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Future uncertain for “too brave” Karl Kelly

Brave to a fault!

That’s possibly the best way to describe Karl Kelly.

The pint-sized battler has shown courage not just in the ring but in how he chose his opponents since turning over – and it may have cost him.

The Monkstown lightweight didn’t wade carefully into the pro ranks, he jumped two footed into the domestic deep end.

In just his second fight he jumped up to six rounds and took on the fancied, unbeaten and more experienced Lucas Ballingall, who next challenges for an Area title in Britain.

He rejected common protocol by refusing a bounce back fight and went straight into BUI Celtic title fight with Victor Rabei before facing Martin Quinn.

A debated win over the Crumlin man then set up an Irish title fight with Feargal McCrory and the Jay Byrne-managed fighter was never going to turn it down.

Those choices showed real courage in a sport that values victories, but Kelly [2(0)-3(1)] wasn’t just brave in terms of sticking two fingers up to the 0 culture his performances in the ring were always heart packed.

A record that shows two wins from five could be deemed journeyman-like, but anyone that has seen the puncher fight would never apply that label.

The Dublin fighter threw and took some leather in highly entertaining fights with Rabei and McCrory in particular, he punched till he had nothing left against Ballingall. He always came to win and put everything on the line unlike the survival specialists that often man the away corner.

It seems his guts have cost him. A refusal to go down against McCrory, who tops the ‘Summer Brawl’ show in Belfast this weekend, was typical Kelly, but left him close to serious injury after the event.

Kelly suffered a concussion so severe he found himself sick in the hours after the fight – and the punishment taken had an effect on his well-being as well as the nerves of those close to him and his team.

As a result, the fighter has elected to take a prolonged break from the sport and judging from his tone when discussing what is being called a sabbatical you could predict he may not return.

“I have taken a break. Why? I suffered badly with concussion after the Feargal fight, so I said look it was time to take a break from it. Listen, my health is my wealth, you know that way,” Kelly told Irish-boxing.com

“At the minute I don’t know how long I am going to take out. I am just going to enjoy myself. It is health related and I had to put that first.”

“Everyone will say you’re too young to retire but, look, they are not going to be the ones by my bedside when I am in bits after fights and need looking after. It will be my Ma, my friends, and partner I can’t put them through that anymore,” he adds.

Kelly’s style always ensured high levels of punishment would be on display during the rounds he was on show, be it received or dished out.

It did begin to worry his coach, manager, and mentor, Byrne and following the McCrory fight the BBBofC Celtic champion hinted he may prevent his ‘little brother’ from fighting again.

Kelly certainly seems to have heeded his manager’s words.

‘Little Sexy’ explained how “there is only so much punishment you can take those bangs and clashes of heads are not good for you. I have to understand that.”

“I trust what Jay said I know I can trust him with my life. I will always take big fights so it’s good to have someone looking out for you.”

“I am enjoying life at the minute, just chillin’.”

If Kelly does enjoy the break and life away from aches and pains as well as making weight to such a degree he never returns, he will not only be happy but proud of what he has done during his brief stint in the sport.

“I am happy with what I have done so far. I always said when I started, if I got an Irish title fight I’d be complete. I am not a world class or world level fighter so the Irish title was my goal and I am delighted to have fought for it.”

“I have had two title fights in just five fights and I am happy with that,” he continues before giving his view on the realities of small hall fighting.

“I said from day one I wanted to be in interesting and domestic fights. I can’t get motivated for a journeyman knowing he will drop after a few rounds. How can you get motivated for that and why fight someone you have to pay 1,500 euro for for a minimuim of four rounds?”

“Put that money in your own pocket and fight in an entertaining fight at the same time. I have only won two of my five fights, but I am still three in the rankings I am just behind Gary Cully and Ray Moylette – the proof is there what domestic fights can do for you.”

It does sound like retirement talk from the 24-year-old, yet, when reflecting on his Irish title defeat at the Ulster Hall, his warrior spirit emerges again.

“When I look back on the Feargal fight I think I proved I have a heart and a set of balls. It will take a lot to put me down. I wasn’t going to go down in that fight.”

“The ref had to stop it and that was the only way it was getting stopped. He was never ever going to put me down.”

Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)


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Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com