performance.”
“I think I moved quite well, used my feet, I was able to switch, I was able to work with her and, in the last round, I was just picking her off with jabs nice and easily. I didn’t find that I had to push myself too much, I was able to get through it easy enough.”
The Liam Brereton-trained starlet is under no illusions as she enters into the adult ranks but is already thinking six years down the line and her eventual goal of the 2024 Paris Olympics – should boxing still be there.
Kelly noted how “in the Juniors, you might get one or two girls that aren’t that great but now whoever is at it is good, it’s that simple.”
“Whoever stays with it, they’re not staying with it for ‘fun’, it’s not ‘fun’ at this stage, especially at 75kg when you can get hit with such hard shots, you can’t half do it.”
“I’ve been up in Abbottstown a bit over the last year so I’ve been sparring all the Elites and you do feel the difference. A lot of people say ‘oh, a girl is a girl’ but it’s not like that, people are more mature body-wise, with muscle, how they throw shots, it’s different and difficult.”
“I will have to give it a few years. 2024, I’d like to aim for 2020 but, realistically, I probably wouldn’t get picked for 2020 as I’m only going to be 20, so it will be 2024.”
“But, that’s not bad, it gives me more time to develop and work on things.”